Special counsel prosecutors said Monday they plan to show at trial that Donald Trump lied repeatedly about the results of the 2020 election as part of a conspiracy to subvert the legitimate results. But they also said they don’t need to prove whether Trump believed he lost the race.
Legal experts have debated the importance of Trump’s state of mind in his federal election subversion case in D.C., with some arguing that to win a conviction the government must pin down the true beliefs of a politician who amassed a long record of making false or misleading claims while president. The Justice Department weighed in on the debate for the first time, saying that what they need to prove is not that Trump believed the “Big Lie” of the election being stolen but that he knowingly spread associated lies in a criminal scheme to stay in power.
Lies will be key to special counsel Jack Smith’s case,as the government indicated by using “deceit” 46 times in the 79-page filing, including saying Trump is guilty of “perpetrating an unprecedented campaign of deceit to attack” the election, Congress’s certification of the vote, and Americans rights to have their votes counted.
“Just as the president of a company may be guilty of fraud for using knowingly false statements of facts to defraud investors, even if he subjectively believes that his company will eventually succeed, the defendant may be guilty of using deceit to obstruct the government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified, even if he provides evidence that he subjectively believed that the election was ‘rigged,’” the prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors said they will point to several specific claims made by Trump and his unindicted co-conspirators to prove the “deceit” that is necessary to prove fraud against the United States, one of the four charges he faces in D.C. Those include various baseless allegations that dead or ineligible voters cast ballots, that voting machines changed votes from Trump to Biden or that election workers added fake ballots for Biden to vote totals. In each case, prosecutors said in the indictment, Trump and his allies had been informed the claims were false. Prosecutors say deceit can also be shown through co-conspirator Rudy Giuliani’s false assurances to “fake electors” that they would only be deployed if litigation changed the election results.
The government said they would also prove Trump obstructed Congress in part through deceit, but also by threatening a state official with criminal prosecution and by directing an angry mob to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The final charge against Trump, violating a civil rights statute, requires showing only that he had the intent to keep some votes from being counted, the government said.