In the ongoing federal case regarding Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, one of his attorneys, John Lauro, vigorously defended the former president against allegations that he knowingly spread false claims of election fraud to remain in power. Lauro argued that Trump's efforts were not criminal but rather "aspirational."
Lauro's defense team has invoked the protections of free speech in the First Amendment, claiming that Trump's statements are shielded from the charges laid out in the indictment. The indictment accuses Trump of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election and obstruct the certification of electors.
Lauro specifically addressed Trump's pressure campaign on election officials and Vice President Mike Pence to interfere in the election, which prosecutors argue is part of Trump's conspiracy. Lauro dismissed these requests as mere "aspirations."
For instance, Lauro referred to a phone call in 2021 between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where Trump appeared to threaten him with a criminal charge and asked him to "find 11,780 votes." Lauro argued that it was just an "ask" from Trump, not a threat.
Lauro also downplayed Trump's attempts to pressure Pence into rejecting the certification of electors on January 6, 2021, as "aspirational." He claimed that Trump did not direct Pence but merely asked him in an aspirational way, which is protected by the First Amendment.
However, the effectiveness of Trump's defense remains uncertain. The indictment focuses on Trump's specific attempts to overturn the election results and obstruct the certification of electors, rather than his right to express his opinions about the election.
The indictment itself acknowledges that Trump had the right to publicly speak about the election and make false claims about fraud, but it takes issue with his actions to overturn the election results in battleground states and obstruct the certification of electors.
As the case unfolds, it will be interesting to see how the defense's argument based on free speech protections aligns with the prosecution's focus on specific actions taken by Trump to subvert the election.