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Jan. 6 panel argues Trump was involved in ‘criminal conspiracy’ to overturn election

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol argued in a new court filing that former President Donald Trump and members of his campaign were part of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results.

“The Select Committee … has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the panel wrote in a legal brief filed Wednesday.

The filing focuses largely on John Eastman, a Trump-allied lawyer who wrote memos arguing that then-Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the election. The committee previously subpoenaed Eastman to turn over documents but said he claims they are protected by attorney-client privilege.

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The brief argues for a court review of the disputed materials, and it says there is evidence to support a belief that a review “may reveal that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in common law fraud in connection with their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.”

“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,” the committee’s chair and vice chair, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a statement Wednesday.

The legal brief signifies the most direct line the committee has tried to draw between Trump, his allies and potential criminal activity surrounding the 2020 election.

Wednesday’s civil filing lists conspiracy to defraud the United States; obstruction of an official proceeding; and common law fraud. It says Trump and Eastman sought to have Pence reject electors or delay Congress’ counting of electoral votes so the results could be manipulated. Pence did not do so.

Trump and Eastman have not been charged with any crime.

The House committee is investigating the riot led by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was counting the electoral votes affirming President Joe Biden’s election victory. Thompson said last week that the panel had interviewed more than 550 witnesses.

The committee subpoenaed Eastman last year to turn over documents and appear for a deposition. When he appeared before the committee, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to turn over documents, according to Wednesday’s court filing.

The panel said in its filing that the court should reject Eastman’s claims of attorney-client privilege, citing an exception for when a client is involved in criminal activities.

Eastman’s attorneys said Wednesday night that Eastman has a responsibility to protect client confidences.

“The Select Committee has responded to Dr. Eastman’s efforts to discharge this responsibility by accusing him of criminal activity,” they said, adding they will respond in due course.

A spokesperson for Trump also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.