By Jan Jekielek, Cathy He and Ross Muscato
The latest criminal charges against former President Donald Trump will give him an unprecedented opportunity to expose issues concerning the 2020 election during the trial process, according to his attorney John Lauro, who also called the indictment an attack on free speech and the First Amendment.
“This particular indictment is going to pull the curtain back on the 2020 election, so everybody can see what happened. And it’s the first time that it’s going to be done in one courtroom,” Mr. Lauro told The Epoch Times’ Jan Jekielek on Wednesday.
“We will have the ability to subpoena witnesses and subpoena documents,” he added.
“This is the first time when there’ll be a full airing of all of the issues in the 2020 election.”
The lawyer gave these comments one day after Special Counsel Jack Smith unveiled a four-count indictment against Mr. Trump over his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The 45-page indictment charges Mr. Trump with criminal conspiracies to defraud the United States, obstruct the Jan. 6 certification of votes, and against the right to vote.
Mr. Lauro said he had spoken to the former president on Wednesday and he was “very upbeat, very strong, very positive.” Mr. Lauro, a white-collar attorney based in Tampa, joined the Trump legal team last month.
Trump’s Belief in the Truth of the Election Claims
Mr. Smith’s indictment repeatedly references accusations that Mr. Trump “knowingly” spread “false claims” about election fraud, citing multiple instances where officials, advisors, and staffers advised the then-president that “his claims were untrue.”
But Mr. Lauro argued that the special counsel will not be able to prove this because Mr. Trump himself believed in the truth of those claims.
“What the government would have to show is that President Trump acted corruptly to stop the truth from coming out and they will never … be able to do that because, number one, President Trump absolutely believed in the righteousness of his cause.
“And number two, everything he did was to get at the truth, not block the truth.”
He added: “The government’s theory is that all of this claims of election fraud was made up somehow, but we know that there are hundreds of affidavits, sworn statements, indications of people around the country who saw in real-time problems in the election.”
The discovery and witness cross-examination process, the attorney said, will bring to light these issues.
According to Mr. Lauro, Mr. Smith’s case amounts to a fundamental attack on political speech, protected by the Constitution.
“We take issue with the Biden administration and their position that if you criticize the 2020 election, you’re facing jail,” he said. “It’s censorship taken to the highest possible level.”
“The problem with the government’s theory is that you can’t be criminally prosecuted for either misspeaking or making incorrect assertions in the course of political speech, and this is core political speech. So even if you make a mistake and you’re not right, about what you’re saying, when it comes to political speech, that’s all protected,” the attorney said.
The indictment acknowledged that Mr. Trump had a free speech right to make claims about voter fraud, even false claims, but charged that the former also “pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results.” It cited the organizing of alternate electors in contested states and urging Vice President Mike Pence to reject or return the electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, as examples.
Mr. Lauro, however, contended that Mr. Trump’s actions were not illegal.
“He wanted to get court hearings … he wanted to ask Mike Pence to pause the voting so that the legislators in the states could audit or recertify—and all of that is protected speech.”
Trump’s attorney also alleged that the six unnamed co-conspirators listed in the indictment, none of whom have been charged in the case, was a ploy by the special counsel to dissuade them from testifying in support of Mr. Trump.
While they are unnamed, five of the six co-conspirators can be identified based on descriptions and context: Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former attorney, lawyers John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and Kenneth Cheseboro, and Jeffrey Clark, a former DOJ civil attorney.
“This is the way that the government freezes those people and discourages them from coming in and testifying on behalf of President Trump,” Mr. Lauro said.
“It’s gonna be very difficult for those people to come in and speak the truth, when they fear they’re under indictment.”
Mr. Lauro also took issue with allegations in the indictment that these lawyers who helped Mr. Trump were engaging in criminal conduct, when they were merely providing legal advice to their client.
“We know that all of those lawyers were giving legal advice. They did not believe they were breaking the law. They thought that they were giving President Trump valid constitutional guidance,” he said.
“And now they’re being accused of a crime to the point where it’s going to terrify them and make them very reluctant or prevent them from testifying.”
The attorney added: “It’s very concerning when the government comes after lawyers, who in good faith gave legal advice. Maybe it’s not the advice the government wanted to hear.”
Referencing a quote from Shakespeare’s “Henry VII” that the first thing a tyrant must do is “kill all the lawyers,” Mr. Lauro said, “There’s a reason why Shakespeare said that you take out the lawyers. And then what you have is a society where people are defenseless, they don’t have counsel to represent them.”
Trump’s lawyer emphasized that the case was not only about the former president but about broader freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.
“People think it’s all about Donald Trump. It’s about whether or not we preserve our freedoms in the United States, and whether or not the First Amendment means anything. And whether or not the right to due process means anything,” he said.
“That’s what this case is about …. Certainly, it’s a criminal case against Mr. Trump. But I will be representing all Americans in that courtroom when we go to trial.”