CNN anchor Dana Bash couldn’t help but chuckle on Sunday morning when former President Donald Trump’s lawyer asserted that there was a “peaceful transfer of power” after the 2020 election, asking him if he’d seen what happened during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Making the rounds on Sunday, John Lauro—who is defending Trump against charges of trying to overthrow the presidential election—appeared on all five major news talk shows. Lauro’s media tour also comes just hours after Trump’s legal team was denied an extension to respond to the Justice Department’s protective order motion. The order, which would limit what discovery evidence the ex-president could publicly share, was filed just hours after Trump took to social media to vow revenge against anyone who comes after him.
Throughout his contentious and tense interview with Bash on Sunday’s State of the Union, Lauro continued to lean on his legal argument that Trump was merely engaging in “political speech” when he launched efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral victory, and therefore he is protected by the First Amendment. Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr has flatly rejected this argument, saying “free speech doesn’t give you the right to engage” in a fraudulent and criminal conspiracy.
“When it comes to political speech, you can not only advocate for a position, but you can take action, you can petition, you can ask even your vice-president to pause the vote for a period of time,” Lauro declared, referencing his previous “admission” that Trump pressed Mike Pence to halt the counting of votes.
“But you can’t break the law, which is what this indictment alleges,” Bash shot back. “It alleges that he caused actions.”
Lauro also repeatedly defended Trump’s fake elector scheme, stating that ultimately “none of these electors were counted” while describing it as merely a form of “political protest,” prompting Bash to note that “they weren’t counted because Mike Pence rejected this scheme.” After Lauro insisted this was just “how the political process works,” the CNN anchor exclaimed, “No, it doesn’t!”
Bash went on to highlight examples of Trump requesting other state legislatures and officials to interfere with certifying their votes, leading Lauro to claim that “asking is speech” and “not an action.”
“But any alleged… almost all alleged criminal activity has to do with using words and speech,” Bash retorted.
“No, asking is aspirational,” Lauro responded. “Asking is not action. It’s core free speech. The press should be defending free speech in this case.”
Eventually, the State of the Union host grilled Lauro on Trump’s attempt to get Pence to “pause” the vote count, noting that the indictment alleges that this was only presented to the former veep after Pence told Trump he wouldn’t fully stop the certification of Biden’s victory.
“So what we have, and many people don’t understand this, is a memo from John Eastman, an esteemed constitutional scholar, laying out a number of scenarios,” Lauro declared. “Those scenarios were presented to Vice President Pence. He considered them, and, as a constitutional matter, he rejected them.”
Adding that Pence also rejected “one of the last and ultimate requests” from Trump to “pause the voting for 10 days,” the Trump lawyer then said: “After that, there was a peaceful transition of power.”
Bash, however, couldn’t contain her laughter.
“What happened on January 6 was not peaceful,” she pointed out.
Lauro, after Bash attempted to pivot to his claim that Eastman is a “respected constitutional attorney,” doubled down on his assertion about Trump ceding power of the government to the Biden administration.
“The transfer of power was certainly peaceful,” he proclaimed.
“Did you see what happened on January 6? Did that look peaceful?” Bash pushed back. The attack on the Capitol, which resulted in dozens of injuries to law enforcement, a handful of deaths and millions of dollars in property damage, has resulted in the arrest and conviction of hundreds of rioters.
“I’m not saying that that was in any way appropriate, but the ultimate power of the presidency was transferred to Mr. Biden. We all know that, as you do,” Lauron contended.
Elsewhere in this interview and on other networks, Lauro also made the case that Trump did not threaten or pressure Pence or other state officials when requesting them to toss out votes or decertify the election, instead claiming Trump was merely asking in an “aspirational” manner.
“That wasn’t a threat at all… that was an aspirational ask. He is entitled to petition even state government,” Lauro told Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd about Trump’s demand that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes” to flip the state to the ex-president.
Meanwhile, as Lauro made the Sunday show rounds, his client once again raged on his Truth Social site about the upcoming trial, this time demanding that the judge assigned to his Jan. 6 case be removed because there is “no way” she’ll give him a fair trial.