Trump lawyer: “The defense is quite simple… President Trump believed in his heart of hearts that he had won that election”
The George Costanza Defense: It’s Not a Lie, if YOU Believe it.
One of the key aspects of the indictment of Donald Trump in DC federal court is that he allegely lied about claims of election fraud that would have affected the outcome, despite his closest confidants and others telling him there was no outcome-determinative fraud. Being told one thing and saying another is a key part of the fraud that underpins all of the Counts.
I’ve expressed skepticism that the indictment alleges a crime, as opposed to bad speech and behavior that is constitutionally protected. Politicians, including Donald Trump, have a constitutionally protected right to spew nonsense and baseless speculation in the face of contrary evidence, and to try to convince members of Congress to agree with them and change their opinions. There’s a huge difference between atrocious conduct and criminality:
- Trump DC Indictment – Where is the crime?
- “Democrat prosecutors are manipulating the Republican primaries”
You punish atrocious political behavior at the ballot box, not in a jail cell.
Trump’s relatively newly-hired attorney for the DC case, John Lauro (who I know), appeared on NBC News today.
Somehow I’m on NBC’s breaking news email list, because I got this blast email quoting Lauro soon after the appearance (highlighting in email):
RUSH TEXT HIGHLIGHTS:
On former President Trump’s defense strategy: “President Trump believed in his heart of hearts that he had won that election. And as any American citizen, he had a right to speak out under the First Amendment”
CHUCK TODD: Let me start with this: Is the defense to this indictment, “He didn’t do it” or, “He was allowed to do what he did?”
JOHN LAURO: The defense is quite simple. Donald Trump — President Trump believed in his heart of hearts that he had won that election. And as any American citizen, he had a right to speak out under the First Amendment. He had a right to petition governments around the government, state governments, based on his grievances that election irregularities had occurred. He had every right to speak about the important issues that were taking place after the election. Certainly Mr. Pence, his vice president, agreed with him that there were anomalies and discrepancies in the election process. And Mr. Trump had every right to petition government and enforce his First Amendment Rights. That’s why this indictment is an attack on the First Amendment. The government, the Biden administration, would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump did not believe that he had won the election. They will never be able to do that. And that’s why this prosecution is so ill-conceived.
Says: “One thing that Mr. Pence has never said is that he thought President Trump was acting criminally” and, “a technical violation of the Constitution is not a violation of criminal law. That’s just plain wrong”
CHUCK TODD: You keep saying some certain things that Vice President Pence apparently agreed with. Let me play what Vice President Pence says the former president asked him to do. Here’s what he said he was asked to do.
[START TAPE] FMR. VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE: Let’s be clear on this point. It wasn’t just that he asked for a pause. The president specifically asked me, and his gaggle of crackpot lawyers asked me, to literally reject votes, to – which would’ve resulted in the issue being turned over to the House or Representatives. And literally, chaos would’ve ensued. [END TAPE]
CHUCK TODD: So he’s just disputing the version of events you’re describing?
JOHN LAURO: No, not at all. He’s substantiating it. In this respect, there were some preliminary discussions along the lines that Vice President Pence described. But the ultimate ask, which was done on – at the ellipse, was to pause the voting for a period of time. Now, issues like this get discussed and thrashed about all the time. But the ultimate – the ultimate call made by President Trump was to ask for a pause. If you read Vice President Pence’s book, he agrees completely with President Trump that there were these anomalies, discrepancies, even fraud in the election. Vice President Pence wanted those debated in Congress. President Trump asked that they be debated at the state legislature. So, you had a disagreement there. But once again, these kinds of constitutional and statutory disagreements don’t lead to – to criminal charges. And one thing that Mr. Pence has never said is that he thought President Trump was acting criminally. Indeed, Vice President Pence is an attorney. If he at any point said or thought that – that Mr. Trump – President Trump was acting unlawfully or contrary to criminal law, he would’ve said that. No one ever suggested that. President Trump was exercising his right.
