Judge Suggests Donald Trump Committed A Crime By Interfering With Election Certification
Did former President Donald Trump break the law when he ordered then-Vice President Mike Pence to overrule the will of the voters during the congressional certification of the results of the 2020 election on January 6?
On Monday, United States District Court Judge Carl Nichols posited during a hearing for Garret Miller – one of the people facing criminal charges for storming the Capitol – that Trump’s pressuring of Pence to declare him the winner of the election may have been a violation of a law that forbids “corruptly” obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official federal government proceeding. The statute carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Nichols, a Trump appointee, put forth a hypothetical scenario where someone “called Vice President Pence to seek to have him adjudge the certification in a particular way” with the assumption that said individual had “appropriate mens rea,” or awareness of guilt. Did that person commit obstruction? Nichols pondered from the bench.
James Pearce, an attorney at the Justice Department’s Criminal Division who is prosecuting Miller’s case, initially replied no, but he mused that if the person hounding Pence knew that he had a constitutional duty to oversee the counting of the Electoral College votes, then the crime of obstruction may have been committed.
“If that person does that knowing it is not an available argument [and is] asking the vice president to do something the individual knows is wrongful … one of the definitions of ‘corruptly’ is trying to get someone to violate a legal duty,” Pearce told Nichols.
So far, no criminal charges have been filed against the former commander in chief, although the investigations are ongoing. Trump was, however, impeached and then acquitted for a second time for inciting the insurrection.