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Then-President Donald Trump addresses his supporters

Then-President Donald Trump greeted a crowd of his supporters on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

House January 6 Panel Accuses Trump of 'Criminal Conspiracy to Defraud' US

The committee alleges that Trump and his allies engaged in a "corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of Electoral College ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power."

Jake Johnson

The House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol said in a federal court filing Wednesday that former President Donald Trump and his campaign allies committed crimes as they attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

While it is not conducting a criminal investigation and does not have the power to bring charges on its own, the House panel told the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California that lawmakers have "a good-faith basis for concluding that the president and members of his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371."

The Justice Department is currently investigating the January 6 attack and has charged more than 225 people for taking part, but it "has not given any indication that it is considering seeking charges against Trump," the Associated Press notes.

The House committee's filing was submitted in response to a lawsuit by former Trump lawyer John Eastman, who is fighting the panel's request for thousands of emails related to efforts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally scrap electoral votes from states President Joe Biden won.

Eastman has cited attorney-client privilege to justify withholding the emails from the select committee, but the panel's filing argues that the documents Eastman is shielding are not privileged.

"Communications in which a 'client consults an attorney for advice that will serve him in the commission of a fraud or crime' are not privileged from disclosure," the filing states. "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."

The filing points specifically to an email it obtained showing that Eastman urged Pence's lawyer to violate the law in an attempt to block congressional certification of Trump's electoral loss.

"I implore you to consider one more relatively minor violation [of the Electoral Count Act] and adjourn for 10 days to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations, as well as to allow a full forensic audit of the massive amount of illegal activity that has occurred here," Eastman wrote to Pence attorney Greg Jacob on the night of January 6, 2021.

In a statement late Wednesday, select committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said the panel's filing "refutes on numerous grounds the privilege claims Dr. Eastman has made to try to keep hidden records critical to our investigation."

"Dr. Eastman's privilege claims raise the question whether the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege applies in this situation," the lawmakers wrote. "We believe evidence in our possession justifies review of these documents under this exception in camera. The facts we've gathered strongly suggest that Dr. Eastman's emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of Electoral College ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power."

Trump and his former aides have sought to impede the select committee's investigation at every turn, obstructing the panel's efforts to obtain White House documents—which the former president was notorious for destroying—and testimony from key witnesses.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court formally ended Trump's attempt to prevent the committee from examining more than 700 pages of White House records related to the January 6 attack.

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