Last week, new questions were swirling about the former president Donald J. TrumpMr. Trump issued a rambling 12-page statement about the potential criminal exposure to trying to overturn the 2020 elections.
It included his usual eccentric claims, exaggerations, and complete falsehoods, but also a different thing that Trump’s allies and legal experts should pay attention to: the beginning of legal defense. Was there.
On almost every page, Mr. Trump explained why he was convinced that the 2020 election was stolen from him and why he was within the right to challenge the outcome by all possible means.
What happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was written by Mr. Trump, an American effort to “responsible elected civil servants for obvious signs of criminal activity during elections.” It originates in.
Although his remarks are groundless, they have special implications given the focus on whether he may face criminal charges. If the Justice Department filed a proceeding against him, the prosecutor knew that his position was based on false and widespread fraudulent allegations, or that he tried to thwart Congress. Or you will face the challenge of showing what you should have known. Proof of the result was illegal.
As a potential defense, the tactics proposed by Mr. Trump’s statement are far from guaranteeing prosecution, which presents a clear question of credibility. Mr. Trump has a long history of saying anything that suits his purpose, regardless of the truth. And some of the actions he took after the 2020 elections are broader, including pressure on Georgia officials to cast enough votes to divert the state’s results to his column. Instead of addressing perceived vulnerabilities, talk to the effort of determination to seize power in the electoral system.
However, his continued false stream highlights some of the complexity of pursuing criminal proceedings against him, no matter how important facts are established at this point.
The statement also reflects the steps Mr. Trump is taking behind the scenes to build a new legal team to deal with a series of investigations involving him. Pressure campaign To change the outcome of Georgia and his elections Acquisition of confidential documents With him when he left the office.
M. Evan Corcoran, a white-collar lawyer and former federal prosecutor brought by Mr. Trump, was involved in drafting the document, according to two people who were briefed on the matter. Corcoran has also represented Trump’s ally, Steven K. Banon. Indicted by the Ministry of Justice For refusing to cooperate with the House Committee investigating the January 6 attack.
Corcoran and Trump spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.
The statement is the legality of Mr. Trump’s strategy for the House Committee hearing to stick to the validity and power of Mr. Trump’s allegations of election fraud.
January 6 House Committee Hearing Theme
At the third hearing on Thursday, the Commission said Vice President Mike Pence plans to unilaterally overturn the 2020 elections, even though Mr. Trump was said to have no legal basis. Filed a lawsuit that was ahead of schedule.
The Justice Department is investigating many elements of the Capitol riots and the extensive efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies to maintain the White House despite the victory of Joseph R. Byden Jr. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has long argued that the investigation into the attack on January 6 was partisan and unfounded, and that aspects of the story were not presented. It does not publicly indicate that it is in a proceeding. At a hearing of the House Committee.
However, the panel’s investigation has already generated evidence that could put pressure on Mr Garland to act more aggressively, a series of actions that have extraordinary legal and political implications. Following a proposal from the Justice Department, the House Committee recently announced Start sharing some transcripts Results of a witness interview with a federal prosecutor as early as next month.
In a civil lawsuit related to the Commission’s work, a federal judge was told in March by Mr. Trump and his attorney, John Eastman, who advised him. The most likely felony committed In their efforts to overturn the election. “The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Judge David O. Carter of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California concluded in that case.
Judge Carter quoted two crimes that he said were most likely committed by the two men. It is a conspiracy to deceive the United States and interfere with Congressional proceedings. Members of the House Committee have made similar proposals, with some lawyers claiming that Mr. Trump may be vulnerable to allegations of sedition.
However, successfully prosecuting potential prosecutions proposed by Judge Carter and others may depend on establishing Mr. Trump’s intentions. Election contest.
White-collar lawyer and former federal prosecutor Daniel L. Zelenco said he will be guilty of all potential crimes considered in connection with Mr. Trump’s actions. Mr Zelenco said the new details revealed by the commission would help prosecutors prove their intentions, but the government has various other problems to overcome when building prosecutors.
