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Politics Could Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani face charges of inciting mob violence in Capitol riots?

02:50  08 january  2021
02:50  08 january  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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The rioting at the Capitol left four dead and several injured after Trump urged protesters to march on the building. When asked if that could include President Trump for encouraging the mob to move on the "There was no violence in the crowd at that point," noting that "the tipping point occurred when

Three years, 11 months and 17 days after President Donald Trump warned from the West Front of the US Capitol that "American carnage stops right here," the very spot he stood was engulfed by his own protesters bringing carnage of their own.

Prosecutors likely have enough evidence to criminally charge President Donald Trump with inciting violence after his speech Wednesday urging his supporters to march to the Capitol in an anti-democratic bid to reverse the 2020 election results, legal experts said.

The president's comments came shortly before a pro-Trump mob bashed through barricades, windows and doors, injuring police officers and temporarily occupying the Capitol building in a show of force tied to their anger over false allegations of election fraud.

“If you incite someone to commit a crime, you’re just as responsible as they are for committing the crime,” said Jens David Ohlin, interim dean of the Cornell Law School and an expert on criminal conspiracy law.

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Trump rioters face TEN YEAR sentences because of Trump 's Monuments Act targeting BLM: DC attorney says Trump could also face charges for inciting trouble. Acting US attorney for DC Michael Sherwin on Thursday said 'all options are on the table' for charging members of the pro- Trump mob .

President Donald Trump has put his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in charge of his campaign's long-shot post-election legal challenges, according to a tweet from the President Saturday night.

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Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s statement during the same rally calling for a “trial by combat” to resolve fraud disputes was particularly egregious and could make him especially vulnerable to charges, said Frederick Lawrence, author of "Punishing Hate" and ex-dean of the George Washington University School of Law.

a group of people wearing costumes: Capitol police officers in riot gear push back demonstrators who try to break a door of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. © Jose Luis Magana, AP Capitol police officers in riot gear push back demonstrators who try to break a door of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

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Donald J. Trump called for the insurrection against the United States of America.” Scarborough then turned to Trump , his eldest son and Giuliani , who he “And if the Capitol Hill police do not go through every video and look at the face of every person that invaded our Capitol and if they are not arrested

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump ordered National Guard troops to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and told supporters who overwhelmed Capitol Police and stormed the halls of Congress, forcing debate on Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College to be suspended, to go home

Lawrence, who worked for Giuliani as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York in the 1980s, said charges of “imminent lawless activity” could be coming against his former boss.

“What I'm about to say I don't say with any pleasure, but if you say that this will be ‘trial by combat’ … I think you are inciting a crowd to use violence,” said Lawrence, also a former president of Brandeis University and a current Georgetown University law lecturer. "So I think he arguably has crossed a line.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, the top federal prosecutor in Washington, told reporters Thursday that prosecutors are examining everyone who played a role in Wednesday's riots. He did not rule out charging Trump.

“We’re looking at all actors here and anyone that had a role and, if the evidence fits the elements of the crime, they’re going to be charged," Sherwin said.

Legal experts say it's unclear whether the president is immune from such charges while in office, but he can almost surely be charged after he leaves office on Jan. 20. That said, if the president tries to pardon himself – an unprecedented move that experts say falls in another legal gray area – it's possible he could escape federal charges.

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Joe Biden blasted President Trump for ' inciting a mob to attack the Capitol '. He said if it was Black Inciting a mob to attack the capitol , to threaten elected representatives of the people of this nation 'No one can tell me that if it had been a group of black lives matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn't

Rudy Giuliani has blasted the violence in the Capitol yesterday despite previously calling for a 'trial by combat' in the Senate chamber Credit: AFP or licensors. "It was as criminal as the rioting and looting this summer which was not condemned strongly enough by the Left. "This violence is condemned in

Neither the White House nor Giuliani immediately responded to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Thursday that the president and other senior officials condemned the violence that had unfolded a day earlier, but she did not address criticism that the president's own words may have prompted it. After making brief remarks, McEnany did not take questions.

What incitement involves

Incitement can take place anywhere and anytime – both online and in-person and over the course of minutes, days or more. So anything said by Trump or his associates at rallies, through the media or online, can be used as evidence against them.

