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Jan. 6 panel member on the court filing alleging criminal conspiracy by Trump


A court filing late yesterday seeks documents from a lawyer named John Eastman, and who made that filing is significant. It's the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attacks. In filing for these documents, the committee says it has evidence that former President Trump broke the law in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California is on the House January 6 committee. Congressman Lofgren, thanks for making time.

ZOE LOFGREN: Thanks for having me.

PFEIFFER: This court filing does not make a criminal charge, but it does lay out the framework for one. What would that criminal charge be, specifically?

LOFGREN: Well, it would be obstruction of an official proceeding, among others, but it's important to understand the context in which this issue has been raised. John Eastman was the author of memos and an advocate for overturning the election.

PFEIFFER: This was a lawyer for former President Trump, John Eastman.

LOFGREN: Well, he alleges that, but he has yet to prove that he was actually the former president's lawyer. He is asserting attorney-client privilege to prevent the committee from getting documents that are in the possession of Chapman University, where he was employed. So our real goal here is for the District Court to take a good look at our entire filing and find that Mr. Eastman's documents need to be produced to the committee.

PFEIFFER: Is the evidence your committee lays out in this court filing enough for a criminal referral to the Justice Department to bring charges against former President Trump?

LOFGREN: That's for the Justice Department to decide, not for us. But I will say it's not all the evidence we have.

PFEIFFER: Is that what you hope happens, that the Justice Department brings charges?

LOFGREN: Our filing is about getting the evidence from Chapman University, nothing else.

PFEIFFER: What's your level of concern that it could make it harder for the Justice Department to bring charges if it looks like it's responding to political pressure from a Democratic-led House committee?

LOFGREN: That was not our consideration. Our consideration was getting the information from Chapman University. You know, the Justice Department follows the law and the facts. It's not for us to tell them who to pursue criminally or who not to. That's an independent judgment that they make.

PFEIFFER: Based on what you've seen, how clearly do you believe that President Trump was actively working with other people and trying to overturn the election in an illegitimate way?

LOFGREN: Well, I think there's some things in the public record. Obviously, the call to the Georgia officials where he asked them to basically manufacture votes to overturn the Georgia election is a notable example. But it's not the only example.

So I'm not going to go into all the evidence that the committee has at this point. That will be outlined at a different time and different place. But we provided just a sliver of what we have to the court so that they can make a ruling on our effort to get these documents from Chapman, and we will come out with a more fulsome report soon.

PFEIFFER: Any idea when that will be, when the U.S. public will get to see the full report?

LOFGREN: We hope to have at least some of the evidence displayed this spring. There may be a second set of reports slightly later in the year. But we want to make sure that we've got a coherent - as much evidence as we can.

And frankly, you know, we had hoped to do this earlier. But the former president and his allies have fought us repeatedly from getting the evidence and the documents that the committee is entitled to. And so it is really on them, the delay. But ultimately, we won in every court case, and we are continuing to win because we are entitled and the American public is entitled to this information.

PFEIFFER: Even if the intent is to distribute it in digestible bites, let's say one of those bites came out shortly before the midterm elections. It would almost certainly be dismissed as a partisan attack on the GOP. Do you - are you concerned about that level of timing? Could that affect the timing of your release?

LOFGREN: I think the main issue on the timing is when we're ready, when the information is compiled and ready to be reported to the American people. You know, we don't - this is not a political exercise. As you know, we are a bipartisan committee, and we have worked in a bipartisan fashion very collaboratively to pursue the truth. And we will continue to do that.

PFEIFFER: Final big, broad question - and I ask this on behalf of anyone in this country, Republican or Democrat, who feels deeply dispirited, to say the least, by the political events of the 2020 election, how this has played out, how ugly it's become, the January 6 attack. Anything you can say to those people who want to be assured that our system of government is still functioning and your committee can help with that?

LOFGREN: Well, I - you know, that's our goal, to find the truth, to tell the truth, to make it understandable and credible. You know, many of us have been watching with tremendous alarm and concern and, frankly, rage at what Russia is doing to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. But one lesson we can learn is the Ukrainians are not fighting each other. I think we can take some guidance from that.

It's fine to have disagreements on policy issues. I have plenty. But that doesn't make us enemies. We're Americans. We should be standing up for our country and the Constitution.

PFEIFFER: That's Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of Northern California and a member of the House Select Committee on January 6. Thank you for your time.

LOFGREN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.