home Jan. The Sixth Committee made the clearest attempt yet at Monday’s hearing to determine the possible criminal responsibility of people in former President Trump’s inner circle.
News leadership: re \ come back. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Amanda Wake, the committee’s senior investigative advisor, focused on what Trump campaign fundraising emails called the “official election defense fund.”
- These emails were central to Trump’s fundraising operation that brought in about $250 million after the 2020 election, in part by promising that the money would fund legal appeals and other efforts to nullify the election.
- Indeed, the commission alleged, millions of dollars were funneled into vehicles such as Save America – a leadership PAC that Trump created after the election – and other political and advocacy groups with ties to top Trump aides.
what are they saying: “The select committee discovered that there was no such fund,” Wake revealed in a pre-recorded video, citing deposits registered with two Trump campaign employees.
- There was not only the ‘Big Lie,’ there was also the Big Ripoff,” Lofgren said.
- “it’s clear [Trump] Deliberately misleading donors, asking them to donate to a fund that doesn’t exist, and use the money raised for something other than what he said.” Comments after the hearing.
why does it matter: Legal experts say this line of investigation is an apparent attempt to show that the Trump campaign and its allies may have used fraudulent methods to raise money in the months following the 2020 election, when several senior officials learned privately that their allegations of voter fraud were false.
- “This is an allegation of wire fraud,” Randall Eliassona former federal prosecutor and white-collar crime professor at George Washington University, said of Lofgren’s comments.
Between the lines: Lofgren did not explicitly claim criminal activity at Monday’s hearing, saying “it is up to someone else to decide whether it is criminal.”
- But Attorney General Merrick Garland clarified shortly afterwards that the Justice Department is closely monitoring what emerged from the hearings.
- “I am watching and will monitor all sessions,” Garland told reporters“And I can assure you that there are prosecutors on January 6 observing all hearings.”
- The Department of Justice has in recent years intensified criminal prosecutions of political activists who raised funds with knowingly false pledges about how the funds were spent.
Zoom: January. Number 6 summoned records from Salesforce, which owns an email marketing company used by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. The RNC sued to prevent disclosure of those records in an ongoing case.
- The commission hopes the information will shed light on how much money these types of “election defense” appeals have generated, and the internal processes for their formulation.
- In an emailed statement, an RNC spokesperson defended post-election fundraising and spending, noting his involvement in judicial challenges to election results and re-runs for the Georgia Senate in early January.
- “In addition to the several million dollars spent on our legal efforts, the RNC has spent tens of millions on Senate races in Georgia for more than 500 paid employees in the state as well as thousands of volunteers, who have made more than 15 million voter contacts during the runoff,” the spokesperson said.
Whether the commission’s findings are sufficient to spur the interest of the Department of Justice is an open question.
- “There may be enough here to start a mail/telegraph fraud investigation, but there’s still a lot of accounting before you can charge anyone, let alone convict,” campaign finance attorney Brett Capel told Axios.
- Cappel noted fine print in his fundraising requests related to the topic explaining that a lot of the money is going to the Trump-led PAC. He said such language could help isolate the campaign from allegations that it misrepresented its interrogations.
be clever: Even if the commission clearly establishes that Trump’s campaign fundraising emails were intentionally false — and even if the Justice Department deems enough to warrant a prosecution — it is unlikely that Trump himself was involved.
- Trump likely had little or no input into the precise language of his campaign fundraising appeals.
- But such an investigation can trap campaign employees or ex-vendors.