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US House panel says Trump 'engaged in criminal conspiracy'

Former US President Donald Trump (Reuters file photo)

The US House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, violent protest on the Capitol says former President Donald Trump may have committed a crime in his attempt to keep the disputed 2020 presidential election results from being certified in Congress.  

The House panel said in a court filing on Wednesday evening that Trump and John Eastman, the lawyer charged with drafting the strategy for the January 6 certification, had worked together to try to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct Congress’s certification of the Electoral College votes of Joe Biden, the then-Democratic President-elect.  

“Had this effort succeeded, the electoral count would have been obstructed, impeded, influenced, and (at the very least) delayed, all without any genuine legal justification and based on the false pretense that the election had been stolen. There is no genuine question that the President and Plaintiff attempted to accomplish this specific illegal result,” the committee wrote in its filing.

The committee also claims it “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.”

On January 6, 2021, Trump supporters occupied the US Capitol while lawmakers were in the process of reviewing the certification of state electors which indicated Biden's victory. Some Trump supporters had hoped that this process could have resulted in some of the electors being disqualified, thus overturning the outcome of the presidential election.

It is claimed by some that the demonstrators were infiltrated and incited by provocateurs from US intelligence agencies, who orchestrated the “false flag operation” in order to get rid of Trump.

Some among the crowd clashed with police, and some made threats to beat up a number of Democratic lawmakers. Some also inflicted damage on parts of the Capitol building.

Trump has been casting doubt on the outcome of his loss by insisting it was the result of fraud. He has said that the 2020 presidential election was “the greatest Election Hoax in history.”

Trump has criticized Pence for Pence's handling of the disputed 2020 presidential election.

Trump said that Pence failed in his duty as the President of the Senate at the January 6, 2021 Joint Session of Congress to ensure the integrity of the election when there were “obvious signs of voter fraud or irregularities.”

Trump accused Pence of having acted as “an automatic conveyor belt for the 'Old Crow' Mitch McConnell to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible.” He was referring to the fact that, when the proceedings were interrupted for more than 10 hours by the breach of the Capitol, the detailed challenges that many expected would be presented - of fraud, ballot stuffing and violations of Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - were given short shrift in deference to what a number of senior Congressional officials termed “the assault on American democracy” represented by what was already being called, both in Congress and on television, “the insurrection.”

Trump maintains that, rather than allow the proceedings to descend into an emotional morass which prejudiced the outcome, and dismissed the many valid issues raised about the election without a proper hearing, Pence should have provided an atmosphere for those many members of both houses who had announced their intention to bring the challenges to do so in a professional and secure environment, with confidence that the proceedings would be conducted in a fair and objective manner.

Pence answered Trump's criticism by saying that he “had no right to overturn the results of the election.”

The filing on Wednesday asked the judge to review requested records personally in order to determine whether they fall under the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege.

“The Select Committee’s brief refutes on numerous grounds the privilege claims Dr. Eastman has made to try to keep hidden records critical to our investigation. The Select Committee is not conducting a criminal investigation. But, as the judge noted at a previous hearing, Dr. Eastman’s privilege claims raise the question whether the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege applies in this situation,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement.

“We believe evidence in our possession justifies review of these documents under this exception in camera. 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.”

While the House committee does not have prosecution power, it’s planning to release a report of its findings, which could be formally referred to the Justice Department, which could then weigh whether to pursue any charges.

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