The congressional probe investigating the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection says it has evidence that former President Donald Trump and his campaign engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to prevent the certification of the 2020 election.
The assertion is the most direct indication from the House select committee that it’s determined Trump and his inner circle illegally sought to overturn the election. The committee also said there is also evidence linking Trump and his allies to rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying the election.
Lawyers for the committee made the claims Wednesday in a filing as part of an ongoing lawsuit from Trump adviser John Eastman that seeks to block the probe’s efforts to compel him to turn to over documents.
“The evidence supports an inference that President Trump, [Eastman], and several others entered into an agreement to defraud the United States by interfering with the election certification process, disseminating false information about election fraud, and pressuring state officials to alter state election results and federal officials to assist in that effort,” reads the filing.
Charles Burnham, the lawyer for Eastman, told Newsweek in an email he looks forward to responding to the committee’s claims “in due course.” Eastman is being accused by the
committee of criminal activity for seeking to protect his client’s “confidences, even at great personal risk and expense,” said Burnham.
But because the committee’s inquiry is a civil matter, Burnham said Eastman will not “have the benefit of the Constitutional protections normally afforded to those accused by their government of criminal conduct.”
The filing further states that as Congress prepared to certify the election, Trump and Eastman attempted to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes from some contested states or to delay the proceedings to allow legislatures to cast new votes.
Trump’s repeated claims that the election had been “stolen,” despite no evidence of widespread fraud, were intended to persuade the public, state officials and members of Congress, while pressuring Pence, the filing states.
“The apparent objective of these efforts was to overturn the results of 2020
the presidential election and declare Donald Trump the winner” reads the filing. “In this way, the conspiracy aimed to obstruct and interfere with the proper functioning of the United States government.”
The filing also points to social media posts by Trump spreading false information about the election. In one instance, Trump posted an edited video clip showing a Georgia official pulling suitcases from under a table after poll workers had left. The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office released the full video debunking Trump’s claims.
“In addition to the legal effort to delay the certification, there is also evidence that the conspiracy extended to the rioters engaged in acts of violence at the Capitol,” reads the filing.
The filing references a civil lawsuit against Trump where the judge overseeing the case “specifically found that it was plausible to believe that the President entered into a conspiracy with the rioters on January 6, 2021” to forcefully disrupt the certification of the election.
It’s not clear what the filing will mean for the investigation. So far no member of the committee has said they will refer the matter to the U.S. Justice Department for possible prosecution.