Trump’s Jan. 6 Case Could Go On Even if Court Limits Use of Obstruction Law


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Even though Donald J. Trump was never mentioned during the Supreme Court’s hearing on Tuesday about a federal obstruction statute used against hundreds of his supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the former president loomed large over the proceeding.

That is because Mr. Trump has been charged under the law in question in an indictment he is facing in Washington that accuses him of plotting to overturn the 2020 election. And the court’s eventual decision on the obstruction law could affect how his case moves forward.

It remains unclear at this point how the court will rule, but at the hearing the justices signaled that federal prosecutors may have interpreted the law too broadly and used it unfairly against many of the rioters who were on the ground on Jan. 6. But even if the court tosses out the use of the law against the Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol, it does not mean that the course of Mr. Trump’s own case will be greatly altered.

Lawyers representing hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants have been questioning the use of the obstruction statute since long before Mr. Trump was charged with it in August. The lawyers have claimed, among other things, that one of the law’s central provisions, requiring the government to offer some proof that documents were destroyed or tampered with, has nothing to do with breaking into the Capitol.

If the Supreme Court ends up agreeing with them, Mr. Trump’s own lawyers will surely seek to have the two obstruction counts he is facing stricken from his indictment.

One of those counts accuses him of conspiring with six others who are unnamed — widely thought to be a group of lawyers close to him — to disrupt the certification of the election that took place inside the Capitol during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6. The second count accuses him of actually obstructing that proceeding.

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