On January 6, defendant seeks to call Trump as witness at trial

Almost from the moment the first rioters were arrested in connection with the violent attack on the Capitol last January, the defendants...


Almost from the moment the first rioters were arrested in connection with the violent attack on the Capitol last January, the defendants tried in various ways to blame former President Donald J. Trump for their behavior.

Some tried to get out of jail on bail saying they stormed the building because Mr Trump said they should. Others have demanded sentence reductions arguing that they only joined the riot because they believed Mr Trump had given them permission to do so.

On Friday, however, a Jan. 6 defendant took a different and much bolder step in seeking to draw Mr. Trump into the center of his case: He and his attorney asked a federal judge for permission to subpoena Mr. Trump. former president and several of his allies to testify as witnesses at his trial.

“It is expected that, when called as a witness, Donald J. Trump will testify that he and others orchestrated a carefully crafted conspiracy to question the integrity of the 2020 presidential election and the validity of the victory for President Biden,” the attorney said. Samuel H. Shamansky, said in court documents filed on behalf of his client, Dustin Thompson.

“Furthermore, it will be established at trial that Mr. Trump and his conspirators engaged in a concerted effort to mislead the public, including the defendant, into believing that American democracy was at stake if Congress were authorized to certify the results of the elections”, the newspapers. noted.

It will most likely be a difficult climb for Mr. Shamansky to obtain permission to subpoena Mr. Trump and force him to appear in court, a process that could also take time and involve extensive litigation.

At a hearing last month, the judge in Mr. Thompson’s case, Reggie B. Walton of the federal district court in Washington, expressed skepticism that a former president and members of those around him are forcibly placed on the witness stand. He suggested that Mr. Shamansky might as well make his point by playing for the jury video or audio recordings of their speech on or before January 6.

The subpoena request was accompanied by a separate motion in which Mr. Shamansky notified Judge Walton that he intended to mount what is known as a public authority defense when Mr. Thompson stood trial. in April. The strategy involves defendants arguing that they were authorized to commit crimes on the advice of a federal official.

A spokesperson for Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposed subpoena.

During the hearing last month, Mr. Shamansky told Judge Walton that he wanted to subpoena not only Mr. Trump, but also several of his former aides and advisers, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, Stephen K. Bannon , Stephen Miller and John Eastman.

Acknowledging he would have a hard time disputing that Mr. Thompson had committed a crime on Jan. 6, Mr. Shamansky told the judge he wanted testimony from Mr. Trump and the others in order to establish the state of mind of Mr. Thompson that day and to prove that his client had indeed been duped into breaking the law.

As for the tapes suggested by Judge Walton, Mr. Shamansky argued that live witnesses always perform better in front of juries. He also insisted that he had the right, even the duty, to mount the best possible defense of Mr. Thompson.

If Mr. Shamansky gets his way, it is almost certain that the famously litigious Mr. Trump would oppose the subpoena in a deadly legal battle, which could prolong the proceedings for months.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Shamansky said that if he succeeded in obtaining the subpoenas, he would not only question Mr. Trump about his speech that day, but also seek to get his hands on any notes or messages. private that were used in writing the address. He added that he was unaware of any legal prohibition against trying to obtain the testimony of a former president as a material witness in a criminal case.

“I don’t know of any authority that undermines our position,” he said. “The Constitution guarantees and requires Trump’s appearance at trial.”

Some legal experts seemed to agree, pointing to President Richard M. Nixon’s failed attempts in 1974 to quash a Watergate special prosecutor’s subpoena for tapes and other documents related to his case. Others noted that in 1990, former President Ronald Reagan testified on videotape during the trial of John M. Poindexter, his former national security adviser, accused of obstructing a congressional investigation into the Iran-contra affair.

“Based on the United States v. Nixon precedent, as well as President Reagan’s testimony in the Poindexter trial, I believe there is a plausible case that Trump could be required to produce documents or otherwise testify, at the less in some form, in some of the January 6 trials,” said Alan Rozenshtein, a former Justice Department official who teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Mr. Thompson, 37, of Columbus, Ohio, was charged shortly after the attack on the Capitol with stealing a coat rack from inside the building and being in a restricted area of ​​the Capitol with a former classmate of class, Robert Lyon, who was also accused.

Prosecutors later brought an additional charge against the two men, accusing them of obstructing a formal procedure before Congress in which lawmakers were certifying the final count of the Electoral College vote.

In a meeting with The Columbus Dispatch shortly after the initial charges were filed, Mr. Shamansky said that Mr. Thompson and others who visited the Capitol “were brainwashed to the point that they felt compelled to follow the encouragement of their commander-in-chief”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: On January 6, defendant seeks to call Trump as witness at trial
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