Trump Could Be Charged With Attempt To Obstruct Election Certification, Legal Experts Sure | Attack on the US Capitol
Donald Trump is increasingly expected to be indicted for trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election this year, as House panel collects more evidence on the attack from the Capitol on Jan.6, according to former prosecutors and other experts.
Speculation over possible charges against the former US president has been exacerbated by a recent bombshell from Republican Representative and Jan. 6 panel vice-chair Liz Cheney suggesting that the House panel examine whether Trump violated a law prohibiting obstruction of “official proceedings”.
Former prosecutors say if the panel finds new evidence of Trump’s role interfering with Congress’ work to certify Biden’s election, it could help substantiate a possible Justice Department case.
In various ways, Cheney’s comments were echoed by two other members of the House select committee, Republican Adam Kinzinger and Democrat Jamie Raskin, prompting discussion of how a filibuster law might apply to Trump, which would force the panel to return criminal evidence. for the Justice Department to investigate, say DoJ veterans.
Cheney’s remarks raising the specter of criminal charges against Trump came twice earlier this month during committee hearings. Experts believe the charges may be well founded given Trump’s actions on January 6, including inflammatory remarks at a rally ahead of the Capitol attack and the inability to act for hours to stop the riot , said former justice ministry officials.
“Based on what is already in the public domain, there is strong evidence that many people, inside and outside of government, have attempted to obstruct – and obstruct, at least for a while – to a formal process – ie certification of the president elections, ”former DOJ inspector general and former prosecutor Michael Bromwich said in a statement to the Guardian. “It’s a crime.”
While a referral by a House panel for obstruction by Trump would not force the DOJ to open a criminal case against him, it could help provide more evidence and put pressure on the Justice Department to it is moving forward, according to former prosecutors.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has so far declined to say whether his department is already investigating Trump and his key allies for their role in the assault on Capitol Hill.
The panel gathered significant evidence, including more than 30,000 tapes and interviews with more than 300 people, including key White House staff.
Evidence against Trump himself could include his actions at the “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House, where he urged supporters to march to Capitol Hill and “fight like hell. [or] you will no longer have a country ”. Trump then resisted for hours several calls from Republicans and others to urge his violent supporters to stop the attack.
Recent rulings by Trump-appointed district court judges have supported the use of the Obstruction Act, which federal prosecutors have cited in about 200 cases involving rioters indicted by the Justice Department for their role in the attack on the Capitol which injured around 140 police officers and left five dead.
Still, experts note that the House panel’s mission was to write a full report on what happened on January 6 and work on legislation to prevent such attacks on democracy. They warn that any criminal referral to DOJ documenting Trump’s obstruction of Congress will take time and more evidence to help strengthen a DOJ investigation.
Some DOJ veterans say any referral to the DOJ by the House panel for a criminal case against Trump – and perhaps high profile allies such as former chief of staff Mark Meadows, whom the House cited this week latest for criminal contempt for refusing to be tabled – could also include Trump’s aggressive pressure on federal and state officials by Jan.6 to block Biden’s victory with baseless fraud charges.
Bromwich pointed out that “evidence accumulates on a regular basis that would prove an obstruction beyond a reasonable doubt.” The ultimate question is who would be the defendants in such an obstruction case. A growing body of evidence shows that, in law and in fact, this could include Trump, Meadows, and other members of Trump’s inner circle.
Cheney addressed the issue of Trump’s potential guilt first during a hearing before a House panel last week, when she urged that Meadows be held in contempt for refusing to be impeached, then called hit Trump with a rhetorical bomb.
“We know hours have passed without the President taking action to defend the United States Congress from an assault while we count the electoral votes,” Cheney said.
“Did Donald Trump, by action or by inaction, seek by corruption to hinder or impede the official procedure of Congress for counting the electoral votes? ”
Cheney’s comments about Trump were very specific, including the language of the Criminal Obstruction Law, and she said her question is a “key” issue for the panel’s legislative tasks.
Raskin also told Politico that whether Trump broke the law by obstructing formal process was “clearly one of the concerns of some members of the committee.”
“The possibility of obstruction charges is legally valid,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former DOJ prosecutor who worked on Ken Starr’s team during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, noting that two judges District officials named by Trump “recently declared that the law covers the Jan. 6 effort to stop the electoral count.”
For example, Justice Dabney Friedrich, in a recent opinion, dismissed the claim of some defendants who challenged the Justice Department’s view that the January 6 congressional meeting met the legal definition of a “proceeding. official ”.
Rosenzweig argued that given Trump’s various attempts before Jan.6 to undermine the election results, a larger conspiracy case might be another option for prosecutors to pursue. If the Justice Department examines broader conspiracy charges, Trump’s continued pressure on Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his senior deputy to help block Biden’s victory would likely be relevant, according to former prosecutors.
In an appeal on December 27, 2020, Trump urged Rosen and his deputy to falsely declare the election “illegal” and “corrupt” despite the DOJ finding no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.
Paul Pelletier, former acting head of the Justice Department’s fraud section, said Cheney’s statements were “carefully drafted and clearly based on evidence the committee saw. If Congress were ultimately to send the case back to DOJ for investigation and prosecution, DOJ’s investigation would not be limited to a single obstruction charge, but would more likely investigate broader conspiracy charges potentially involving Trump and other key devotees.
The panel recently picked up its pace by sending out dozens of subpoenas for documents and depositions, some to shut down Trump aides. Meadows has become a central part of the investigation, in part because of the tweets he received about and near the insurgency which are among the roughly 9,000 documents he handed to the panel, much to the chagrin of Trump.
As Trump’s efforts to prevent the panel from moving forward had limited success, he relied on sending splenic email attacks, including one last month that read: RINOs in disgrace, Cheney and Kinzinger, who could not be elected “dog catcher” in their districts. “
Despite Trump’s furious attacks on the panel, some former prosecutors say prosecuting Trump – if enough evidence is found to justify charges – is important to the health of America’s democracy.
Former Georgia lawyer Michael J Moore told the Guardian: “I hate to think of a legal system that would allow the most powerful person in the country not to be challenged when he abdicated his highest priority, to know how to ensure the safety of our citizens. Trump’s conduct that day was not unlike that of a mob boss.