“It’s important to have simultaneous evidence that he knew that the election wasn’t stolen, but that he tried to maintain power anyway,” said Co-Chair of Crowell & Moring’s White-collar Defense Practices. Zelenko said. “The problem with Trump is that you need to get into his heart, and he has a history of lying and lying, making it difficult to determine what he really believes. I am. “
Apart from the evidence already revealed by the Commission, the Panel received other testimony that undermines Mr. Trump’s claim that he really thought he had won the election. Alisa Farrah Griffin, White House Communications Director in the days following the election, told her in November 2020 that Mr. Trump told her in November 2020, according to two briefings on the issue. I recently testified to. Did you lose to Mr. Biden?
In a television interview last fall, Griffin, who did not respond to requests for comment, acknowledged one of the complex factors in deciding what Trump believed. She said Mr. Trump may have changed his mind in the aftermath of the election.
“He told me he soon knew he had lost, but then you know, people went around him,” Griffin said on CNN. “They got informed in front of him, and I think his mind might have really changed about it, and it’s scary because he lost, and the facts are there.”
Samuel W. Bühl, a law professor at Duke University and a former federal prosecutor, must begin his criminal proceedings against Trump by proving that he was aware that what he was doing was inappropriate. He said he had to.
“We need to show that he knows that what he is doing is illegal and has no legal basis,” he said. “I’m not saying he has to think. What I’m doing is a crime. It proves: I know there’s no legal debate, I’m an election I know I’ve lost to, but I’m working on an alleged and unfounded plan that is known to be false. “
The House Committee hearing is not a trial. The panel is free to choose what testimony to adopt to file a proceeding against Mr. Trump. The former president has no allies who can ask witnesses or provide useful information to him.
However, the hearing highlighted a series of witnesses that Mr. Trump said was said directly and repeatedly before January 6.
The Commission then presented a short but potentially important testimony from Mr. Pence’s chief adviser, Greg Jacob. In the testimony, Jacob was told by the panel that Trump was told on January 4, 2021 by Eastman, who was pushing plans to block or delay the number of electoral colleges to Pence. Told. This plan violates the Electoral College Act, the federal law that governs the process.
Prosecutors do not need to focus on proof of intent, as the link between behavior and harm is usually clear in investigations that focus on mostly physical behavior, such as assault, robbery, and murder.
However, when the crime under investigation involves behavior that may make it difficult to establish the defendant’s state of mind, the issue of intent can be muddy. The crimes that legal experts say Mr. Trump may have committed—disturbing Congress, deceiving Americans, and inciting plots — fall into that bucket.
In such cases, the government faces a series of hurdles that need to be cleared to prove its intent. The cleanest way is to find evidence that the defendant knew he was doing something wrong.
In Mr. Trump’s case, the lawyer had direct evidence that he knew that the widespread fraudulent allegations were unfounded, or that the strategy he was pursuing was illegal. Said that it can take the form of.
If the Justice Department fails to establish direct evidence of what Mr. Trump knows, prosecutors need to look to circumstantial evidence. To do that, they were usually told by experts and authorities around him whether the elections were really stolen, or what strategies were legal to fight the consequences. It depends on that.
According to lawyers, expert advice is often sufficient to show the jury what the defendant knows. But they said it could be more difficult because Mr. Trump has a long history of ignoring experts and his own aides.
Given the challenge of showing what Mr. Trump really knows, there is another way prosecutors can show that he has a corrupt intent. It is to prove what is often called “willful blindness.”
Under that principle, the government believed that experts and his aides were likely telling him the truth when Mr. Trump said the election was not stolen, but he learned. You need to show that you have taken prudent action to avoid more about why they believed it.
Mr Zelenco said he understands why many Americans watching the hearing are convinced that they are likely to file a criminal proceeding against the former president. However, he warned that the standards for using evidence against defendants were higher in court. Judges most often rely on direct testimony, witnesses can be cross-examined, and prosecutors need to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt.