Donald Trump’s lawyer has apparently decided that the best response to the former president’s historic third indictment is to just admit that he committed crimes.
Trump was charged Tuesday for attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. He faces four counts that include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote.
Part of the indictment hinges on the allegation that Trump knew full well he had lost the election but continued to urge his supporters to subvert it via unlawful means. This included demanding that Vice President Mike Pence delay certifying the nation’s votes and send in fake electors to falsely certify Trump had won certain states. Trump’s lawyer John Lauro admitted as much on CNN.
“The final ask that Mr. Trump made to Vice President Pence was simply, ‘Pause the voting.’ There’s nothing inherently unconstitutional or illegal about that,” Lauro told CNN’s Kaitlin Collins Tuesday night. “In fact, he had an opinion from a very well-known constitutional scholar that said that’s fine; that that’s legal.”
Except it was not fine: Under the Electoral Count Act, the vice president’s job is more ceremonial than anything else, and Pence did not have the right to delay certification. What’s more, Team Trump knew it.
According to the indictment, one of the unnamed co-conspirators, suspected to be Trump lawyer John Eastman, pressed Pence to violate the ECA. “I implore you to consider one more relatively minor violation [of the ECA] and adjourn for 10 days to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations, as well as to allow a full forensic audit of the massive amount of illegal activity that has occurred here,” the co-conspirator said in an email.
Lauro also admitted on national television that Trump tried to use a slate of fake electors.
“What’s the unlawful means? There was an effort to get alternate electors, which is a protocol that was used in 1960 by John Kennedy. And it was a protocol that was constitutionally accepted,” he insisted. “So there’s nothing wrong about that.”
Lauro is referring to the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Kennedy had clearly won, but Hawaii’s results, which showed Nixon won by just 140 votes, were in doubt. The state’s vote underwent a recount, which was still going by December 19 that year, when presidential electors were legally required to cast their ballots. Three electors cast their votes for Nixon, and three alternate electors cast their votes for Kennedy.
Trump’s allies have often cited this instance in arguing there was nothing wrong with the fake electors, but the difference is that the Hawaii recount legitimately flipped the state’s results to Kennedy. A judge ruled that the Kennedy electors were legitimate, and, moreover, it was important they had already cast their votes because it ensured the votes could be counted.
Trump, on the other hand, was trying to flip states he had unequivocally lost—not to mention trying to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. And now his legal team is basically admitting it.