Special counsel Jack Smith’s team on Monday forcefully rejected former President Donald Trump’s efforts to get his federal election interference case thrown out in a series of court filings Monday.
Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, has sought to get the four criminal charges he faces for his scheme to undo Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential contest dismissed using various legal arguments.
The trial has been scheduled for March.
James Pearce, a prosecutor for Smith, took issue with the former president’s claim that the case should be dismissed on constitutional and statutory grounds, calling his challenges “meritless.”
Pearce wrote in a 79-page filing, “The defendant attempts to rewrite the indictment, claiming that it charges him with wholly innocuous, perhaps even admirable conduct — sharing his opinions about election fraud and seeking election integrity — when in fact it clearly describes the defendant’s fraudulent use of knowingly false statements as weapons in furtherance of his criminal plans.”
Specifically, one of Trump’s arguments has been that the First Amendment protects his election falsehoods.
“The First Amendment does not protect fraudulent speech or speech otherwise integral to criminal conduct, particularly crimes that attack the integrity and proper function of government processes,” the prosecutor said.
Pearce added that Trump’s claim that Smith has failed to allege deceit because none of the public officials his lies were targeted at would have been “fooled” by his words are misguided.
“Were it otherwise, defendants captured en route to a bank robbery could not be charged with conspiracy because their crime did not succeed. Indeed, a conspiracy can be committed even if the object of the conspiracy is unattainable,” Pearce said.
In his effort to avoid potential accountability for his Jan. 6 actions, Trump’s team claimed he was singled out even though he is far from the first candidate to work with others to suggest an alternate slate of electors. They specifically cited what they described as similar efforts by candidates in seven U.S. elections ranging from 1800 to 2016.
“President Trump is the first person to face criminal charges for such core political behavior as disputing the outcome of an election,” his lawyers said.
But prosecutors disagreed, saying prior electoral disputes in the history of the U.S. cannot justify Trump’s corrupt conduct.
“Notably absent from any of these historical episodes, however, is any attempt by any person to use fraud and deceit to obstruct or defeat the governmental function that would result in the certification of the lawful winner of a presidential election,” prosecutors said.
Meanwhile, in another motion, prosecutors tackled Trump’s attempt to remove allegations regarding his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection from the indictment.
Prosecutors said while Trump is trying to evade responsibility for the Capitol riot, he did nothing to deter his supporters from storming the building and tried “to leverage their actions by further obstructing the certification” of the 2020 election result.
“Indeed, that day was the culmination of the defendant’s criminal conspiracies to overturn the legitimate results of the presidential election, when the defendant directed a large and angry crowd-one that he had summoned to Washington, DC., and fueled with knowingly false claims of election fraud to the Capitol to obstruct the congressional certification proceeding,” Molly Gaston, a member of Smith’s team, wrote.
The special counsel’s office also contested Trump’s claims of “selective and vindictive prosecution,” saying the former president’s arguments are based on “nothing more than spurious allegations contrived from two newspaper articles citing anonymous sources.”
They add that while Trump claims he is singled out, the events he is alleged to have taken part in are quite extraordinary.
“If the defendant is correct in his claim that the indictment is unprecedented, it is only because the defendant’s conduct is unprecedented,” prosecutor Thomas Windom said.
Trump had previously tried to get the charges dismissed, citing presidential immunity.
Judge Tanya Chutkan has yet to rule on that motion.
Apart from this case, the former president has been indicted for his efforts to undo the 2020 election in Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House and his role in a hush-money payment scheme involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
On Monday, Trump took the witness stand in a civil fraud case in New York, which could threaten his control of his real estate empire that thrust him into the spotlight and the White House.
Despite his legal challenges, Trump remains the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary, leading his opponents by double digits.