Trump’s Free Speech Defense in J6 Case Threatens Democracy, Experts Say

This never happened

I’m totally exhausted by this.

The Guardian:

Donald Trump’s dubious defense that he was exercising his free-speech rights in response to a four-count federal criminal indictment charging him with pushing illegal schemes to overturn his 2020 election loss is prompting ex-Department of Justice officials and scholars to criticize such claims as bogus and as threats to the rule of law.

Despite special counsel Jack Smith’s detailed 45-page, four-count indictment of Trump for promoting several illegal schemes including organizing slates of fake electors in seven states to thwart Joe Biden’s victory, Trump and some top Republican allies have repeatedly portrayed his multi-pronged drive to stay in power as a free speech matter.

But former justice department officials, scholars and ex-Republican House members say Trump’s actions and schemes went far beyond free speech, and that Trump and his allies are weakening the justice system and could breed new conspiracy theories by making a first amendment defense.


Critics say Trump allies embracing his free-speech claims seem to be trying to cover themselves with the party’s base and to rationalize sticking with Trump, despite the indictment’s sizable body of damning evidence revealing Trump’s active role in unprecedented and illegal ploys to overturn the 2020 result.

The justice department filed a four-count grand jury indictment against Trump on 1 August that charged him with mounting several illegal efforts to stay in office – with help from six unnamed co-conspirators who were not charged – despite his loss to Biden by 7 million votes and no evidence of massive fraud, as Trump has falsely and repeatedly claimed.

After pleading not guilty, Trump used one of his Truth Social posts on 3 August to charge that “the Radical Left wants to Criminalize Free Speech!” and cited comments from Republican allies echoing his claims. Trump’s lawyer John Lauro told CNN on 1 August that the charges against Trump are “an attack on free speech, and [on] political advocacy”.

Justice department veterans say such claims are factually wrong and threaten the integrity of the legal system.

“Trump is deliberately distorting the critical difference between just saying things and actively doing things that have criminal consequences,” said Donald Ayer, a deputy attorney general during George HW Bush’s administration.

“Obviously, he didn’t just talk about the idea that he won the election. The indictment lists several areas of conduct where he conspired and acted repeatedly to alter the outcome of the legitimate voting process that occurred. For Trump or others to now be claiming there is no difference between the two is to once again undermine the very idea that our society is governed by rules that people are required to follow.”

Similarly, ex-federal prosecutors say Trump is playing fast and loose with the facts, and mounting a dangerous defense.

“The indictment highlights how Trump and his co-conspirators relied on speech not just to speak their truth or rally their adherents, but to push hard, behind the scenes, to pressure others into assisting the charged fraud,” said Columbia law professor and former federal prosecutor Daniel Richman.

Richman added: “Trump’s supporters likely know all this, but find it politically useful to wave the first amendment banner. It’s more for the crowds than for a courtroom. But the effect is simply to advance the theme of political victimhood, and undermine trust in the judicial process.”

Some scholars say that Trump and his allies’ free-speech assertions are dangerous rationales that undermine democratic principles.

The obvious goal is to exhaust people.

They want you to give up and vote DeSantis.