Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday identified what he called the “smoking gun” for criminally charging former President Donald Trump over his conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.
Appearing Thursday before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general in the last weeks of the Trump administration, testified that Trump directed him to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen” during a Dec. 27, 2020, conversation.
Donoghue had written the directive down in his notes and testified that it was an “exact quote from the president.”
“This is the smoking gun. Coupled with other testimony, [it] demonstrates both Trump’s substantive involvement and corrupt intent, requisite state of mind,” tweeted Holder, who served in the Barack Obama administration.
Any prosecution of Trump would need to convince a jury that Trump acted with criminal intent to overturn the results of the election, knowing that he had legitimately lost.
Donoghue also wrote down that Trump said the Justice Department had “an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election.”
Asked if the Department of Justice had actually found evidence of corruption in the 2020 presidential election, Donoghue said: “There were isolated instances of fraud. None of them came close to calling into question the outcome of the election in any individual state.”
Thursday’s hearing focused on efforts by Trump and his allies to pressure Justice Department officials into supporting his scheme to overturn democracy and remain in power.
A number of former Justice Department officials have said the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings have delivered compelling evidence that Trump committed crimes.
Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, told The Guardian last week that “the committee hearings have bolstered the need to seriously consider filing criminal charges against Trump.”
The current attorney general, Merrick Garland, has not yet indicated if Trump is under investigation or if there will be indictments, though he said he would be following the hearings closely.
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