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Experts: Trump lawyer’s “aspirational” defense suggests “they know they’re going to lose at trial”

Former President Donald Trump’s attorney John Lauro on Sunday went on five Sunday morning shows to insist that his client’s Jan. 6 scheme was not a crime because it was merely “aspirational.”

“What President Trump didn’t do is direct Vice President Pence to do anything,” Lauro told CNN. “He asked him in an aspirational way.”

Lauro used a similar line when asked about Trump’s call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in the state.

“That wasn’t a threat at all,” Lauro told NBC News. “What he was asking for is for Raffensperger to get to the truth… That was an aspirational ask.”

Lauro went on to claim that Trump never asked Pence to break the law.

“He said the president asked him to violate the Constitution, which is another way of saying he asked him to break the law,” host Chuck Todd noted.

“No, that’s wrong,” Lauro shot back. “A technical violation of the Constitution is not a violation of criminal law. That’s just plain wrong. And to say that is contrary to decades of legal statute.”

Legal experts were unimpressed with Lauro’s defense strategy.

“If this is the best that Trump has got, he’s in for a legal beatdown by the DOJ,” tweeted MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang.

“If this is their legal defense, hoo boy are they in for a rude awakening,” agreed national security attorney Bradley Moss, suggesting the defense shows “they know they’re going to lose at trial.”

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told CNN that Lauro’s argument is “definitely quite aspirational.”

“You can imagine a fraudster asking a [potential] victim if they’d like to invest in a fraudulent investment,” he said. “The mere fact that it’s a question does not transform that into First Amendment-protected speech. It’s very well-settled by courts that lots of crimes involve talking to people. The fact that you’re doing that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to First Amendment protection.”

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance wrote that Lauro’s defense “would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.”

“You know who else asks people to commit crimes in an ‘aspirational way’ without ‘directing’ them to? Mob bosses, human traffickers & the heads of organized drug rings,” she added.


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Georgia State University Law Prof. Anthony Michael Kreis took issue with Lauro arguing that a “technical violations of the Constitution is not a violation of the law.”

Section 241, the conspiracy against rights charge that Trump is facing, “is exactly that,” Kreis wrote. “When a person conspires to injure a constitutional right- like the right to vote and have it counted- then a constitutional violation a crime.”

Kreis added that Lauro’s argument is “entirely unconvincing.”

“Section 241 was meant to reinforce the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and due process,” he wrote. “The idea that a president can run roughshod over voters’ ability to cast ballots in a free and fair election as an exercise in vanity in pursuit of power is profoundly wrong.”

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