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Special counsel says Trump's attempts to dismiss federal election case "are meritless"

Washington — Special counsel Jack Smith is rebutting attempts by former President Donald Trump to have the election-related indictment against him dismissed in Washington, D.C., according to court filings docketed Monday.

"No other president has engaged in conspiracy and obstruction to overturn valid election results and illegitimately retain power," prosecutors wrote in a nearly 80-page document. "The indictment squarely charges the defendant for this conduct, and the defendant's constitutional and statutory challenges to it are meritless."

The special counsel was responding to a set of motions by Trump's legal team asking federal Judge Tanya Chutkan to dismiss the four federal charges filed against the former president in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. Those charges included conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct Congress' certification of President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied wrongdoing while characterizing the case as politically motivated. 

Last month, Trump's lawyers argued that the former president was in part engaging in constitutionally protected speech during the conduct alleged in the indictment and his past Senate impeachment trial — which did not end in a conviction — and therefore precluded further criminal prosecution. They wrote that the former president is the target of "selective and vindictive prosecution" and asked the court to strike allegations in the indictment related to actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

But in Monday's filings, prosecutors countered each of the claims, arguing Trump used "deceit, trickery, or dishonest means" to push his scheme to defraud the U.S. after the 2020 election, based on accusations that Trump knowingly made false statements to the public and governmental officials.

"Any speech that the defendant used to carry out the conspiracy, fraud, and obstruction crimes charged in the indictment is categorically excluded from the protections of the First Amendment," prosecutors wrote. 

The special counsel's arguments Monday included some of the most explicit references the prosecutor has made connecting Trump to the U.S. Capitol siege for which more than 1,100 people have been charged.. Smith alleged in his first filing that Trump "directed" a large crowd to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and later "exploited" the violence. 

In his second filing Monday, the special counsel wrote that Jan. 6 was "the day that each of the defendant's criminal conspiracies came to a head" and argued those events were included in the indictment because they "provided necessary context for the criminal conduct with which he is charged."

Smith also emphasized Trump's ongoing support and championing of Jan. 6 defendants, writing Trump "has promoted and extolled the events of that day. While the violent attack was ongoing, the defendant told rioters that they were 'very special' and that 'we love you'." In the years since, Smith continued, Trump has championed rioters as "great patriots" and proclaimed January 6 "a beautiful day."

In court filings and on his social media, the former president has alleged the case against him is politically motivated and meant to target him during the presidential election, but Smith pushed back in another court filing Monday, arguing "the indictment is predicated on facts and law, not animus." 

"This prosecution stands upon the bedrock principle of equal justice under law," the special counsel contended. "The defendant's sweeping claims of selective and vindictive prosecution are unsupported by any evidence and lack any merit."

Trump's attempts to dismiss the case are not his first. The former president is also urging Judge Chutkan to toss the indictment based on claims of presidential immunity — arguing he is shielded from prosecution because the actions described in the indictment occurred while he was president. 

The judge has yet to rule on that argument, but in the meantime, Trump's defense team has asked her to pause the case until she issues an order. Trial in the case is currently set for March and Smith's team wrote in a separate filing Monday that prosecutors oppose the requested stay in the case. 

"The defendant has an established record of attempting to disrupt and delay the Court's carefully considered trial date and pretrial schedule," Smith wrote. "Now, the defendant has timed his motion to stay these proceedings for maximum disruptive effect." 

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