WASHINGTON, March 4 — Donald Trump defended the 2021 storming of the US Capitol and repeated his bogus claims of voter fraud Thursday after lawmakers accused him of a “criminal conspiracy” to overturn the 2020 election.

The former president was responding to a bombshell legal filing Wednesday by the House select committee investigating the January 6 assault that said Trump had tried fraudulently to obstruct Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

“The actual conspiracy to defraud the United States was the Democrats rigging the election, and the fake news media and the unselect committee covering it up,” Trump said in a statement reiterating a litany of baseless claims about the vote.

“Few things could be more fraudulent, or met with more irregularities, than the election of 2020.”

The committee’s filing has increased pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland, accused by critics of being reticent to investigate Trump, to announce a federal probe into the allegations.

Part of an attempt to obtain emails from right-wing lawyer John Eastman, who is accused of helping Trump orchestrate the plot, the filing is the panel’s clearest statement yet on what it considers possible crimes by Trump.

Eastman advised the twice-impeached ex-president on the supposed legal justification for blocking congressional certification of Biden’s victory, the action at the center of the insurrection.

Repeating much of the disinformation about voter fraud that he has been spreading since even before the 2020 election, Trump labelled the select committee, led by a Democrat and a Republican, “partisan hacks.”

He accused the Supreme Court’s nine justices — three of whom he appointed — of being “afraid” to consider his bogus claims of voting irregularities, which have been thrown out by dozens of courts.

He called his attorney general Bill Barr, who resigned weeks after the election, “virtually a broken man” who was intimidated by Democrats into allowing the “systemic violation of election laws.” 

“The reason for January 6 was that millions of people in our country know the election was rigged and stolen,” Trump insisted, seeking to justify an assault that wounded dozens of police and caused US$1.5 million (RM6.3 million) worth of damage to the Capitol building.

He said the select committee was merely trying to prevent him from running again for president and accused its members of “destroying democracy as we know it.”

No former US president has ever been indicted, although House members have already signalled they may make a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Trump, depending on what they discover.

None of his top aides have been indicted for crimes related to the attack, although officials have charged more than 750 people who took part in the riot.

The select committee hopes to begin public hearings in April, with interim findings issued by June and a final report later in the fall, before the November midterm elections. — AFP