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The Jan. 6 panel says Trump likely broke laws in trying to overturn the election

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To news now of a notable new court filing in the House Select Committee investigation into the Capitol attack. This evening, the panel filed a brief tied to a lawsuit in which lawmakers claim former President Trump tried to illegally obstruct Congress' counting of electoral votes.

For more, we are joined now by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. She's been all over this story. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Tell me more about the filing.

GRISALES: Well, it's a massive document, more than 200 pages detailing some of the panel's defense to try and gain access to more documents from a witness who they subpoenaed. It's a lawsuit tied to a lawyer who was a key player in the effort to stop the counting of the electoral votes on January 6, 2021, the day the Capitol was attacked.

That lawyer is John Eastman. He laid out a plan - it was dubbed the Eastman Memo - that detailed how then-Vice President Mike Pence could turn away the 2020 presidential election result and accept an alternate slate of electors. Eastman, this committee says, had tried to keep some records hidden from the investigation, citing privilege claims. So this is the panel responding to that.

And in it, they say that, quote, "the facts we've gathered strongly suggest Dr. Eastman's emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of Electoral College ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power." So there, they're signaling that they believe that the former president was part of a criminal scheme. This is what they're claiming. But we should remind listeners the committee is not conducting a criminal investigation, but this is the first time it's laid out such claims.

KELLY: So just in trying to understand the significance, just talk us through how the committee got here, what the process was for their getting to these claims.

GRISALES: Right. This has been a pretty intense process for the panel. I was among a group of reporters who saw the committee's top Democrat, this is Bennie Thompson, and top Republican Liz Cheney meet in recent days behind closed doors to hammer out the final details for this filing. After the discussions, Thompson told us today that members have been working through these arguments all day, even today. And while he said that this would give a preview to some of the committee's findings, he declined to elaborate at the time. But now we know what he meant.

Several months ago, too, Cheney began to hint at the potential for criminal exposure for the former president, specifically this obstruction of Congress in this case of the January 6 certification of the election's results. And again, that's referenced in this filing as well today.

And it's clear the committee has been through this more than 200 pages by detailing some of their depositions, some of their findings, essentially giving us a preview of the case that we may hear more of before the public when they present their findings. It even includes excerpts from some key depositions, such as one with Pence's former advisers, one of those being his ex-chief of staff, Marc Short.

KELLY: Well, and you give us a little preview. Just briefly, what happens next with this investigation?

GRISALES: So this is a major revelatory moment, but this is also the final stages of the investigation. Thompson told us today they want to try and wrap up everything they can by April 1 so they can have their public hearings on their findings maybe by late April.

KELLY: That is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales with some late-breaking news tonight on the January 6 investigation. Thanks, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you much.

(SOUNDBITE OF STS9'S "TOKYO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.