The Jan. 6 committee said in a new court filing that it believes Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election violated several laws.
The House panel said the evidence so far indicates Trump tried to obstruct an official proceeding.
It also said the evidence suggests Trump conspired to defraud the United States and engaged in common law fraud.
The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot said in a new court filing Thursday that it believes former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results violated several laws.
The panel said the evidence it’s gathered so far suggests that Trump tried to obstruct an official proceeding; conspired to defraud the United States; and engaged in common law fraud.
Thursday’s filing is not an indictment and does not charge Trump with a crime. It comes as part of the January 6 committee’s ongoing legal battle with the former law professor and Trump legal advisor John Eastman, who has made broad claims of privilege while refusing to cooperate with the panel’s investigation. The committee’s filing on Thursday was made in opposition to those claims.
“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,” said Reps. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, the respective chair and vice chair of the House January 6 committee, in a joint statement.
“We look forward to the court’s review of our filing as the select committee’s investigation moves forward.”
With respect to obstruction of Congress, the filing noted that six judges “have addressed the applicability” of the relevant statute “to defendants criminally charged in connection with the January 6th attack on the Capitol.”
“Each has concluded that Congress’s proceeding to count the electoral votes on January 6th was an ‘official proceeding’ for purposes of this section, and each has refused to dismiss charges against defendants under that section,” the filing said.
The committee also believes Trump and members of his campaign “engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” in violation of federal law.
To prove such a violation, the filing said, prosecutors must establish that “the defendant entered into an agreement … to obstruct a lawful function of the government … by deceitful or dishonest means, and … that a member of the conspiracy engaged in at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.”
Moreover, that agreement doesn’t have to be explicit, the filing said, and can “be inferred from the conspirators’ conduct in furtherance of their common objectives.”
Wednesday’s filing came days after a federal judge ruled that Trump can be sued over the Capitol riot, noting that Trump’s actions in the days and hours preceding the riot could “reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action” and that he and his followers acted toward a common goal.
“That is the essence of a civil conspiracy,” Judge Amit Mehta said in his 112-page ruling.
This week’s filing from the January 6 committee said “the evidence supports an inference” that Trump and his allies “entered into an agreement” to defraud the US by interfering with Congress’ election certification process, “disseminating false information about election fraud, and pressuring state officials to alter state election results and federal officials to assist in that effort.”
It pointed specifically to Trump’s attempts to convince then Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally reject slates of electors from battleground states that Joe Biden won — something Pence does not have the constitutional authority to do.
The court filing also referenced Mehta’s ruling last month in which he said it was “plausible” to conclude that Trump entered into a conspiracy with some of the rioters on January 6, including members of far-right groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
The document went on to say that Trump and members of his campaign engaged in common law fraud in connection to their efforts to subvert the 2020 election results.
Common law fraud is defined in Washington, DC, as “a false representation … in reference to material fact … made with knowledge of its falsity … with the intent to deceive; and … action is taken in reliance upon the representation.”
To support this claim, the filing pointed to the multitude of false statements and conspiracy theories Trump floated about purported widespread voter and election fraud.
“And the evidence supports a good-faith inference that the President did so with knowledge of the falsity of these statements and an intent to deceive his listeners in hopes they would take steps in reliance thereon,” the filing said.
A Trump spokesperson and Eastman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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C. Ryan Barber contributed reporting.
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