Jan 6 Committee Alleges Trump Criminal Conspiracy

The former President should have known that his claims of election fraud were baseless.

WaPo (“Jan. 6 committee alleges Trump, allies engaged in potential ‘criminal conspiracy’ by trying to block Congress from certifying election“):

Lawyers for the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol said in a court filing Wednesday that former president Donald Trump and key allies engaged in potential crimes during their effort to overturn the election: conspiring to defraud the United States and obstructing an official congressional proceeding — the counting of electoral votes.

The alleged criminal acts were raised by the committee in a California federal court filing challenging conservative lawyer John Eastman’s refusal to turn over thousands of emails the panel has requested related to his role in trying to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from states won by Joe Biden. Eastman has cited attorney-client privilege as a shield against turning over the documents because he has said he was representing Trump at the time.

The committee argued in its filing that Eastman’s claim of privilege was potentially voided by the “crime/fraud exception” to the confidentiality usually accorded attorneys and their clients, which holds that communications need not be kept confidential if an attorney is found to be assisting their client in the commission of a crime. They asked the judge deciding whether to release Eastman’s emails to privately review evidence the committee has so far gathered to see if he believes it establishes that Eastman was assisting Trump in criminal acts.

“The Select Committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” according to the filing.

The court filing is the strongest assertion yet from the committee that it believes Trump and some of his allies potentially committed crimes during the effort to overturn Biden’s victory and by falsely stating repeatedly that the election was stolen.

“The facts we’ve gathered strongly suggest that Dr. Eastman’s emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), and vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), said in a statement.

The committee has no authority to initiate criminal proceedings, and the fact that potential criminal law violations were mentioned in a court filing by the panel does not provide any indication that the Justice Department will consider any prosecutions. Nor does it mean that the lawyer-client protection asserted by Eastman will not be upheld.

But it underscores the committee’s aggressive approach and effort to hold Trump and his allies accountable for both their actions before Jan. 6, 2021, and on that day, which the panel’s members have charged were an assault on American democracy.

Lawyers for the committee argued that the evidence it has gathered so far led to a “good-faith belief that Mr. Trump and others may have engaged in criminal and/or fraudulent acts” and that Eastman was “used in furtherance of those activities.”

Former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason called the filing “a major development” but noted that “this is only a civil proceeding concerning attorney-client privilege. To prove the actual crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors would have to meet a much higher burden.”

Still, Eliason said the significance of the filing “is that the evidence being uncovered points clearly in the direction of possible criminal conduct by Trump himself in connection with the efforts to overturn the election. We can be sure that the Department of Justice is in contact with the committee and is watching closely.”

NYT (“Jan. 6 Committee Lays Out Potential Criminal Charges Against Trump“) adds:

The filing also said the men might have broken a common law statute against fraud through Mr. Trump’s repeated lies that the election had been stolen.

The filing disclosed only limited new evidence, and the committee asked the judge in the civil case to review the relevant material behind closed doors. In asserting the potential for criminality, the committee largely relied on the extensive and detailed accounts already made public of the actions Mr. Trump and his allies took to keep him in office after his defeat.

The committee added information from its more than 550 interviews with state officials, Justice Department officials and top aides to Mr. Trump, among others. It said, for example, that Jason Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior campaign adviser, had said in a deposition to the committee that Mr. Trump had been told soon after Election Day by a campaign data expert “in pretty blunt terms” that he was going to lose, suggesting that Mr. Trump was well aware that his months of assertions about a stolen election were false.

WSJ (which, incidentally, does not feature the report on the front page of its website or even highlight its report “Jan. 6 Committee Says Trump and Allies Might Have Committed Crimes” on its Politics page) adds:

The panel suggested it had evidence that Mr. Trump potentially engaged in conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstructed an official proceeding and committed fraud—serious federal charges that could eventually be referred to the Justice Department for consideration. Such a move would immediately thrust the Justice Department into a political firestorm.

[…]

As part of the filing, the panel attached several hundred pages of transcripts and emails. One hints at the vigorous debate that played out between Mr. Eastman and his allies within the Trump administration and Mr. Pence and his staff over whether the vice president could halt the certification, as Mr. Eastman claimed.

”I have run down every legal trail placed before me to its conclusion and I respectfully concluded that as a legal framework, it is a results oriented position that you would never support if attempted by the opposition, and essentially entirely made up,” wrote Mr. Pence’s top lawyer Gregory Jacob on Jan 6. “And thanks to your bulls—, we are now under siege.”

