Conservative attorney George Conway on Saturday touted what he called a “huge” development that could legally affect former President Donald Trump after a federal appeals court upheld a decision that would have overturned an obstruction charge used against the January 6 defendants.
Conway, a former Republican, was sharing a tweet by former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann who commented on the update, saying that the appeals court’s decision is an “important legal development; permits [Special Counsel] Jack Smith to charge Trump on this theory; may well go now to the Supreme Court.”
The court’s three-judge panel on Friday upheld the use of the obstruction charge—on a 2-1 vote—which was thrown out last month in a lower court by Trump appointed US District Court Judge Carl Nichols, according to NBC News. The obstruction of an official proceeding charge would be used against hundreds of defendants arrested in connection with the riot at the US Capitol building that occurred on January 6, 2021.
Weissmann told Newsweek in an email on Saturday that the court’s decision benefits the special counsel in several ways.
“The most important of which is the very practical one that it is useful for the courts to settle the law on obstruction before any indictment for obstruction was issued against the former president. Of course, the [appeals court] decision, also resolves a couple of substantive issues in the government’s favor, including that obstructing Congress was intended to be within the ambit of the criminal obstruction statute,” he explained.
He continued: “All that being said, the whole DC Circuit or even the Supreme Court may weigh in on the issue that split the [appeals court] DC panel, namely what standard needs to be met to separate legitimate First Amendment protected protests and illegal obstruction of Congress.”
Trump is being questioned over his alleged involvement in the events that unfolded that day when he told his supporters to “fight like hell” after he lost the 2020 presidential election. He also told the crowd on January 6 that they “don’t have a country anymore.” His supporters then stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
The former president is already facing several criminal investigations that might weaken his winning chances in 2024 after he announced this past November that he was running for president for a third time. Cases brought against him include his alleged mishandling of hundreds of classified documents seized by the FBI from his Mar-a-Lago residence last year and his alleged involvement in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. Additionally, Trump was indicted last week for an alleged presidential campaign violation that happened in 2016, becoming the first president in American history to face an indictment. Trump has maintained his innocence in all cases.
The federal appeals court explained its Friday decision in an opinion document, stating the reason the panel of judges disagreed with Nichols’ ruling.
“The question raised in this case is whether individuals who allegedly assaulted law enforcement officers while participating in the Capitol riots can be charged with corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding, in violation of 18 USC § 1512(c)(2) ,” the opinion read.
The opinion document also stated that Nichols’ ruling “held that the statute does not apply to assaultive conduct, committed in furtherance of an attempt to stop Congress from performing a constitutionally required duty. We disagree and reverse.”
Trump’s legal troubles are not likely to stop him from seeking the presidency next year, with Conway predicting last month that the former president might even “foment violence” as legal cases against him continue.
“As I’ve been saying, over the next 18 months, it’s highly likely Trump will: (1) be indicted (more than once); (2) obtain pretrial release; (3) win the GOP presidential nomination; and (4) ) foment violence,” Conway, Trump’s avid critic, tweeted early last month.
Newsweek reached out by email to Trump’s media office for comment.