Dahlia Lithwick: 1/6 Hearing Established Requisite Intent For Trump’s Criminal Prosecution

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Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick appeared on MSNBC’s The Beat w/Ari Melber(06/10/22) where she made the most compelling legal case yet, for criminally prosecuting Trump. Lithwick told host Ari Melber that the televised January 6th hearings established the mens rea–the requisite intent for such criminal prosecution. Put another way, DOJ has enough evidence to initiate a criminal prosecution against Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 elections because he was told by people he trusts that what he was doing was wrong, potentially criminal, but he proceeded to do it anyway. The only question left is whether AG Merrick Garland wants to criminally prosecute him.

Dahlia Lithwick(1:30):“When[Rep] Liz Cheney said he lit the match, he set the fuse, that is Donald Trump, and it seemed to me the entire organizing theme of last night’s hearing was, this starts at the top…this starts with Trump. And I think it’s almost impossible to look at the videos you just sort of showed in that montage, and not see this animating theme, which is, everyone around Donald Trump told him no. Mark Short, Joint Chiefs, Vice President Pence, his own Attorney General said this is unlawful, you have no basis for this, and he went forward, and so to the extent that there is mens rea–the intent to do something that you know is illegal–we’ve always heard, ‘Oh, Donald Trump can’t form the requisite intent, he didn’t know what was going on, he’s delusional’, well now we know, that’s why Ivanka is important, that the one person he listened to, evidently told him no, and when you have everyone around him telling him no, he can no longer say, ‘I’m not culpable because I didn’t understand what was happening’…”

It cannot be restated enough just how significant, Lithwick’s legal analysis is. The decision by most prosecutors on whether or not to pursue criminal charges against someone, almost always comes down to that Latin phrase–mens rea. If they can show that you knew the conduct you are about to engage in is illegal, and you did it anyway, then that is a case they can secure a conviction for, and you are almost definitely getting prosecuted/charged with a crime. This by the way, is also the reason insane people get off the hook even for serious crimes–prosecutors can’t establish the requisite intent(that the insane person knew what they were doing was wrong). 

Bottom line folks, as Dahlia Lithwick brilliantly laid it out on MSNBC’s The Beat show, after only one public hearing by the January 6th Committee, the mens rea requirements for a potential criminal prosecution of Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results have already been met and surpassed, meaning DOJ can easily secure a conviction against Trump if it chooses to criminally prosecute him. The only question left is whether AG Garland has the fortitude, or desire, to do so. 

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