This is certainly a bold statement on the part of the committee. That everyone around Trump was telling him that there was no basis for believing the election was stolen is interesting in a number of ways but I honestly don’t know that it’s enough to prove fraud. I continue to be highly skeptical that the DOJ will see this as sufficient to indict a former President.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Capitol Riot, Congress, Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    As always, someone lower in the conspiracy, but with connection to TFG needs to flip. Could be Giuliani as the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail for someone who won’t pay his bill, is an unsavory prospect.

    In away the committee’s findings just put a pretty bow on what we already knew.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    Conspiracy is interesting here, because Trump’s modus operandi is to ask without asking, tell without telling. Like a mob boss who says, “Johnny Two Fingers has gotten very inconvenient for us. Our business would prosper if he was no longer a competitor”, Trump never actually says, “Two to the brain”. Per my limited understanding conspiracy charges can be used to get such leaders. In essence, the enterprise was criminal and you ran the enterprise.

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  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    If saying the election was stolen, knowing that there was no basis to say that, constitutes fraud, it follows that Trump committed fraud directly. Conspiracy charges may well be possible, too, but it seems pretty direct to me.

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  4. Kathy says:

    I think it’s more a play for Benito’s lawyers. The committee in effect is saying “There were all these crimes. We may not be able to get El Cheeto, but we can certainly get you unless you cooperate.”

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    As Dickens wrote, the law is a ass. The standard should never be what the perp believed, but what a reasonable person would have believed. Because they are not reasonable people we’ve granted Trayvon Martin, Curtis Reeves (the old fart who shot a guy dead in a FL movie theatre) a license to kill. Are we going to apply the same principle to sedition FFS?

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: Because they are not reasonable people we’ve granted Trayvon Martin, Curtis Reeves (the old fart who shot a guy dead in a FL movie theatre) a license to kill.

    You misspelled George Zimmerman.

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  7. CSK says:

    Here’s an archive of Trump’s tweets from January 6. It’s interesting reading:

    presidency.uscb.edu/documents/tweets-january-6-2021

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Face palm. Thanks.

    1
  9. JKB says:

    Well, the DOJ would have to deal with the report that dropped in Wisconsin on Tuesday. Such findings would certainly offer a hurdle to “beyond a reasonable doubt” for prosecutors.

    On Tuesday morning the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections held an informational hearing on the Gableman 2020 Election Report featuring invited speakers Special Counsel and Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman and Attorney Eric Kaardal.

    During his opening testimony, Justice Gableman listed a series of unlawful acts that took place during the 2020 presidential election. Justice Gableman then called for the decertification of the 2020 presidential election results in the state.

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  10. Mikey says:

    @JKB: Yeah, Gableman’s full of shit and the election can’t be “decertified.”

    But keep on pooping out whatever the idiot right is spoon-feeding you, we need some comic relief up in here.

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  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Do you never tire of being a fool?

    One of the things that marks a cult member as opposed to a political party member is that the cult member is impossible to embarrass. The further a cultie slides the more he imagines he’s testifying to the faith. Humiliation is part of the cult kink.

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  12. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s called martyrdom.

    In the old days, martyrs were tortured and horrifically killed. Today they get cancelled, or ahve to endure mean comments.

    Today is so much worse.

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:
    The Governor of Wisconsin isn’t as easily fooled as you are.

    “This circus has long surpassed being a mere embarrassment for our state. From the beginning, it has never been a serious or functioning effort, it has lacked public accountability and transparency, and it has been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.
    This effort has drawn bipartisan opposition, and nothing about it has changed or will change what the courts, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, and multiple other reviews have already proven: Wisconsin held a free, fair, and secure election in November 2020. Wisconsinites’ votes were counted in every municipality by trusted local officials, in the presence of representatives from both parties, and machines across the state were subject to an official audit. This effort has spread disinformation about our election processes, it has attacked the integrity of our clerks, election administrators, and poll workers, and it has emboldened individuals to harass and demean dedicated public servants.

    I’m more than willing to bet as this “report” is analyzed we will see that it is as credible as anything else JKB ever points to.
    In particular I’m thinking of all the times he has linked to the Russian propaganda at ZeroHedge.com

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:
    .
    .
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    Ahhhh, never mind. Others have already said it far more politely than I would have.

