Trump’s Coup Plot Is Free Speech, Trump Lawyers Say – Rolling Stone

Trump Allies and Indictment


Donald Trump got indicted again on Tuesday and, once again, it’s all pretty damning.

The former president is accused of perpetrating an illegal scheme to circumvent the democratic process and stay in power despite losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, leading to, as Special Counsel Jack Smith described it, “an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.”

Trump’s lawyers, allies in Congress, and propagandists across right-wing media, however, want you to believe he was indicted merely for voicing concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.

“The First Amendment protects all speech,” John Lauro, a lawyer for Trump, insisted when CNN’s Kaitlan Collins said the Constitution doesn’t protect pushing a false narrative about the election and then carrying out a plot to subvert it by submitting fake electors.

Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s former election lawyers who has been widely identified as one of the six co-conspirators listed in the indictment, made a similar argument. “This one will be your legacy, violating the right of free speech of an American citizen,” he said of Special Counsel Smith on Newsmax while brandishing a copy of the indictment. “Never mind whether he was president or not. He could be anybody. He could be a homeless person. You don’t get to violate people’s First Amendment rights, Smith, no matter who you are or how sick you are with Trump derangement syndrome.”

Republicans in Congress have also been pushing the free speech talking point.

“I don’t know how you can indict someone for claiming there was fraud in the election,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Jesse Watters of Fox News on Tuesday.

“President Trump had every right under the First Amendment to correctly raise concerns about election integrity in 2020,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said in a statement.

“These are all constitutionally protected activities in which former President Trump engaged, political activities and free speech protected by the First Amendment,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Laura Ingraham on Fox News.

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It isn’t hard to debunk the idea that the First Amendment somehow protects attempts to tear down the framework of American democracy. Paul, Stefanik, and Cotton’s congressional colleague Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), a former federal prosecutor who served as lead counsel in the first impeachment inquiry against Trump, summed it up on Twitter. “The First Amendment protects Donald Trump if he simply makes knowingly false statements about election fraud,” he wrote. “The First Amendment does not protect Donald Trump if he corruptly attempts to persuade, coerce or direct others to ACT on his knowingly false beliefs.”

John Lauro, the Trump lawyer, doesn’t seem to care. When Kaitlan Collins pressed him on this very distinction Tuesday night, he tried to argue that actually, when you think about it, there’s nothing illegal about submitting fake electors to overturn a legitimate presidential election. The point, as always, is that Trump did nothing wrong, regardless of what he did or didn’t do. Unfortunately for the former president’s legal team, a jury in Washington, D.C., might not be as amenable as right-wing cable news audiences to the idea that’s he’s totally innocent.





Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/trump-coup-plot-free-speech-lawyers-1234799345/

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