DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:
The House's January 6 committee in its hearings this month is presenting what a criminal case against former President Trump could look like. Here are members discussing his pressure campaign to undo the 2020 election.
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PETE AGUILAR: He latched on to a scheme that once again he knew was illegal.
ADAM SCHIFF: You can't ignore the evidence simply because it pertains to a former president.
LIZ CHENEY: As a federal judge has indicated, this likely violated two federal criminal statutes.
KURTZLEBEN: And we expect to hear more about this from the panel next week. Joining us now to talk through all of this is NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Hey, Claudia.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Danielle.
KURTZLEBEN: So let's start from the beginning. The panel first shared in March its claims that Trump broke the law. Remind us what they said then.
GRISALES: Yes, this was in a court filing that's part of a legal fight between the January 6 panel and lawyer John Eastman. He's a major Trump ally who tried to help block President Biden's win in 2020. Eastman had pushed this memo laying out how then-Vice President Mike Pence could undo the presidential election by stepping out of a ceremonial and constitutional role overseeing the election's results. Eastman had sued the panel to try and block their access to related emails and documents, but the committee responded in March with a filing arguing Trump broke multiple laws as part of a pressure campaign. They said Trump obstructed an official proceeding of Congress and engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States. And the federal judge in that case, Judge David Carter, essentially agreed, saying the president more than likely than not broke laws.
KURTZLEBEN: Right, and the committee's been expanding on that argument in the hearings. What more have we learned from all of that?
GRISALES: Right. They filled in more of the details of what Trump did. A big piece of that is showing criminal intent. It's a very tricky standard to reach, but we're seeing clips of taped depositions and live witnesses from Trump's inner circle, former Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle, saying that they told the then-president that this scheme was illegal and he did it anyways. And that came to a head in the last hearing, for example. Pence's then-White House general counsel, Greg Jacob, testified he even heard Eastman admit days before the attack that this scheme was illegal.
KURTZLEBEN: Now the Justice Department has been conducting its own investigation into the January 6 attack. And they haven't charged Trump yet, so do we have any clarity on whether they might?
GRISALES: Right. We know Attorney General Merrick Garland said he's following these hearings, but it's unclear what the agency will do here. But we know from select panel members that they're frustrated with the Justice Department for not already showing signs of a criminal probe against Trump. And there's worry there will not be one even after all their work is done this year. The Justice Department, for their part, say the probe on their end is being stalled by the committee by not getting the interview transcripts and other information that the panel has. And then finally, there's this whole debate surrounding whether the panel will issue a criminal referral for Trump when they're done. If they do take this step, especially close to the midterm elections, it's possible it would be considered a move that's politicized, and it could backfire.
KURTZLEBEN: So we're expecting more hearings. What can we expect to hear from the committee going forward?
GRISALES: Right now, we're expecting two hearings next week, one on Tuesday and another on Thursday, with the first focused on Trump's pressure campaign on state officials. Sources familiar told our colleague Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting that the state will figure largely in Tuesday's hearing.
KURTZLEBEN: That's NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Thank you so much.
GRISALES: Thank you much.
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