CHUCK TODD: He said the president asked him to violate the Constitution, which is another way of saying he asked him to break the law.
JOHN LAURO: No, that’s wrong. That’s wrong. A technical violation of the Constitution is not a violation of criminal law. That’s just plain wrong. And to say that is contrary to decades of legal statutes.
CHUCK TODD: Let’s get out of the constitutional.
JOHN LAURO: Let me say one last thing, if I could.
CHUCK TODD: Go ahead.
JOHN LAURO: Well, no, because this is a constitutional case. This is going to be the most important civil rights constitutional case in decades. And there’s one other issue that’s very important. Everything that President Trump did was while he was in office as a president. He is now immune from prosecution for acts that he takes in connection with those policy decisions. And the Biden administration has not addressed that.
On Trump threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with criminal charge: “That wasn’t a threat at all… That was an aspirational ask.”
CHUCK TODD: I want to get you to respond, though, to something that seems a bit more straightforward on intent. It’s the infamous phone call in Georgia. Let me play an excerpt.
[START TAPE] FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: The ballots are corrupt, and you’re going to find that they are. Which is totally illegal. It’s more illegal for you than it is for them because you know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offense. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state. [END TAPE]
CHUCK TODD: If he had proof he won the state, why did he threaten the secretary of state with a criminal charge?
JOHN LAURO: That wasn’t a threat at all. What he was asking for is – is for Raffensperger to get to the truth. He believes that there were an excess of 10,000 votes that were counted illegally. And what he was asking for is the secretary of state to act appropriately and find these votes that were counted illegally.
CHUCK TODD: Fine.
JOHN LAURO: Hold on one second. That was an aspirational ask. He is entitled to petition even state government. But that doesn’t – that doesn’t involve an obstruction of federal government. What the Biden administration has said is somehow President Trump obstructed a federal proceeding. That relates to what was going on in the states. And President Trump had every right to ask the secretary of state, “I believe that this election was conducted improperly. There are deficiencies here. I want to see if there are more than 10,000 votes, or whatever the number was, that were counted illegally.” Once again, that’s core political speech.
Says: “We don’t have to prove fraud… All we have to do is that President Trump was acting with his conviction that this election was conducted improperly”
JOHN LAURO: I’m just trying to let you know that the criminal rules are different than what you’re talking about. In a criminal case, the government has a burden of proof. We don’t have any requirement to prove anything. All we have to do is put the government to its test. And one of the things that will be shown at trial is that there were these institutional anomalies where state election officials unlawfully broke the law, and Mr. Trump was entitled to petition government and assert that he was right. That’s part of the First Amendment protection. We don’t have to prove fraud. People don’t understand that. All we have to do is that President Trump was acting with his conviction that this election was conducted improperly.
On President Trump calling special counsel Jack Smith “deranged”: “My role is not to address anything about prosecutors… The Biden Justice Department is going after a former president for acts that he carried out in fulfillment of his oath as President of the United States”
CHUCK TODD: Do innocent people attack prosecutors?
JOHN LAURO: This is a political campaign right now. This prosecution was instituted by President Biden. And in the middle of that campaign, people are going to speak out. My role is not to address anything about prosecutors. But I will say this: There has been a history in the Justice Department of rogue prosecutions. They went after Arthur Andersen, a major – a major accounting firm. Destroyed the company. And the DOJ lost nine-nothing. They went after the former governor of Virginia in a prosecution, a Republican governor, who was convicted unfairly. Reversed, nine-nothing. And now, the Justice Department — the Biden Justice Department is going after a former president for acts that he carried out in fulfillment of his oath as president of the United States.
This sentence jumped out at me:
The defense is quite simple. Donald Trump — President Trump believed in his heart of hearts that he had won that election.
It immediately brought to memory this Seinfeld clip.
I need to think through if believing something is a defense to these charges. It might be Trump’s best and most honest defense, but it might not be a legal defense. That’s something the courts will determine.DONATE
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