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Jan. 6 panel targets Trump's Election Defense Fund as it pushes for DOJ indictment

"The Select Committee discovered no such fund existed," said a lawyer for the Jan. 6 committee as members of the panel say they have enough evidence for an indictment of Trump.

Published: June 13, 2022 2:16pm

Updated: June 13, 2022 11:42pm

Members of the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 are saying that the panel has enough evidence for a federal indictment of former President Donald Trump as it targets his 2020 re-election campaign's Election Defense Fund.

A lawyer for the committee said in testimony Monday that the fund, which collected about $250 million from donors after Election Day 2020, was non-existent.

"The Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false, yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called the official Election Defense Fund," said Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee.

Wick said the Save America PAC was set up a day after the election took place and the majority of the contributions to the Election Defense Fund were applied to the PAC. 

California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren said the campaign was raising money off of "lies" about widespread voter fraud.

"Not only was there the big lie, there was the big rip-off," she argued.

California Rep. Adam Schiff  told ABC News on Sunday that he would "like to see the Justice Department investigate any credible allegation of criminal activity on the part of Donald Trump."

"There are certain actions, parts of these different lines of effort to overturn the election that I don't see evidence the Justice Department is investigating," he said.

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, a key figure in Trump's second impeachment after the Jan. 6 riot, shared an assessment similar to Schiff, emphasizing that Attorney General Merrick Garland has the evidence he needs to prosecute if he chooses to go that route.

"I think that he knows, his staff knows, the U.S. attorneys know, what's at stake here," Raskin said Sunday on CNN. 

It is unclear at this time if DOJ would pursue any recommendation from the Jan. 6 committee to indict Trump.

A spokesperson for Trump was not available for comment before publication. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked Monday if Biden would pressure Garland for an indictment.

"The Department of Justice is independent. The president chose Attorney General Garland because of his loyalty to the law and our Constitution, and to restore the independence and integrity of the Justice Department," she said. "That's exactly what the attorney general is doing, so we leave it up to the Department."

Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007 under former President George W. Bush, wrote in an opinion column Saturday that the Jan. 6 committee should focus on tracing the money behind Trump's effort to contest the 2020 election results. 

"Political funds can be used for legal challenges to the results of an election when a legitimate challenge can be made. Likewise, campaign funds can be used to stage a rally to support the election of a candidate before the election or a rally to claim victory or concede defeat after the election," he wrote.

"But campaign funds cannot legally be used to attempt to overturn an election by anti-democratic means. Moreover, campaign funds cannot legally be used to encourage political supporters to break the law. Both the Trump campaign and state GOP organizations should have known as much," he added.

The next public Jan. 6 committee hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. 

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