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January 6 panel says Trump ‘engaged in criminal conspiracy’

(The Hill) – Former President Trump may have committed a crime in his effort to prevent certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election, the House committee investigating the matter said Wednesday night. attack on the Capitol in a court filing.

The development came in the committee’s legal battle to compel documents from John Eastman, the lawyer responsible for drafting the strategy for the Jan. 6 certification.

The panel said Trump and Eastman worked together to try to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct congressional certification of Electoral College votes.

“Had this effort been successful, the voter count would have been hampered, obstructed, influenced and (at the very least) delayed, all with no real legal justification and based on the false pretense that the election was stolen. There is no doubt that the president and the plaintiff attempted to achieve this specific illegal result,” the committee wrote in its filing.

The committee also says it “has a good faith basis to conclude that the president and his campaign members engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The charges are the most serious the committee has leveled against Trump so far. The allegations filed Wednesday are not formal charges and do not indicate that the former president could face criminal charges, but they do signal that the committee has set its sights on the highest levels to investigate what happened. led to the Capitol Riot.

The filing came in response to Eastman’s lawsuit to block the committee’s subpoena for his private communications, which he says are privileged, in part because of his legal work on behalf of the former president.

But the committee argues that Eastman, a Trump campaign attorney, cannot claim his conversations with the former president are covered by solicitor-client privilege, in part because the legal advice rendered with the intent to commit a crime are not protected.

Their filing Wednesday asked the judge to personally review the requested records to determine whether they fall within the criminal fraud exception to solicitor-client privilege.

“The select committee’s brief refutes on numerous grounds the claims of privilege that Dr. Eastman has made in trying to keep hidden records essential to our investigation. The Select Committee does not conduct a criminal investigation. But, as the judge noted in a previous hearing, Dr. Eastman’s claims of privilege raise the question of whether the fraud exception to attorney-client privilege applies in this situation,” said the President Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in a statement. .

“We believe the evidence in our possession warrants review of these documents under this closed-door exception. The facts we have gathered strongly suggest that Dr. Eastman’s emails may show that he aided Donald Trump. advancing a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to prevent the transfer of power.

Although the committee does not have prosecutorial powers, it plans to publish a report of its findings, which could be formally forwarded to the Justice Department, which could then determine whether to pursue charges.

But the extraordinary indictment indicates the breadth of evidence the committee has obtained in its investigation of the Capitol riot and the events leading up to it.

The filing includes depositions with a number of former high-ranking Trump officials, including those who worked for Pence, such as his national security adviser Keith Kellogg and Pence’s White House attorney Greg Jacob, who opposed plans to have Pence relinquish his ceremonial duties to certify the election results.

The documents also include heated emails between Eastman and Jacob, who criticized him for passing on legal advice that “run like a snake in the ear of the President of the United States.”

“With all due respect, it was gravely, gravely irresponsible of you to lure the president out with an academic theory that had no legal viability and that you well know would lose to any judge deciding the case,” he said. writes Jacob.

In an earlier email, Jacob wrote that he doesn’t believe “there is a single justice on the Supreme Court of the United States” who is as “broad-minded” as Eastman, saying his plan did not correspond to “all the legal leads placed before me”. ”

It also includes a transcript of the deposition with Eastman, during which he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 146 times. The court also ordered him to review 1,500 of his emails a day for content that might be covered by executive privilege.

It remains unclear how the judge in the case will rule on Eastman’s privilege claims. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday.

Eastman’s attorney did not immediately respond to request for comment.


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