Donald Trump’s lawyers fired a shotgun blast of legal motions overnight aimed at seeing the Justice Department’s case against him for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election thrown out of court or significantly reduced in scope.
In four motions filed to Judge Tanya Chutkan, the Trump legal team made a smattering of arguments aimed at hindering or thwarting his prosecution entirely. His attorneys put forth arguments on the grounds of prosecutorial bias, insufficient evidence, improper procedure and even double jeopardy.
The motions were filed on a day that saw yet another blow to the former president’s legal defence efforts: A fourth guilty plea, and the third from a member of his legal team, in Georgia where a state-run prosecution of the Trump campaign’s efforts to alter the election results is well underway.
Mr Trump’s lawyers argued in his federal case on Tuesday that Mr Trump had already been tried and acquitted for his actions leading up to the assault on Congress carried out by thousands of his supporters, referring to the impeachment “trial” he faced in the Senate where his Republican allies rallied to shield him from punishment.
A second motion touched on Mr Trump’s First Amendment defence, as attorney John Lauro argued that all of Mr Trump’s personal overtures and pressure campaigns targeting state and federal lawmakers were merely examples of a candidate seeking a “redress of grievances” from the government. None of the former president’s attempts to coerce officials into acts that would break the law, Mr Lauro argued, or cross the boundaries of protected speech.
Thirdly, the former president’s team argued that his Fifth Amendment rights to due process and the avoidance of self-incrimination were violated by virtue of his having not been warned that his efforts above could be construed as criminal actions by the government — an inherently shaky argument that tests the commonly-held theory that ignorance of the law is not a defence.
And finally, there’s the issue of the supposed “Deep State” — Mr Trump’s long-held belief (or conspiracy, depending on whether one believes his accusations are sincerely held) that Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are behind his prosecution. Citing that oft-repeated claim, the Trump team argued that the Justice Department’s effort against him was “nakedly political” given that charges were finally brought against him at the same time as the 2024 Republican primary was beginning in earnest.
The motions together depict a legal team grasping for any opportunity, and may well betray a desperation on the part of the defence.
Mr Trump faces four charges in federal court over his efforts to alter the 2020 election result, while he faces more than a dozen others in Fulton County, Georgia over the same matter. In other cases, he faces criminal charges over his handling of classified materials including documents related to US defence, as well as felony counts stemming from a 2016 hush money scheme involving a porn star.
The ex-president remains adamant that he is innocent of all wrongdoing. On Tuesday, however, a member of his 2020 campaign legal team broke down in tears in a Georgia courtroom as she blamed senior members of the Trump campaign and its legal squad for misleading her with conspiracies about the election that ended up not being true.