DOJ says it doesn’t matter if Trump believes his own election lie

By | November 7, 2023

Special counsel prosecutors said Monday they plan to demonstrate at trial that Donald Trump repeatedly lied about the results of the 2020 election as part of a conspiracy to overturn the legitimate results. But they also said they didn’t need to prove whether Trump thought he lost the race.

Legal experts have debated the importance of Trump’s state of mind in his federal election subversion case in Washington, with some argue that to obtain a conviction, the government must identify the true convictions of a politician who accumulated a long history of making false or misleading statements while president. The Justice Department weighed in on the debate for the first time, saying what it needed to prove was not that Trump believed the “big lie” of the election was stolen, but that he knowingly spread associated lies as part of a criminal scheme to stay in power. .

Lies will be key in special prosecutor Jack Smith’s case, as the government put it using “deception” 46 times in the 79-page filing, including claiming that Trump is guilty of “perpetrating an unprecedented campaign of deception to attack” the election, certification of the vote by Congress and Americans’ right to vote. counted.

“Just as the president of a company may be guilty of fraud for knowingly using false statements of fact to defraud investors, even if he subjectively believes that his company will ultimately succeed, the defendant may be guilty of used deception to obstruct the functioning of the government by collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election, even though he provided evidence that he subjectively believed the election was ‘rigged,'” the prosecutors.

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Prosecutors said they would highlight several specific claims made by Trump and his unindicted co-conspirators prove the “deception” necessary to prove fraud against the United States, one of four charges He is confronted with Washington. These include various baseless claims that dead or ineligible voters cast ballots, that voting machines changed votes from Trump to Biden, or that election workers added fake ballots so Biden could vote. . In each case, prosecutors said in the charge, Trump and his allies had been informed that these claims were false. Prosecutors say deception can also be shown by co-conspirator Rudy Giuliani’s false assurances “false voters” that they would only be deployed if litigation changed the election results.

The government said it would also prove that Trump obstructed Congress partly through deception, but also through threaten a state official with criminal prosecution and leading an angry mob toward the Capitol on January 62021. The latest accusation against Trump, violate a civil rights lawit is enough to demonstrate that he intended to prevent certain votes from being counted, the government said.

In their own filings, Trump’s lawyers argued that he had the right to reject all information provided to him and to share contrary opinions in public and private. Prosecutors responded that whether Trump knew the truth was a matter for trial.

Tim Belevitz, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said that’s because at this point the judge is not looking at the facts but only whether the language of the charge itself is sufficient to allege a crime.

“Did the president actually believe what he was saying was true? That’s a question for the jury,” Belevez said. “That would generally not be the type of basis on which a judge would dismiss a case before trial. » As for how a jury might evaluate that defense, Belevitz said that in white-collar cases, prosecutors often cite what advisers said to the defendant as evidence of dishonesty. And “often the accused believes he or she is the smartest person in the room.” “It’s up to the jury to determine whether that’s exonerating, he said.

Trump’s lawyers separately argue that all of his statements about the election “are fully protected by the First Amendment, regardless of the government’s view of their truth or falsity.” Prosecutors responded that “The First Amendment was never thought to exclude prosecution for long-established crimes – such as conspiracy, fraud, bribery, extortion, blackmail or aiding and abetting – which are committed in whole or in part. part through speech.”

The government has the right view, said Ira Lupu, a First Amendment scholar at George Washington University. “People always make this argument, and it’s just wrong,” he said of Trump’s assertion that he can’t be punished for his speech. “The First Amendment does not protect the use of words for fraudulent purposes, it does not protect the use of words to form a conspiracy. It does not protect the use of words to attempt to incite someone to commit an illegal act.

Prosecutors also hit back at Trump’s claims that he was only doing what other presidents or their supporters had done in previous elections.

“The defendant also asserts that he could not have known that his actions were criminal because, in the past, others who questioned, contested or protested the election results were not prosecuted,” wrote the government. “But the defendant stands alone in American history for his alleged crimes. No other president has engaged in conspiracy or obstruction to overturn valid election results and illegally retain power.

While various parties have already challenged the election results in Congress, the Electoral College and in the courts, prosecutors have said none of those efforts involved deception or an outright refusal to reject the results.

“The existence throughout history of legitimate electoral conflicts does not validate the corrupt and dishonest actions of the accused, any more than the existence of legitimate investment offers validates the creation of a criminal system Ponzi scheme,” prosecutors wrote.

In another dive into the story, prosecutors rejected Trump’s claim that he could not face criminal charges after being indicted. indicted and acquitted by Congress. The government cites Alexander Hamilton, who wrote in the Federalist Papers that although Congress cannot criminally prosecute federal agents, they are “liable to prosecution and punishment under ordinary law.” Trump “was never placed in danger of life or limb, so the double jeopardy clause is completely inapplicable,” prosecutors wrote. “And even if the clause applied, the criminal prosecution in this case does not involve the same offense as that at issue in the defendant’s impeachment trial.”

Prosecutors also urged the judge to reject Trump’s defense claim that he was the victim of political persecution by the Biden administration, and attempts to throw references into his indictment binding him to the violence of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol because he is not accused of incitement this riot.

“The Court should recognize the defendant’s motion for what it is: an unfounded effort to evade the indictment’s clear allegations that the defendant is responsible for the events at the Capitol on January 6,” prosecutors said. They note that he praised the rioters as “very special” during the attack and has since defended them as “great patriots,” calling January 6 a “beautiful day.”

“Indeed, that day was the culmination of the defendants’ criminal plots to overturn the legitimate results of the presidential election,” prosecutors said.

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