If that “isn’t insurrection, I don’t know what is,” he said Wednesday.
Legal experts have long viewed the US Capitol attack as one that could theoretically prompt an investigation into the Trump-era White House, even though any investigation around the presidency raises complicated issues.
至今, 多于 800 rioters have been criminally charged — with a third of them admitting their guilt in federal court.
最近几个月, the Justice Department investigation has broadened beyond the rioters, moving closer to the political circles around Trump.
Investigators have gathered communications and other information from fake electors the Trump campaign organized in seven battleground states he lost
, 从一个 “停止窃取” rally organizer
, from former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark
— whom Trump wanted to install as attorney general in early January 2021
– and from 约翰·伊士曼
, Trump’s election lawyer who wanted to block Congress from certifying his loss of the presidency
The committee has raised allegations of other potential charges
, including possible witness tampering
和 related to Trump’s post-election fundraising
现在, federal investigators may seek to corroborate evidence the House has presented. That may include vetting Hutchinson’s testimony with other witness who could speak to what Trump knew about the potential for violence on Capitol Hill and that his wish to stop Congress could be illegal.
“I think we crossed two important thresholds” for the consideration of charges when evaluating Hutchinson’s testimony, said Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor, 上 “唐柠檬今晚” 星期二. “One is the violence threshold, the direct link to Donald Trump that that crowd was armed. And the other is intent. Remember early on, when the big question, the big point of dispute was, Did Donald Trump know at the time what that crowd was going to do? Did he want them to remain peaceful or did he want them to go into that Capitol angry? 我的意思是, is there really any question about that anymore?”
Criminal investigators would have wider latitude than the House to access evidence and to interview witnesses, including some who’ve been recalcitrant toward the House. That power of federal grand juries to obtain testimony and evidence dates back to Watergate, when a federal judge allowed prosecutors access to Nixon White House tapes.
“I think everything is on the table, and this January 6 committee has done a pretty good job of showing the road map and the possibilities that existed,” 道格·琼斯, the former federal prosecutor and former Democratic US senator from Alabama, 周三说. “We have never seen anything like this in this country. Watergate pales in comparison.”
Even if the DOJ has a case to bring, the department would face significant policy decisions, including weighing the enormous consequences of bringing criminal charges against a former President for actions he took while in office.
“There’s a piece of this that scares the hell out of me,” 琼斯说, 加: “We have already seen in the Congress of the United States this idea that every party wants to impeach the opposing President of the other party.”
“I worry we are at a point in this country that we are going to see every former administration that every former administration will be investigated criminally on anything like this in the country.”
科布, 太, cautioned the type of hyper-partisan political era that charging a former President might bring — saying it could be “one more step in the erosion of our institutions.”
“I am not convinced prosecuting Trump is in the best interests of the country in the long term,” Cobb said.
After weighing the evidence, lawyers within the Office of Legal Counsel and other top levels of the Justice Department would need to analyze constitutional hypotheticals, past internal decisions and court precedents.
“How will this impact the future of the presidency? That’s the question they always ask,” said Neil Eggleston, the former White House counsel in the Obama administration. “How would a prosecution of President Trump impact the future presidency? I think those are the issues they’ll be thinking about. I think they will conclude they have no impact on the future presidency.”
There’s also the matter of free speech and political speech protections, and other defenses Trump has raised already in civil cases seeking to hold him liable for January 6.
A federal judge in Washington
, 直流电, has already looked at the possibility of the President taking part in a conspiracy
, in a civil context
. Judge Amit Mehta found it was plausible
“The President’s January 6 Rally Speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action,” Mehta wrote in response to accusations brought by Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California and others.
A lawyer who brought the civil conspiracy case last year said Hutchinson’s testimony this week strengthened the conspiracy argument.
“There was so much more detail about what Trump knew,” said Philip Andonian, who brought Swalwell’s lawsuit against Trump.
Trump has appealed Mehta’s ruling, arguing to an appeals court he has absolute immunity, for everything he said and did while President.
Courts have previously found the privilege protections around the presidency melt away if there was criminal action. And another judge, in a California federal court, also determined this year that Trump “more likely than not” engaged in the planning of a crime with his attorney Eastman, wiping away the confidentiality of some Trump-side attorney-client communications after the election.
“If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible
, the Court fears January
6 will repeat itself
,” 法官, David O
. 卡特, 写, releasing some of Eastman’s emails related to his efforts for Trump to the House select committee
Some legal scholars also say that Trump may argue he genuinely believed that the election was stolen from him
, and that this good-faith belief motivated his actions to stop the transfer of power
Experts have said former Attorney General William Barr may have bolstered Trump’s defense by testifying that Trump was “detached from reality” 关于 2020 选举. But that argument might only get Trump so far.
“You can have a good-faith belief that the earth is flat, but it doesn’t allow you to act in a criminal way,” said Michael Zeldin, another former federal prosecutor and former CNN analyst. “You can have a good-faith belief that you really won an election, but it wouldn’t give you the right to shoot senators who said that you lost.”