After Donald Trump issued a social media post threatening, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” his lawyer, John Lauro insisted that was just “political speech” that should be protected.
In an interview with Trump attorney John Lauro, Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream noted that after that threatening post, special counsel Jack Smith has asked the Washington, D.C. judge for a protective order. Their argument, she explained, is that if Trump “were to begin issuing public posts using details or, for example, grand jury transcripts, obtained in discovery here it could have a harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case.” She asked Lauro how he will respond today, the deadline for response.
Lauro claimed Trump “was responding in a political way to some of his political opponents” and that the real villain is the Biden administration. Even though the entire prosecution is being conducted by a special prosecutor with the express purpose of keeping President Joe Biden out of it. Yet Lauro said, unchallenged, “the Biden administration wants the judge to put in place an order that will prevent the press from obtaining exculpatory and material information that might be relevant to these proceedings.”
He also called the indictment, which is for Trump’s efforts to interfere with and overturn the 2020 election, “an attack on his First Amendment rights.”
“Now, what the Biden administration wants to do,” Lauro continued, “is deny all Americans the opportunity to learn non-sensitive information about what the case involves in a political season.” He even suggested Trump might retaliate against Biden, saying that the same argument could be used against him “for enlisting his Justice Department under the Biden plan to prevent Donald Trump from running for president.”
Bream pushed back on the First Amendment argument. She pointed out that the indictment specifically says Trump has always had “a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election, and even to claim falsely that there had been outcome determinative fraud during the election.” She further noted, “The rest of the indictment, though, is about the conduct, not just the speech.”
Lauro insisted that the First Amendment protects Trump’s conduct, too. He asked, “What’s the conduct at issue? President Trump didn’t issue any executive orders or do anything in terms of using the levers of executive power. He simply petitioned and asked state legislatures and state electoral officials around the country to act responsibly. ... He petitioned his own vice president ultimately to pause the voting on January 6th in order to allow the states to weigh in on auditing or recertifying.”
Never mind that Trump allegedly told Vice President Mike Pence he was “too honest” for refusing to go along with the plan (Page 33).
Also, the indictment says Trump called the Georgia Secretary of State, asking him to “’find' 11,780 votes, and insinuated that the Georgia Secretary of State and his Counsel could be subject to criminal prosecution if they failed to find election fraud,” as demanded, (Page 16)
However, Bream brought up a New Republic article about an “unbounded view of free speech” legalizing “state and federal crimes.” She said, “Perjury is free speech, it could be argued. Bribery is speech. Many types of fraud are speech. Insider trading is speech, identity theft is speech, forging checks is speech.” “Organizing a coup d’état is not one of them.”
“None of those examples involve political speech,” Lauro said dismissively. “That’s the point. All of those examples involve core criminal activity.”
But as Margaret Sullivan wrote in The Guardian, it was Trump’s actions, not his words that he was charged over: The “unlawful” part of his behavior, she wrote were “not mere words but criminal actions. Specifically, perpetrating conspiracies to discount legitimate votes and subvert the election results. In short, making concerted efforts to prevent the peaceful transfer of power – the very heart of American democracy.”
You can watch Lauro defend the indefensible below, from the August 6, 2023 Fox News Sunday.
Like any halfway smart mafioso boss, I “just ask” a hitman if he would be so kind as to – say – bump off so-and-so, allowing him understand that I’d be very thankful, perhaps even refrain from having someone else dump him in the river with a pair of cement shoes.
I never gave him any such order, your Honour! All I did was ask in an aspirational way. I was exercising my freedom of speech, your Honour. How could I know he would do something illegal?