An attorney for former President Donald Trump schooled CNN host Kaitlan Collins on his client’s First Amendment rights, telling her that everything alleged to be criminal in the latest indictment against him actually falls under protected free speech.
John Lauro, a Tampa-based lawyer representing the former president, has become a staple on cable TV as he defends Trump against efforts by the Biden Justice Department to charge him with illegally obstructing the collection, counting, and certification of votes following the 2020 election. He tangled with Collins as she claimed that President Trump was not allowed to state that fraud occurred if he knew it did not. That’s untrue, Lauro rebutted.
“What was not true? That there were states where ballots were sent out without people asking for them? Where there were changes in verification? Where there were instances where ballots were not being supervised at drop-off places? the president was told, given advice, that under these circumstances, that state legislatures have the ultimate ability to qualify electors.” Lauro said.
“He followed that advice. Now you may disagree as to whether or not those things actually occurred or not. That’s why we have political debate. We don’t have criminal trials over that,” he added.
Collins shot back, stating, “It matters if those things occurred or not… The First Amendment doesn’t allow the President of the United States to go and claim there was fraud when he was told there was not fraud and go and try to subvert the election by overturning legitimate electors.”
Lauro wasn’t having it with Collins’ argument.
“No, it doesn’t… The First Amendment protects all speech. If we’re going to have a situation where the Department of Justice is going to fact-check politicians and indict politicians for political speech and whether or not they’re factually accurate, then this country will shut down, politically. And that’s the risk of injecting politics into the criminal justice system,” he said, adding that such a case opens President Joe Biden up to the potential for criminal charges “if people disagree with something he said during the election.”
In addition to citing First Amendment protections, Lauro and the rest of President Trump’s legal team will rely on statements the president made calling on supporters to “peacefully” assemble on January 6, 2021, evidence that he did not encourage them to enter the Capitol building and disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes. Special counsel Jack Smith has charged the 45th president using a Civil War-era law alleging treasonous behavior while President Trump in public statements has called the charges ridiculous and accused the prosecutor appointed by the Biden administration of committing another “political hit job” against the president’s leading opponent for next year’s election.