Trump ‘more likely than not’ committed crime on day of Capitol riot, judge writes in ruling

A federal judge on Monday ordered more than 100 emails from Trump adviser John Eastman to be turned over to the House committee investigating last year’s uprising on the U.S. Capitol, saying he is “more likely than not” that former President Donald Trump committed crimes in his attempt. to stop the certification of the 2020 elections.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge David Carter marked a major legal victory for the panel over correspondence from Eastman, the attorney who consulted Trump as he tried to overturn the presidential election.

“Based on the evidence, the court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Carter wrote in the ruling submitted in the Central Federal District of California.

Eastman was attempting to withhold documents from the committee based on a claim of professional secrecy between himself and the former chairman. The committee responded earlier this month, arguing that there is a legal exception allowing the disclosure of communications about ongoing or future crimes.

An attorney representing Eastman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The committee’s March 3 filing was its most formal effort to link the former president to a federal crime. Legislators do not have the power to initiate criminal prosecutions themselves and can only refer cases to the Department of Justice. The department investigated last year’s riot, but gave no indication it planned to press charges against Trump.

The committee argued in court papers that Trump and his associates engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Trump and those working with him then spread false information about the presidential election result and pressured state officials to overturn the results, potentially violating multiple federal laws, the panel said. .

Trump attorney and adviser John Eastman, left, gestures as he speaks shortly before rioters storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021. By his side is Trump’s ally, Rudy Giuliani. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Carter, a court appointee by former President Bill Clinton, called Trump and Eastman’s actions a “coup in search of legal theory.”

“If the country does not commit to investigating and prosecuting those responsible, the court fears that Jan. 6 will be repeated,” Carter wrote.

It is unclear whether the committee will make a criminal referral to the Justice Department once its work is complete, or if it will survive the fallout from the midterm elections in November, when control of the House could revert to Republicans. .

Attorney General Merrick Garland – unsurprisingly given the ramifications involving an ex-president – did not comment on whether the Justice Department was investigating Trump, who spoke to supporters shortly before many of them they don’t go down to the Capitol. Garland said the department “remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at all levels, accountable before the law.”

The nine-member committee is meeting Monday night to discuss whether to hold Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino, former members of the Trump administration, in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas he issued.

The committee may also soon seek to interview conservative activist Virginia (Ginny) Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Several reports in the past week detailed text exchanges between Ginny Thomas and Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in early January 2021.

Legal troubles swirl

Trump maintains his popularity within the Republican Party despite two unprecedented House impeachments, including for inciting insurrection in connection with the events of January 6. After the impeachments, he was acquitted both times in the Senate, which requires a two-thirds majority, or a threshold of 67 votes, to be convicted.

But Trump faces a number of potential legal challenges that could prove an obstacle to preparing for another presidential race in 2024.

A special grand jury is being assembled in Georgia to assess Trump’s attempts to pressure state officials to overturn Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory there.

New York prosecutors have been investigating the Trump Organization’s financial statements for possible criminal wrongdoing and civil litigation, while last week it was decided that Trump and his sons must sit for a deposition regarding their promotion on Celebrity Apprentice of a marketing company that was allegedly a pyramid scheme.

There are also civil disputes with his niece, Mary Trumpwho wrote a book critical of Trump, plus an ongoing libel lawsuit stemming from a writer’s allegation that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s.

Trump has already survived politically sexual assault allegations during the 2016 campaign and damning court-ordered dissolutions of Trump University, a real estate program and his charity, the Trump Foundation.