US

Trump tried ‘to defraud US’ over 2020 results, Capitol riot investigators say

Donald Trump and his team tried “to defraud the US” by manipulating the results of the 2020 presidential election, the congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot has said.

The select committee of politicians looking into what happened in Washington DC on 6 January 2021 said it 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 evidence supports an inference that President Trump and members of his campaign knew he had not won enough legitimate state electoral votes to be declared the winner [of the 2020 presidential election],” the committee said in a 221-page document filed in a Californian court.

“But the president nevertheless sought to use the vice president to manipulate the results in his favour.”

A supporter of President Donald Trump chants outside the Senate Gallery inside the Capitol
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The self-styled QAnon shaman outside the Senate Gallery

The committee said it found evidence that Mr Trump sought to obstruct an official proceeding – in this case, the certification of the election results.

Mr Trump told supporters on the day of the riot that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”, before a mob numbering thousands headed to the Capitol building.

He also tried to strongarm vice president Mike Pence to delay the proceedings so there would be additional time to “manipulate” the results, the committee added.

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The panel also said its evidence shows Mr Trump and others spread false information about the poll’s outcome and pressured state officials to overturn it.

One of those officials, Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, said he saw the then-president’s request that he find the votes to flip the state from actual winner, Joe Biden, as a threat.

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Police confront supporters of President Donald Trump inside the Capitol building
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Police were forced to confront supporters of President Donald Trump inside the Capitol building

The committee was responding to a case brought by former Trump adviser John Eastman, a lawyer who worked with the ex-president as he tried to overturn the election.

Mr Eastman was trying to use lawyer-client privilege to withhold documents from the committee as it investigates the 6 January attack, in which five people were killed.

The committee argued there is a legal exception to attorney-client privilege allowing the disclosure of communications regarding ongoing or future crimes.

Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber at the Capitol
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It has been alleged that Trump supporters attacked the Capitol after they were incited by the former president

It’s unclear what impact the committee’s evidence will have, as lawmakers do not have the power to bring charges on their own and can only make a referral to the Justice Department.

Or, as its Democratic chairman, Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, put it in a statement: “The Select Committee is not conducting a criminal investigation.

The Justice Department has also been investigating last year’s riot, but has not given any indication that it is considering seeking charges against Mr Trump.

Nonetheless it is the committee’s most formal effort to link the former president to a federal crime.

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