Former president Donald Trump could soon face new charges now that several members of the Proud Boys have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Weissmann said.
On Thursday, a jury convicted four members of the far-right group, including Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, of seditious conspiracy for trying to prevent a peaceful transfer of power from Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 election.
Weissman called the verdict a “huge win for the government and our democracy” and predicted that new charges accusing Trump of conspiracy would be “imperative.”
Throughout the trial, prosecutors made the case that the Proud Boys were the most significant players in the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, while putting Trump at the center of their organizing. They described the defendants as “Donald Trump’s army” and argued that they fought to keep the former president in the White House “no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it.”
Weissman told Newsweek that while Thursday’s verdicts don’t create any evidence that could be used by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in its probe of Trump, they are still important to that investigation.
He said federal prosecutors are not only looking to see if they have enough evidence to bring a case against Trump but also whether doing so would be warranted. Weissman said that the Proud Boys verdict serves as an answer to the latter.
“The leader of the seditious conspiracy [Trump] should be held to account if lesser players have been brought to justice,” he said.
Former Special Counsel Ryan Goodman agreed that the verdict implicated Trump, tweeting on Thursday that “The white supremacist paramilitary group would not have taken these actions without Trump’s messaging.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance added that Thursday’s verdicts would make it likely that the DOJ would soon be able to bring similar charges against the former president.
“The verdicts on the obstruction of an official proceeding charge here are key. That conspiracy forms the most likely type of charge that could be brought against Trump in connection with January 6,” White tweeted.
The Department of Justice declined Newsweek‘s request for comment.
Although Trump has been indicted in Manhattan over the alleged hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election, he has not been charged with any crimes by the DOJ. On the national level, there are two ongoing investigations into Trump: one about his efforts to interfere with the 2020 election and the other about the classified documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago after he left office.
Trump has denied wrongdoing in all three cases.
Weissman said a seditious conspiracy charge against Trump in relation to January 6 would also avoid the criticisms that the Manhattan charges faced about whether prosecutors would have brought the case against the former president if it wasn’t Trump.
Earlier this year, the DOJ said that Trump could be sued by Capitol Police officers and Democratic lawmakers, telling a Washington federal appeals court that the department was rejecting the former president’s claim of “categorical” immunity and that protection would not be extended if Trump’s words were found to have been an “incitement of imminent private violence.”
At least 1,000 people have been arrested on charges related to the 2021 attack on the Capitol. So far, 518 people have pleaded guilty to federal crimes, according to the DOJ.