Donald Trump engaged in 'criminal conspiracy' to overturn 2020 election, says US January 6 panel

Donald Trump engaged in 'criminal conspiracy' to overturn 2020 election, says US January 6 panel
2 min read
A committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot believes former US President Donald Trump 'engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States'.
On January 6 2021, Trump repeated his false claim of election fraud and urged the assembled crowd to 'fight like hell' [source: Getty]

The legislative panel probing the assault on the US Capitol by a mob of then-president Donald Trump's supporters alleged in a court filing Wednesday that he and his allies took part in a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

The filing by the House of Representatives Select Committee seeks access to documents from rightwing lawyer John Eastman, who has refused to testify, citing attorney-client privilege.

"The Select Committee...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 panel wrote in their brief.

The committee's comments are not its final conclusion, as the probe continues. But they were seen as its most extensive and damning statement yet about Trump's behavior as he fought to cling to power after losing to Joe Biden.

It was Trump ally Eastman who wrote a now-famous memo in which he outlined how Vice President Mike Pence could prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden's election win over Trump during what would normally have been a routine session of Congress on January 6 2021. In the end, Pence declined to do so.

In the filing released Wednesday night, the committee said Eastman's claims of attorney-client privilege do not apply because he and others, including Trump, "may have engaged in criminal and/or fraudulent acts" in their attempts to overturn the election.

Perspectives

Lawmakers said their evidence provides "a good-faith basis for concluding that President Trump has violated section 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2)".

That's a law that makes it a crime to "conspire either to commit any offence against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose," according to the Justice Department.

In the chilling events of January 6, after a fiery speech near the White House in which Trump repeated his false claim of election fraud and urged the assembled crowd to "fight like hell," the mob marched to the Capitol and overran it in stunning scenes of violence and mayhem.

Trump was impeached for a historic second time after the Capitol riot - he was charged with inciting an insurrection - but was acquitted by the Senate.

The former president still dominates the Republican Party and regularly makes comments flirting with the idea of seeking a second term.