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‘Pretty sad at this point’: Top House Democrat pushes back on Trump’s Jan. 6 defense

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(WASHINGTON) — House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar on Sunday pushed back on arguments by Donald Trump’s attorney that he wasn’t acting with illegal intent in pushing to overturn the 2020 election.

“Everybody saw exactly what the former president was doing. We saw the attack on the Capitol, the attack on the police officers and the insurrection,” Aguilar, the third-ranked Democrat in the House and a former member of the House committee that investigated Jan. 6, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“And so for his lawyers or for him to somehow say that this was just a mistake and bad legal advice is pretty sad at this point,” Aguilar said.

Last week, Trump was indicted for the third time. He has pleaded not guilty and claimed after his arraignment that “this is a persecution of a political opponent,” which prosecutors dispute.

On “This Week,” Aguilar told anchor George Stephanopoulos that he was “confident” the Department of Justice and special counsel Jack Smith will prove Trump’s corrupt intent.

In an earlier appearance on “This Week,” Trump’s attorney John Lauro argued otherwise: “The government will never be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump had corrupt or criminal intent.”

“The defense has no obligation to prove anything,” Lauro said. “We put the government to its test.”

Aguilar challenged that, citing both the new charges and his own work on the House’s Jan. 6 committee, which paralleled the federal investigation.

“Jack Smith, in his indictment, said that the former president deliberately disregarded the truth. That was his quote. And our Jan. 6 committee report showed, time and time again, that President Trump was told he lost the election by his campaign lawyers, by his advisers,” Aguilar said.

He went on to weigh in on the possible role of former Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence, a current GOP presidential candidate, has emerged as a key figure in the indictment against Trump given that Trump pushed him to stop the certification of their election defeat in his ceremonial role presiding over Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

“It’s clear that Vice President Pence took notes and has a pretty good memory of what the president told them and the pressure that he was under,” said Aguilar, who chaired a House Jan. 6 committee hearing last year on the campaign to have Pence block the election results.

“When the former president still didn’t get his way, he tweeted out that Mike Pence has the ability to change this. And that’s just unfortunate,” Aguilar said.

He called on Trump and his lawyers to “indicate that they want a speedy trial. That’s, I think, where we can get to the root of this. If they want to have their day in court, they should remove any hurdles and they should seek the truth and seek their day in court.”

At Trump’s arraignment, Lauro indicated they will need significant time to prepare. The judge has asked both sides to propose dates.

Of the Trump team’s arguments that he was relying on his lawyers and participating in fair constitutional debate, Aguilar cited the number of times that Trump’s legal challenges to the election failed in court before Jan. 6.

“I think it’s just the height of hypocrisy for them to bring those arguments out now. … It seems pretty clear to the American public that they are throwing everything they can at the wall, and they are trying to see what sticks,” he said.

“The bottom line is for us to have accountability,” Aguilar said. “We need to ensure that there aren’t two sets of legal systems, one for the rich and powerful and one for everyone else.”

Stephanopoulos noted that that is “the same argument, in reverse, being made by the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.”

At a news conference on Thursday, McCarthy suggested Trump’s mounting charges are politically motivated.

On “This Week,” Aguilar recalled McCarthy’s comments on the House floor in January 2021: “This is a guy who stood in the well of the Capitol building and said that Donald Trump bears responsibility.”

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