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Supreme Court weighs Jan. 6 rioter’s obstruction challenge, which could affect Trump’s case

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday began considering whether those involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol could be charged with obstructing an official proceeding, a case that could impact election interference lawsuits against former President Donald Trump.

The justices are hearing an appeal by defendant Joseph Fischer, a former police officer who is seeking to dismiss a charge accusing him of obstructing an official proceeding, namely Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, which was disrupted by a Trump mob. supporters.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, has in the past been skeptical of prosecutors when they say the criminal provisions are widely enforced.

Trump himself faces charges of violating the same law, as well as conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding. It’s one of four charges he faces in his election interference case in Washington, separate from the hush money prosecutions underway in New York.

Tuesday’s hearing comes just a week before the Supreme Court hears Trump’s request to drop his election interference charges based on a claim of presidential immunity. Justice Clarence Thomas was present for oral arguments after an unexplained absence Monday.

Both Fischer and Trump say the obstruction law does not apply to their alleged behavior, meaning the charges should be dropped.

On Jan. 6, prosecutors say, Fischer joined the mob that entered the Capitol from the east side. “Charge!” he shouted over and over again, before heading towards a line of police shouting: “Motherf—–s!” says the government.

He and other rioters then fell to the ground. After other rioters brought him up, video leaked as evidence in other trials on Jan. 6 shows he tried to appeal to the officers protecting the Capitol, telling them he was an officer, too.

Fischer faces seven criminal charges, only one of which is the subject of the Supreme Court case. He also faces charges of assaulting a police officer and entering a restricted building, among other charges.

The law in question criminalizes efforts to obstruct, influence, or obstruct any official proceeding. A conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

This provision was passed in 2002 as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed after the Enron accounting scandal.

Fischer’s lawyers say the law should be limited to circumstances involving the tampering of physical evidence, which they say the law is intended to address.

A decision in favor of Fischer could benefit Trump, although this is not guaranteed. Prosecutors in the Trump case said that even if Fischer won, Trump’s conduct would still be covered by a narrower interpretation of the statute.

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