When Donald Trump faces a jury on charges stemming from his bid to subvert the 2020 election, he wants to prohibit federal prosecutors from even mentioning the chaos and violence unleashed by his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But to special counsel Jack Smith, Trump’s role in the riot is the heart of the case.
A new court filing from Smith’s team this week reveals that the mob that stormed Congress in Trump’s name will be the centerpiece of his trial, scheduled to begin on March 4. It wasn’t just an unfortunate reaction to Trump’s incendiary remarks that day, prosecutors contend. It was a tool that Trump used to launch one last desperate bid to cling to power.
Trump’s criminal conspiracies “culminated and converged” on Jan. 6, when he attempted to prevent Congress from finalizing Joe Biden’s victory, argued senior assistant special counsel Molly Gaston.
“One of the ways that the defendant did so … was to direct an angry crowd of his supporters to the Capitol and to continue to stoke their anger while they were rioting,” Gaston wrote in the filing.
In a way, Smith is now casting Trump’s trial as a long-awaited collision between two distinct narratives: Trump’s monthslong campaign to use lies about election fraud to pressure state and federal election officials to keep him in power; and the rioters who embraced Trump’s false claims and took violent action on his behalf on Jan. 6. Those investigations have largely moved along separate tracks in the Washington courts, where a revolving door of Jan. 6 riot defendants have faced punishment while Smith’s grand jury, just a few paces down the hall, worked secretly on the Trump probe.