Cillizza: A January 6 committee mentioned Donald Trump was a part of a “criminal conspiracy” across the 2020 election. Legally, what does this imply?
honigo: Legally, not a lot. Politically, quite a bit.
In a slender sense, that is the committee’s try to get the e-mail between Trump and lawyer John Eastman. Eastman claims these paperwork are protected by attorney-client privilege, however the committee maintains that they’re in what are referred to as “crime-fraud exceptions”—which means the communications pertain to the fee of a criminal offense or fraud.
So the stakes right here actually are whether or not the committee will get a set of emails that would show important proof of the intent behind Eastman and Trump’s makes an attempt to steal the election.
Broadly talking, the committee transient is a strong political assertion and, in my opinion, a name to motion by the Justice Department. The viewers right here just isn’t solely the judges, but in addition the DOJ and the American public. The acronym reads like a prosecution memo. This committee is saying, primarily, that we imagine a case must be made towards Trump, and this is how we’ll do it. Of course, the ultimate determination on whether or not to cost Trump (or anybody) rests completely with the DOJ, not Congress.
Cillizza: If the committee wins its case, what’s the sensible influence of it?
honigo: First, they will get the e-mail between Eastman and Trump. And if judges make the rule primarily based on the crime-frauding exception, we’ll have a proper conclusion by a federal choose that at the very least has a basis of proof on which to conclude that Trump dedicated a criminal offense. This doesn’t be sure that Trump will likely be prosecuted, however it would additional improve the strain on the DOJ to behave.
Cillizza: What elements is the DOJ contemplating when trying on the remaining product of the 1/6 committee?
Honig: First, the DOJ typically doesn’t depend on or look forward to Congress to collect the information. Conversely, if the DOJ is investigating a selected individual or topic, it would ask Congress to face up and permit the DOJ to proceed first; As a prosecutor, you by no means need some other entity to interrogate or probably immunize your witnesses or your targets.
The indisputable fact that the DOJ has not requested the committee to face – [California] Representative Adam Schiff has publicly confirmed this – I counsel that the DOJ just isn’t presently investigating Trump or others round him in a direct, critical method. It’s not a optimistic — we do not absolutely know what the DOJ is or is not doing behind closed doorways — however it’s an indicator.
When the committee ultimately points a report, the DOJ is in fact free to contemplate it. So the trick for the committee is find out how to current its findings in a reputable and compelling method, and in such a method that prosecutors will have a look at the proof and understand that there’s a prison case sitting on the market.
Cillizza: If Trump faces prison fees, what’s probably?
honigo: Allegations associated to an try to steal the election, which is able to run via January 6. We can see in-state allegations from the Fulton County DA regarding election fraud in Georgia, though it’s not sure whether or not the DA will truly prosecute (and the DA is continuing on an inexplicably gradual, and sub-optimal, timeline). .
If the DOJ ever digs significantly — once more, a serious unknown, trending towards the likelihood — I see attainable fees for obstructing an official continuing (right here, counting of electoral votes by Congress) and depriving the United States of America. Conspiracy to conduct truthful elections. The focus right here will likely be on fraudulent and coercive makes an attempt to steal the election by January sixth – pressuring native officers, pretend voter schemes, weaponizing the DOJ, and pressuring [Vice President] Mike Pence for illegally relinquishing some electoral votes.
Cillizza: End this sentence: “The January 6 committee presents a ___________ legal threat to Donald Trump.” Now, clarify.
Honig: “Indirect but powerful.”
For all Congress and the committee can do — problem summons, take witness testimony, conduct hearings, problem remaining stories — they cannot legally compel the DOJ or anybody else to file prison fees. The determination to question sits completely with the Department of Justice (or different state and county-level prosecutors).
That mentioned, the committee’s findings may completely spur public consciousness and political strain on the DOJ. While prosecutors are speculated to be impervious to exterior influences, the fact is that even prosecutors don’t function in a vacuum and are conscious of public and political sentiment.
More straight, the committee has already uncovered a plethora of remarkably compelling proof—the testimony of some outstanding insiders, Mark Meadows texts, pretend voter certificates, and extra. Prosecutors are free to contemplate and use this proof (topic to the technical guidelines of proof) and the extra compelling the proof discovered by the Committee, the extra probably we’re to see the fees.