Columnist issues a dire warning: Trump could get away with trying to steal an election
Donald Trump (AFP)

A federal judge found this week that Donald Trump "more likely than not" committed crimes by trying to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden's election win, but there's still a good chance he won't face prosecution.

The relevant statute states that Trump must have sought to obstruct the official proceeding "corruptly," but Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent explained that prosecutors might have to prove that he "knew for certain" that vice president Mike Pence had no lawful basis to delay certification or that he had "some some reason to believe" this.

"Putting aside whatever Trump 'believed' about Pence’s procedural role, what if Trump pressured him to disrupt the electoral count despite fully understanding he had legitimately lost the election?" Sargent wrote. "Would that constitute an effort to disrupt the electoral count 'corruptly'? After all, there is extensive evidence that Trump did understand his loss was procedurally sound."

There's plenty of evidence to suggest Trump knew he lost, because Justice Department officials and his own campaign advisers told him so, and he had spent months suggesting that he would declare victory before mail-in voters were counted so he could discredit those ballots as illegitimate.

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"Trump told us he would do this before the votes were even cast, leaving no doubt that the actual status of the legitimacy of the voting would be irrelevant," Sargent wrote. "He would declare it fraudulent no matter what. And so he did end up doing."

Courts have defined "corruptly" to mean "dishonestly," which would apply to the facts in this case, but it's up to the Justice Department to decide whether that's enough to bring charges against the former president.

"Can Trump really get away with trying to sabotage a legitimately elected government from taking power by simply claiming he really believed he had lost the election despite having overwhelming reason to know otherwise?" Sargent wrote. "If so, that’s how he gets away with it all. And wouldn’t that open the door to this fig leaf excuse being wielded with abandon to subvert elections in the future?"