Hearing that a House committee thinks Donald Trump and his inner circle “might have conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result” is not helpful.
Almost as annoying as Trump’s constant whines about “rigged elections” and voter fraud to justify his loss are reports leaking freely that Trump may be involved in some possible criminal or illegal activity – always adding fuel to a never-starting criminal fire.
Enough already, House Select Committee on Jan. 6: If you’ve got the goods, bring them, and get the Justice Department to get off its enigmatic fence and do something.
The committee’s California court filing in a disputed subpoena issue exploded into conclusions about Trump illegalities. But another legal filing was about a very narrow issue—whether conservative lawyer John Eastman, writer of a memo outlining procedures for Trump to overturn Electoral College votes for president, has legal grounds to quash the order in the name of attorney-client confidentiality.
As anyone who watched Law & Order re-runs knows, lawyers can protect their communications with clients—up to the point where authorities suspect that the lawyer might have been part of the criminal activity or conspiracy at hand.
That is what is at the heart of this court filing. The court filing said that accumulated evidence shows a role for Eastman, along with Trump, that would put him at criminal risk for obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people.
With no new evidence offered—the committee lawyers offered to show its materials to the trial judge—the filing said that Trump’s repeated lies about a stolen election could amount to common law fraud. The filing suggests there is a mountain of evidence showing Trump undertook his stolen election moves knowing that there was no fraud. If there is possibility of a crime in which he is involved, Eastman cannot claim attorney-client privilege to kill the subpoena.
Where Are We?
Let’s be clear. Putting together the testimony of hundreds of witnesses to Jan. 6 and the various plots leading to the rioting at the U.S. Capitol that day is a tough slog that has taken months. That effort has been stalled by instances of non-cooperation by key members of the Trump inner circle who have delayed, ridiculed and sued to squash any public airing of what happened, including records, documents and who-was-doing-what information.
Still, the force has been clear: In political, legal and not-so-legal efforts there were multiple plots under way even before the November 2020 election to argue out loud that it was vote fraud that would be blamed for Trump’s loss. For the plotters, including Trump, anything that would keep Trump in office, including an attack on the government center during the formal certification of election results, was declared within the bounds of fairness.
The questions are what exactly happened, whether it was all legal and whether it can be avoided in the future. Thus, the House committee’s investigation and its constant opposition ridiculing side-show.
So Much Weirdness
A weirdness throughout is that the Justice Department has brought its criminal investigative guns to the hundreds of literal rioters, with the first higher-profile planning defendants only starting to come to trial now, more than a year after the events. There is little public interest in looking at the larger issues of who brought about the insurrection attempt.
Meanwhile, it is the House committee that is going after the wider plot, with no power to bring criminal charges. Of course, the eventual public hearings to establish what happened (now thought to be in May or June) could result in referrals about criminality to the Justice Department, but Justice appears to be remarkable resistant or quiet about whether it intends to pursue an investigation that could involve a prior president and future candidate.
Considering this split in investigative powers, a court filing about whether a subpoena must be obeyed seems an odd place to plant suspicions about criminality for Donald Trump.
In so many ways, Trump has proved Teflon in delaying and shaking off criminal charges from campaign spending incidents involving payments to porn stars for sex to ethics-related personal gain to apparent illegal removal of documents of the White House. We’ve recently seen at least a temporary halt in criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney of real estate tax fraud even as state civil inquiries move ahead. Other cases loom in the election fraud universe, including those pending before in Georgia by Fulton County over efforts to get election officials to “find” enough votes to overturn the certified votes and the activities of local efforts to create fraudulent alternative Electoral College slates for Congress to squash the certified results.
At the risk of accusations of impatience, let’s take another breath here to say we don’t want to hear that there may, might, could be potential, possible criminal charges involving Donald Trump. By the time Justice gets around to looking at it all, we’ll be in an active presidential campaign in which Trump is the leading Republican candidate.