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  15. Just nutha says:

    True. But it will be important to the ongoing national reconciliation the advocates of the hearings hoped for. Even if only to show why said reconciliation isn’t coming.

  16. Just nutha says:

    @Jay L Gischer: it doesn’t matter how direct it looks as long as AGUSA will decline to prosecute

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I continue to be highly skeptical that the DOJ will see this as sufficient to indict a former President.

    I continue to be skeptical that Garland has the attachments required to go after the Former Guy, and all the Republicans who participated in the conspiracy.
    But, of course, that would be a political decision by Garland.
    Because what you are saying, explicitly, is that former Presidents are above the law.
    If this is the case then the DOJ should issue guidelines for who the law applies to, and who it doesn’t.

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  18. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    If this is the case then the DOJ should issue guidelines for who the law applies to, and who it doesn’t.

    Exactly so.

    One can argue endlessly that the next GOP AG will indict and prosecute the next former Democratic president, but they miss the point.

    The point is that if the president, or Benito, is above the law, then there’s no check on what a future occupant of the oval office might do, should they feel like it. A coup, order troops to fire on protesters, or to fire on immigrants, order political opponents arrested, order political opponents disappeared, there’s just no limit.

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  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Because what you are saying, explicitly, is that former Presidents are above the law.

    Of course I’m simple minded, but that’s what I always figured impeachment in the Constitution was about in the first place.

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  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    IANAL but it’s my understanding that…
    Impeachment is a political process.
    Conspiring to defraud the United States and attempting to obstruct the proceedings of Congress are criminal…IF anyone has the balls to make the charges.
    One person has already plead guilty to Seditious Conspiracy, establishing that this was indeed a seditious conspiracy.
    But we also just saw in NY that many, if not most, people in a position to go after Trump are afraid to go after Trump.

    I’ll just say that after two decades of not dealing appropriately with Putin we are seeing what that gets us. Are we going to let Trump get away with trying to overthrow the Gov’t, only to watch him try it again?

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  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I continue to be skeptical that Garland has the attachments required to go after the Former Guy, and all the Republicans who participated in the conspiracy.

    Indeed. Every time he says he’ll follow the evidence wherever it leads, what I hear is that he’ll take no initiative unless compelled to.

  22. Jay L Gischer says:

    Democracy is no longer viewed as an undisputed system. It has been called into question right before our eyes. – Emmanuel Macron

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  23. Jay L Gischer says:

    Oh I think I get it now, by the way. If it is only simple fraud, then Eastman is protected by privilege. But if there’s conspiracy to fraud he is not.

  24. mattbernius says:

    @JKB:
    That is a LOT of wishcasting that post. It would have been helpful if you had included a link to the reporting you were using. But Google was super helpful and I found this in-depth reporting from the local public media station:

    I’ll note your motivated reading of this story missed a really key point:

    Gableman’s “election bribery” argument is not new, and was first rejected in October of 2020 by U.S. District Judge William Griesbach, who ruled that nothing in state law prohibited the election grants. Republican lawmakers have since tried unsuccessfully to change state law to ban them.

    https://www.wpr.org/gableman-report-calls-decertifying-2020-election-legislatures-nonpartisan-lawyers-say-thats-not

    So… this hinges on an argument that was already found invalid by a court. That’s some really strong tea you got there.

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  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: What can I say? We’ve always lived in a nation where there were different laws for different groups of “citizens” residents.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius:

    It would have been helpful if you had included a link to the reporting you were using.

    No. I think you’re wrong on this. Including a link wouldn’t have helped his argument at all. 🙁

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  27. mattbernius says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Actually I found the apparently original source – Jim Hoff at the Gateway pundit.
    https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2022/03/breaking-wisconsin-republican-leaders-call-emergency-meeting-county-gop-leaders-following-explosive-report-justice-gableman-calling-decertification-2020-election-results/

    It’s very on-brand for JKB to probably realize that citing one of the stupidest people on the internet would harm his argument, but, rather than finding a more neutral source, just post the reference without attribution. But don’t forget kids, it’s intellectuals who are the real frauds.

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  28. Pylon says:

    @mattbernius:

    “One of”? When did Hoft lose his crown, even partially?
    https://www.mediamatters.org/gateway-pundit/jim-hoft-dumbest-man-internet

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