US Capitol riot panel says Trump may have engaged in 'criminal conspiracy'

Protesters outside the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The congressional committee investigating the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol on Wednesday (March 2) said former President Donald Trump may have engaged in criminal conduct in his bid to overturn his election defeat.

"Evidence and information available to the Committee establishes a good-faith belief that Mr Trump and others may have engaged in criminal and/or fraudulent acts," the committee said in a court filing.

"The Select Committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States," the filing said.

The court document was filed in federal court in Los Angeles as part of the US House of Representative Select Committee's dispute with Mr John Eastman, a lawyer who advised Mr Trump on a plan to invalidate election results in key battleground states.

Mr Eastman sued the committee in December, seeking to block a congressional subpoena requesting that he turn over thousands of e-mails.

The Select Committee's members have said they will consider passing along evidence of criminal conduct by Mr Trump to the US Justice Department. Such a move, known as a criminal referral, would be largely symbolic but would increase political pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to charge the former president.

Representatives of Mr Eastman and Mr Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The committee's leaders said in a statement that "Eastman's e-mails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power".

Attorney regulators in California said on Tuesday they have been investigating Mr Eastman and whether he acted unethically in his work for Mr Trump. The investigation could lead to disciplinary action against Mr Eastman, such as suspension of his law license.

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