In a newly available article, Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer at the White House in the days of George W. Bush, outlined the case for prosecuting individuals including ex-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for criminal fraud in relation to their raising of money for the purpose of challenging the presidential election outcome. There has never been any substantive evidence whatsoever of systematic fraud in the 2020 presidential election cycle, and thus, there’s never been any indication that legitimately changing the result was even a possibility. Yet, individuals including Powell raised millions of dollars under the false pretenses of claiming that such a possibility was for real.
Powell’s organization called Defending the Republic raised a whopping over $14 million on the basis of false claims about the election — and notably, records from the group have been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors. As Painter explained things:
‘Let’s be clear about something: Spreading fake news alone may be protected speech under the First Amendment. But spreading fake news to ask for money is commercial speech, and courts enforce laws criminalizing fraud. While Powell may argue that she believed her claims, there is no First Amendment right to lie to people to get their money.’
Knowing what we know about the Trump Organization and how they conduct business, we have just one question:
Why does the federal government still have contracts with the Trump Organization? https://t.co/JAGWhL6NPV
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) December 12, 2021
The lawyer added as follows:
‘Freedom of speech is critical to a representative democracy, and sometimes this means that we must tolerate politicians and their supporters who lie. But there are legal limits to lying, even in politics. Lying about nonexistent election fraud to a turbulent crowd ahead of their storming the Capitol and threatening to kill the vice president is incitement of insurrection, which can be criminal. Likewise, lying about demonstrable facts concerning an election that is already over to get people to send you money which cannot possibly be used to change the election result should be prosecuted as fraud.’
"Concerns about our democracy will only grow in intensity during the coming months as Republicans become more brazen and Donald Trump comes out of hiding to begin campaigning for his hand-picked, pro-insurrection slate of candidates."-@danpfeiffer https://t.co/9etLkdnQfx
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) December 12, 2021
Painter addressed other topics as well, including the fact that it’s not just Powell who raised money in connection to false claims about the election: Trump himself has done so as well. As Painter put it, “After the 2020 election, the Trump political operation turned from its habitual distortion of facts for political purposes to outright fraud to raise money, some of which is unaccounted for. The Department of Justice and state attorneys general need to investigate and, if criminal fraud can in fact be shown, press charges against these political scam artists.” Powell is facing other problems, like the decision by a Michigan judge to impose sanctions on her and other lawyers who were involved in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the presidential election outcome in the state, where Biden won. Read more here.
Ex-Trump aide Peter Navarro has refused to comply with a subpoena from the COVID select subcommittee — saying Trump ordered him not to.
Chair James Clyburn says he's rejecting Navarro's arguments: "[Y]our letter presents no valid basis for refusing to comply with the subpoena."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 12, 2021