Lawyers feel pressure as legal net tightens over Trump’s plot to nullify the election

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An accelerated Justice Department investigation into a “fake voters” scheme to help Donald Trump nullify the 2020 election, plus explosive testimony from the January 6 hearings, has created intense legal pressure for attorneys Jeffrey Clark, Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, who were key players. in the failed effort, ex-prosecutors say.

Related: Trump White House counsel to cooperate with Jan. 6 committee

While Giuliani and Eastman were key lawyers for Trump and his campaign, respectively, and Clark was a top Justice Department official, the trio played major roles in a brazen, multi-pronged campaign not to certify some Biden voters, but to Fake for Trump. That could fuel charges against Trump, with whom they collaborated, of obstructing official proceedings or defrauding the United States.

Recent actions by the Justice Department, including the seizure of electronic devices from Eastman and Clark, along with more evidence at committee hearings, are increasingly likely to lead to charges against the three attorneys related to the campaign to replace constituents. that Biden won in seven states with false for Trump. legal experts say.

The judge’s growing criminal investigation became apparent on June 22 when FBI agents raided Clark’s home and separately seized Eastman’s cell phone, while grand jury subpoenas related to the scheme were served on senior Republican figures and allies. of Trump in Georgia and Arizona.

In another clear sign of the legal risk facing Giuliani and Eastman, the recent House committee hearings on the attack on Capitol Hill offered evidence that both lawyers sought Trump’s pardon, presumably linked to planning strategies to block Biden’s certification for part of Congress on January 6, and ferociously delivered speeches alongside Trump at a rally in the Ellipse before a mob of his allies attacked Capitol Hill.

The legal threats Clark faces were underscored at a June 23 panel hearing with scathing testimony from former top judicial officials about Trump’s plot with Clark to elevate him to acting attorney general to push the false-voter scheme by falsely claiming in a proposed letter to Georgia officials that the department had “significant concern” about voter fraud there and in other states.

Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue was seething when he detailed Trump’s efforts to replace Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark in late December 2020, and pressure state lawmakers to push back against Biden’s constituents by promoting positions. unfounded cases of widespread fraud.

Donoghue recounted how he warned Trump at a rare White House meeting on January 3, attended by Rosen, Trump’s attorney Pat Cipollone, and other top lawyers, that elevating Clark to interim AG would prompt mass resignations, and Clark “would be left leading a graveyard” in the department. Cipollone, who was recently subpoenaed by the House panel, also threatened to resign if Clark replaced Rosen.

Furthermore, according to shocking June 28 testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, one of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ top aides, Cipollone warned him early on January 6 of the potential criminal liability of Trump and others if Trump he was going to the Capitol as he had spoken of doing and asked Hutchinson to “please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol.”

All of this adds up to potentially serious consequences for all three attorneys.

Michael Zeldin, a former Justice Department prosecutor, said: “The strong evidence presented about the false voter scheme in recent House committee hearings, including testimony from senior Justice Department officials, laid the groundwork for indicting aides. Trump, Eastman, and Giuliani, and possibly Clark, with multiple state and federal crimes, including obstruction of official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, false statements in connection with the false voter scheme, and voter fraud.”

He added: “The accumulated evidence presented over the course of the hearings paints a picture of a president who was explicitly told by multiple people that he lost the election and that once he exhausted his judicial remedies (losing nearly 60 cases) his pressure campaign continued. to prevent the orderly transfer of power was illegal.

“However, Trump and his lawyers persisted.”

Other former prosecutors stress that the FBI raids for Clark and Eastman’s phones indicate that the investigations of the two lawyers have intensified.

“The search warrants for Clark and Eastman’s phones mean that a judge found probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime would be found on each of those devices,” Barbara McQuade, a former US Attorney for Eastern California, told The Guardian. Michigan.

Eastman’s exposure to criminal charges has been palpable and growing for months. In March, a federal judge, David Carter, in a crucial court ruling involving Trump’s legal adviser, Eastman, declared that Trump “probably” broke the law in his weeks-long campaign to prevent Biden from taking office.

“Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to nullify a democratic election, an action unprecedented in United States history,” Carter wrote in a civil case that resulted in an order for Eastman to release more than 100 emails. that he had withheld from the House panel.

Other damaging revelations for Trump and Eastman emerged at a House panel hearing in mid-June when Greg Jacob, the former adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, provided detailed testimony about how Eastman and Trump launched a high-pressure effort to persuade Pence to illegally block Biden’s certification by Congress on January 6.

Eastman’s push included the scheme to replace bogus pro-Trump voters from states Biden won with voters legitimately committed to Biden. Jacob testified that Eastman acknowledged to him that he knew his push for Pence to reject Biden’s electoral college winning count on January 6 would violate the Election Count Act, and that Trump was also informed that it would be illegal for Pence to block certification of Biden. .

As of mid-December 2020, at least 59 Republicans from states Trump lost falsely claimed and signed legal documents that they were “properly” chosen by Trump in the electoral college.

Former prosecutors say potential charges against Trump and his top lawyers have increased in part because of the powerful details former Justice Department leaders testified about on June 23 about how “Trump pushed to arm the justice department to facilitate [fake electors] scheme,” McQuade said.

McQuade also noted that Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco confirmed months ago that “the Justice Department had received evidence from state AGs about alternative voter lists and was investigating. It appears that the Justice Department is now issuing subpoenas regarding this episode… One could imagine that each link leads to the next and possibly even Donald Trump.”

In addition to Trump’s involvement in the fake voters scheme, former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, who served in the George HW Bush administration, told The Guardian that, overall, “evidence increasingly shows guilt.” of Trump. Trump had extensive participation in long conversations in which he personally worked intensely to nullify the election.”

Ayer’s point of view was reinforced by Hutchinson’s startling testimony about Trump’s knowledge of and indifference to the myriad of dangerous weapons carried by his supporters.

Paul Pelletier, the former acting chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section, said prosecutors viewed Hutchinson’s powerful testimony “could be the final nail in the coffin of legal risk for the Trump cabal of lawyers and enablers.”

“Hutchinson’s testimony has lifted the curtain on the false narrative that the violent confrontation on Capitol Hill was spontaneous,” he added.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse sees a need to coordinate criminal investigations between the Justice Department and others into multiple efforts by Trump and key allies to block Biden’s victory in Georgia, including Trump’s call to the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who is under scrutiny. by the Fulton County District Attorney and a special grand jury.

“The fake voters, the Clark memo and the Trump phone calls all converge in Georgia,” Whitehouse told The Guardian. “I hope and hope that the investigations are coordinated. The Clark raid shows how serious this is, and false voters could be great witnesses.”

Looking ahead, former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut told The Guardian that prosecutors appear to be amassing mounting evidence to bring charges against the three lawyers who were central players in various parts of the false voter scheme.

“Giuliani and Eastman seeking pardons is powerful evidence of ‘conscience of guilt,’” Aftergut said.

In a possible legal twist, Aftergut noted that if charges are filed against one of the three, prosecutors will seek their help in pursuing the others. “The first cooperators generally get the best deals from prosecutors… any one of them could provide damaging evidence against the other two and Trump.”

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