Written by Hudson Crozier
Here we go again: Yesterday, former President Donald Trump received a “target letter” from Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 election results. Given that Smith sent him a similar letter days before the indictment over classified documents, the Department of Justice is likely close to indicting him in this case as well.
What we know about the probe: The investigation has focused on “fake electors” Trump used for the Electoral College in Georgia, his attempt to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to send votes back to the states, and his actions surrounding the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. We don’t know what the charges would be. In fact, it’s unclear what evidence of criminal activity the DOJ has found at all.
The facts: Trump’s use of alternate electors was a way to legally preserve his ongoing challenge to Georgia’s vote count, and there is precedent for it. Former President John F. Kennedy did the same thing in Hawaii in the contested 1960 election. Trump’s attempt to get the vice president involved is more controversial, but it’s unclear how this would amount to a crime. Additionally, Trump played no role in the violence at the Capitol and urged for peace once it began.
- Charging electors? Shortly after news of the DOJ’s letter broke, a Michigan prosecutor announced she had filed criminal charges against alternate electors Trump used in her state. She alleges that they had “no legitimate legal avenue” for challenging the election and tried to “undermine democracy.” A state-level investigation of his alternate electors in Georgia has not yet resulted in charges.
Big picture: If the DOJ charges Trump in Washington, D.C., he will face jurors from the overwhelmingly liberal city. The capital city’s residents frequently display bias in deciding verdicts in politically charged cases. Trump has reportedlytalked to allies in Congress about how to respond to the potential prosecution.