Donald Trump’s lawyer on Sunday previewed a legal defence his client may make in court when his upcoming trial for his actions leading up to January 6 begins next year.
Appearing on all the major networks, John Lauro fielded questions from journalists about the idea that Mr Trump was acting illegally when he approached then-Vice President Mike Pence with his plan for Mr Pence to halt or reverse the Senate’s certification of the 2020 election, allowing slates of false electors to be named to replace those set to vote for Joe Biden.
Mr Lauro told journalists on NBC that Mr Trump had not directed his vice president to use his power as president of the Senate to interfere with the chamber’s process — instead, he characterised it as an “aspirational” request by the president.
“Asking is aspirational. Asking is not action. It’s core free speech,” argued Mr Lauro on CNN.
He went on to argue that Mr Pence’s refusal to comply with the request or demand was evidence itself that it had been the former.
“I’m not saying that [the January 6 riot] was in any way appropriate, but the ultimate power of the presidency was transferred to Mr Biden,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash.
It was the exact same language he used to describe Mr Trump’s overtures to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who was revealed to have been pressured by the president to intercede in that state after Joe Biden was declared the lawful victor.
On a now-famous phone call, Mr Trump suggested that Mr Raffensperger would be able to “find” more than 10,000 votes for him that would push him past Mr Biden’s total in the state.
“That wasn’t a threat at all,” Mr Lauro claimed on NBC. “He was asking for [him] to get the truth…That was an aspirational ask.”
He would go on to claim that asking Mr Pence to commit an act that violated the US Constitution was not inherently a crime. However, some crimes simultaneously represent violations of one’s constitutional rights, and in the case of Mr Trump this argument could falls flat given that the government will argue that an obstruction of the Senate’s ability to certify the election essentially represented a violation of every American’s right to be represented by the lawfully-elected president.
Mr Lauro’s whirlwind Sunday media tour comes as he and the Trump legal team are set to respond to a new filing by the Justice Department seeking to limit what Donald Trump can say publicly about his ongoing prosecution.
The federal government has argued that Mr Trump’s recent comments on Truth Social vowing vengeance against those involved with the investigation will have a chilling effect on witnesses; the ex-president is already charged with witness tampering among the dozens of counts he faces.