The court filing is straightforward: The House Committee investigating Jan. 6's insurrection would like to see certain records, and asks a judge for permission to release them.
The committee isn't just trying to convince the judge. A second audience, perhaps more important, is the nation's top prosecutor Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Wednesday's 221-page legal brief, filed by the committee on Wednesday, presents a compelling narrative about Jan. 6, and concludes with a shocking conclusion: Former President Donald Trump and others tried to overturn 2020 elections and keep in office.
Jan. 6's committee does not have the power to indict anyone for a crime. This authority is held by Garland's Justice Department, which has focused mainly on the rioters that overran the Capitol and not the organizers who brought many to Washington, D.C. The committee seems to be putting pressure on Garland to conduct an investigation into Trump and his associates by laying out its findings. It has also provided Garland with a tip sheet, which includes witnesses to interview, legal arguments to be made, and documents to be read.
Garland's impatience has grown among Democrats. Some lawmakers are frustrated that Garland isn't targeting those who conspired to stop Biden from securing the office he had won.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) laughed when asked if the probe by the committee might affect the Justice Department investigation. Schiff, a Jan. 6 committee member, said to NBC News that he wished there had been more concern. It would indicate that the Department of Justice was examining a wider range of possible violations of law than I know.
The sheer amount of information included in the filing by the committee is striking. There are pages of emails and depositions from Trump associates and former officials. This information is sufficient to convince California courts to grant the request for records. Stephen Gillers, a professor of law ethics at New York University School of Law, said to NBC News.
The committee may have chosen to use the kitchen sink method to influence public opinion and convince Garland that the evidence is too compelling not to ignore.
Gillers stated that it was clear that the committee provided more evidence for the crime-fraud exemption than it needed in order to obtain the records. "Likely, the public disclosure all of this additional information was always in the mind of the committee. That, in turn, has an impact on Garland.
An ex-Democratic White House lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid offending Garland. He also stated that the legal brief served a dual purpose. The first goal was to obtain the records. It also has the advantage of putting pressure on Garland."
Ex-Trump Justice Department officials gave snippets of testimony to show that they assured him that there was no voter fraud that could overturn the results. The brief says that Trump maintained falsely throughout January that he had won the election by a landslide.
Richard Donoghue (a senior Justice Department official) spoke with Trump about a videotape that allegedly showed ballots in a luggage at a Georgia voting place. Donoghue said that Trump kept focusing on the suitcase that contained fraudulent ballots, and that the suitcase had been rolled out from underneath the table. "And I said, "No, sir. There is no suitcase. It is impossible to watch the video enough times; there is no suitcase."
The Wednesday legal brief focuses on the committee's attempt to get emails from John Eastman. A conservative attorney, Eastman was written by the committee "purports" to be the former president's counsel as Trump tried to hold onto his job.
Eastman cited the attorney-client privilege to explain why he was refusing to turn over the records. The committee countered that the privilege did not apply and suggested that the documents be released due to a legal principle called the "crime fraud" exception. The committee explained that attorney records cannot be withheld if clients use the legal advice they receive to commit a crime or commit fraud.
The committee requested that the judge review the documents privately to determine whether the exception to crime-fraud applies. The committee presented evidence to support its case. It stated that there was "good-faith evidence" that Trump and his associates could have defrauded the country by falsely claiming a corrupt election, pressing state officials to alter election results, and interfering in the certification of the election.
Trump released a statement on Friday denouncing the work of the committee. He stated that the Democrats were responsible for rigging the election and the Fake Media and Unselect Committees covering it up. "The Presidential Election of 2020 is the most fraudulent and prone to more irregularities than any other."
Charles Burnham, Eastman's lawyer, stated in a statement that Dr. John Eastman, like all attorneys, has a responsibility for protecting client confidences, even at great personal risks and expense. The Select Committee responded to Dr. Eastman’s attempts to discharge this responsibility by charging him with criminal activity. This is a civil matter and Dr. Eastman will not be entitled to the Constitutional protections that are normally available to people accused by their government for criminal conduct. We look forward to responding to you in the due course.
The filing is more than any other document that has been made public by the committee. It reveals the depth of the work of the panel. Although most of the investigation has been conducted behind closed doors, the panel intends to hold public meetings this spring. Denver Riggleman, a former Republican Congressman from Virginia, is now on the committee’s staff. He spoke last weekend to a large anti Trump audience about the findings of the committee. He stated that he has "the Jan. 6 data and I wish to tell you about it"
The nine members of the committee are investigating all aspects of Jan. 6. This includes the efforts by Trump and his allies in order to create doubts over the election results and encourage states that support Trump to send electors. The committee has been criticised for not being impartial. Seven members of the committee are Democrats, while Adam Kingzinger (of Illinois) and Liz Cheney (of Wyoming), are Republicans.
This filing allows you to request an independent party (the judge in the case) to confirm the committee's findings of possible wrongdoing. Garland must act if the judge holds that the exception to crime-fraud applies.
Gillers said, "That decision could double the pressure on Garland." "Because then, it's not only the committee; it is a judge."
The opposite is also true. The committee's credibility could be seriously damaged if the judge rejects the argument. The filing is a little risky in this sense.
Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general under George W. Bush, said that he wished there were more Republicans on the committee. It would give the committee's conclusions more weight. We are right where we are."