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Supremes, 6-3, make Trump obstruction charge harder

The indictments – and in some cases, the convictions – of hundreds of people charged with participating in the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, will have to be reconsidered and possibly dropped because of a ruling by the US Supreme Court on June 28, 2024. Among those charged using a broad interpretation of the obstruction law now narrowed by the high court: former President Donald Trump.

In its decision in Fischer v United States, the Supreme Court held that a federal statute that prohibits obstructing an official proceeding may not apply to three defendants who were charged with participating in the US Capitol riot. Although Trump is not a defendant in the case, special counsel Jack Smith has charged him separately with violating the same statute.

As a law professor who teaches and writes in the fields of constitutional law and federal courts, I’ll explain what the court’s decision means for January 6 defendants – and for Smith’s case against Trump.

Charges against Capitol rioters

According to their indictments, Joseph Fischer, Edward Lang and Garret Miller were present at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Prosecutors say that all three men entered the Capitol building and assaulted police officers during the riot. One of the men, Lang, brandished a bat and a stolen police shield, and another, Miller, later, on social media, called for the assassination of US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Federal prosecutors charged the three men with various crimes, including assault on a federal officer, disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds and obstructing a congressional proceeding. That last charge is the one at issue in the Supreme Court appeal.

Before trial, the defendants argued that the law the