In what would have been the number one story were it not for the war in Ukraine, the January 6th Committee last night filed a document alleging it has evidence that then President Donald Trump and his campaign "engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States." Politico reports:
In a major release of its findings, filed in federal court late Wednesday, the committee suggested that its evidence supported findings that Trump himself violated multiple laws by attempting to prevent Congress from certifying his defeat.
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,” the committee wrote in a filing submitted in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.
Characterizing excerpts of nearly a dozen depositions from top aides to Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, the committee described a president who had been informed repeatedly that he lost the election and that his claims of fraud were unfounded — only to reject them and continue to mislead the American public.
He then pushed top advisers to continue strategizing ways to overturn the election results.
The panel released its findings as part of a legal push to force John Eastman, an attorney who was a key driver of Trump’s strategy to subvert the 2020 election, to produce crucial emails tying together elements of the scheme they described.
In 16 accompanying exhibits, the panel showcased testimony it received from key figures in Trump-world, including campaign adviser Jason Miller, White House communications aide Ben Williamson, Pence national security adviser Keith Kellogg, Pence counsel Greg Jacob and Pence chief of staff Marc Short. Top Justice Department officials also provided crucial testimony revealed by the panel Wednesday night, including Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and his top adviser, Richard Donoghue.
A deposition of Eastman himself reveals that the Trump ally invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination nearly 150 times in declining to answer the committee’s questions.
The committee suggests Trump and some of his allies may have committed three distinct crimes: Obstruction of an official proceeding — in this case, Congress’ Jan 6 session to count electoral votes — defrauding the United States by interfering in the election certification and spreading false information about the results, and a violation of the District of Columbia’s common fraud law.
The panel says the evidence supports an “inference” that Trump knew he had lost the election — Miller described a blunt conversation with Trump in which campaign aides told him he had lost — “but the President nevertheless sought to use the Vice President to manipulate the results in his favor.”
Miller told the committee that campaign aide Matt Oczkowski told Trump in the Oval Office that “he was going to lose,” citing county and state-level results that were being reported. But Miller said Trump refused to accept their assessment.
Eastman, however, didn’t relent even after a violent mob — egged on by Trump — stormed the Capitol and sent Pence and Congress fleeing for safety. Eastman continued to press Pence to overturn the election.
“Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege,” Jacob, Pence’s counsel, emailed Eastman, along with a lengthy refutation of his argument.
Even after this exchange, Eastman made one final plea to convince Pence to stop the counting of electoral votes, acknowledging it would amount to a “relatively minor” violation of the federal law known as the Electoral Count Act.
“Plaintiff knew what he was proposing would violate the law, but he nonetheless urged the Vice President to take those actions,” the committee wrote in its filings.
The select committee revealed its evidence as part of a bid to convince a federal judge to require Eastman to provide more of his own emails — held by his former employer Chapman University — to congressional investigators. Eastman sued to block the panel from accessing his Chapman emails, claiming they would reveal records protected by attorney-client privilege.
But the panel’s emphasis on potential crimes may convince U.S. District Court Judge David Carter — who has repeatedly ruled against Eastman — that none of Eastman’s records are protected by privilege.
No doubt the evidence of Trump's criminal conduct will be turned over to the Justice Department by the January 6th Committee. I am just not confident that Attorney General Merrick Garland will do anything with it. When the committee made a criminal referral of Steve Bannon for failing to comply with a subpoena, Garland dragged his feet for over on a month on whether to file a slam dunk contempt case against Bannon. Garland has now had on his desk for going on three months a criminal referral for Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows for also failing to comply with the committee's subpoena.
(Now would be a good time bring up again my argument that Congress needs to use its inherent powers to enforce subpoenas, not delegate that task out to the Justice Department and federal courts.)
If Garland is squishy about filing criminal charges against someone like Meadows, I can't see him having the guts to ask a grand jury to indict the ex-President regardless of how much the evidence points to his criminal conduct. I will reiterate my prediction that Garland will be the most unpopular cabinet member and that, before the end of the year, pressure will build for President Biden to fire him.