Donald Trump and his allies engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to defraud the United States by attempting to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election, the House panel investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol said in a legal brief filed late Wednesday.
The committee’s conclusion that the former president may have broken multiple laws in his efforts to overturn the election is the most damning allegation to emerge yet—and marks the first time the House panel has formally accused Trump of criminal activity.
The filing was a response to Trump-allied lawyer John Eastman’s effort to shield his communications from a subpoena by invoking attorney-client privilege. You might remember Eastman as the man who created what basically amounted to a blueprint for Trump’s attempted coup. Increasingly, as the House’s investigation stretches on, Eastman’s fingerprints have appeared all over the events of January 6. As my colleague Tim Murphy noted in October:
As a mob chanting “hang Mike Pence!” raged through the Capitol, one of Trump’s lawyers, John Eastman, sent an email to the vice president’s office blaming Pence for the carnage. According to an email obtained by the paper, Eastman (who was responding to an angry email from a Pence staffer) wrote that “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened.” What’s more, the Post reported, Eastman continued to advocate for the electoral college results to be rejected after Congress returned to business following the riot.
“The evidence supports an inference that President Trump, Plaintiff [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,” lawyers for the House panel wrote in the filing.