The searing testimony and growing evidence about Donald Trump’s central role in a multi-pronged conspiracy to overturn Joe Biden’s election in 2020 presented at the House January 6 committee’s first three hearings, has increased the odds that Trump will face criminal charges, say former DoJ prosecutors and officials.
The panel’s initial hearings provided a kind of legal roadmap about Trump’s multi-faceted drives – in tandem with some top lawyers and loyalists – to thwart Biden from taking office, that should benefit justice department prosecutors in their sprawling investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.
Ex-justice department lawyers say new revelations at the hearings increase the likelihood that Trump will be charged with crimes involving conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding or defrauding the United States, as he took desperate and seemingly illegal steps to undermine Biden’s election.
Trump could also potentially face fraud charges over his role in an apparently extraordinary fundraising scam – described by House panel members as the “big rip-off” – that netted some $250m for an “election defense fund” that did not exist but funneled huge sums to Trump’s Save America political action committee and Trump properties.
The panel hopes to hold six hearings on different parts of what its vice-chair, Liz Cheney, called Trump’s “sophisticated seven-part plan” to overturn the election.
Trump was told repeatedly, for instance, by top aides and cabinet officials – including ex-attorney general Bill Barr – that the election was not stolen, and that his fraud claims were “completely bullshit” and “crazy stuff” as Barr put it in a video of his scathing deposition. But Trump persisted in pushing baseless fraud claims with the backing of key allies including his ex-personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and lawyer John Eastman.
“The January 6 committee’s investigation has developed substantial, compelling evidence that Trump committed crimes, including but not limited to conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruct official proceedings,” Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general at the DoJ told the Guardian.
Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general in the George HW Bush administration, told the Guardian that “the committee hearings have bolstered the need to seriously consider filing criminal charges against Trump”.
The crux of any prosecution of Trump would hinge heavily on convincing a jury that Trump knew he lost the election and acted with criminal intent to overturn the valid election results. The hearings have focused heavily on testimony that Trump fully knew he had lost and went full steam ahead to concoct schemes to stay in power.
New revelations damaging to Trump emerged on Thursday when Greg Jacob, the ex-counsel to former vice-president Mike Pence, recounted in detail how Eastman and Trump waged a high-pressure drive, publicly and privately, even as the Capitol was under attack, to prod Pence to unlawfully block Biden’s certification by Congress on January 6.
The Eastman pressure included a scheme to substitute pro-Trump fake…