“Things that Trump or his associates said on Twitter or Facebook or social media generally could certainly count as incitement,” Ohlin said.

Pursuing incitement charges is “particularly compelling as a criminal law case because there was a specific political rally, there were speeches by Giuliani and by Trump and others – and then the crowd went from that rally to the Capitol, stormed into it and rioted and committed acts of violence,” Ohlin said. “There’s such a specific connection between those speeches and you can point to particular phrases.”

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To be sure, Trump, Giuliani and others would almost surely argue that they are not legally culpable because they did not specifically instruct their supporters to barge into the Capitol building and commit violent acts.

But Ohlin said that prosecutors don’t necessarily have to prove that the accused person made a specific call for criminal activity – only that the person had an intent to spark such actions.

“He doesn’t have to explicitly say, ‘Break down the doors,’ or, ‘Go kill people.’ His intent does matter, but his intent can be inferred from the overall situation,” Ohlin said. “If you take the whole content, it’s clear that he wanted them to take action.”

Actions by 'all actors,' including Trump, may be under scrutiny following violence at the Capitol, prosecutor says

  Actions by 'all actors,' including Trump, may be under scrutiny following violence at the Capitol, prosecutor says "We're looking at all actors," Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said when asked about the role Trump played.Actions by President Donald Trump, who had encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol as he continued to falsely claim that the election had been stolen from him, may not be exempted from scrutiny.

What’s more, Trump’s behavior behind the scenes during the riots could lend evidence to prosecutors seeking to prove that he intended for his supporters to commit acts of violence, experts said.

“If there were somebody in the room with him who can verify under oath that he was giddy, absolutely that goes to supporting his … intent to see this criminal conduct,” said Steven Morrison, a University of North Dakota law professor who has written about criminal conspiracy law.

A jury could also rule that “any reasonable person would know that if Trump said what he said on Twitter, said what he said at the rally, that the likely response would be his supporters going to the Capitol, which he asked them to do, and committing acts of violence, which, history has shown, they are willing to do,” Morrison added.

Could conspiracy charges be in order?

In addition to incitement, prosecutors could have other options for charging Trump or his associates with crimes.

One other potential charge could be conspiracy, which typically involves two or more people collaborating to commit a crime.

Morrison noted that criminal conspiracy charges have “often been used to go after politically unpopular people,” including union leaders in the 19th Century, socialists during World War I and communists during World War II.

That said, conspiracy charges typically require a higher threshold of proof, so prosecutors would likely have a better chance of conviction going with charges of incitement, legal experts said.

“In my mind, a halfway decent prosecutor should be able to make out criminal charges against Trump for what happened,” Morrison said. “If this were your average drug defendant, your average Proud Boy or Antifa protester doing what Trump did yesterday, I can virtually guarantee you that that person – if the authorities became aware of that person – would be arrested and charged with a crime and highly likely to be found guilty.”

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When it comes to fomenting a mob through social media, there is little precedent for charging Americans with crimes for taking actions such as retweets. But that doesn’t preclude prosecutors from pursuing charges against someone whose social media activity contributed to the incitement of violence, Ohlin said.

“It all depends on what the person's state of mind is,” he said.

Trump’s social media posts in the days leading up to the event appeared designed mostly to boost the attendance for the rally outside the White House. He tweeted or retweeted about the event some 20 times since Dec. 30, often reposting videos and messages from event organizers predicting that the rally would be historic.

Trump retweeted several posts in which the organizers described attendees as the “cavalry” or predicted the rally would be “wild” -- an adjective that repeatedly came up in social media posts in the days leading up to the rally.END NEW FROM FRITZE

Critics, including some Republicans, have for days slammed the president's handling of the chaos. Some have called for him to be removed from office not only because of his remarks at the rally but also because of his slow response to condemn the violence once it got underway.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate group, rejected the idea that the rioting was spontaneous. His organization tracked social media posts in the days leading up to the unrest in which right-wing extremist groups were fulminating aggression. He called for the people involved to prosecuted.

"Let's be clear: They were incited, they were encouraged and they were enticed by the president of the United States and his followers," Greenblatt said.

Contributing: John Fritze, Kristine Phillips

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Could Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani face charges of inciting mob violence in Capitol riots?

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