Former US attorney general Bill Barr has spoken out against Donald Trump ahead of his court appearance for allegedly plotting to overturn his election defeat in 2020.
Mr Barr, who was appointed by the former president, said that Mr Trump “knew well he lost the election”.
Mr Trump is accused by federal prosecutors of lying repeatedly about mass voter fraud and pressing officials to change results to keep him in power.
He will be formally charged later.
The 77-year-old Republican, who is running for election again, is expected to plead not guilty when he appears in court in Washington at 16:00 EDT (20:00 GMT). He has denounced the charges as politically motivated.
Trump lawyer John Lauro has called the indictment an attack on free speech and said: “There’s nothing more protected under the First Amendment [the right to free speech] than political speech.”
But Mr Barr, who quit the top job in the US legal system shortly after Joe Biden won that election in November 2020, said free speech is not a valid defence.
“They are not attacking his First Amendment right. He can say whatever he wants, he can even lie. He can even tell people that the election was stolen when he knew better,” Mr Barr told CNN.
“But that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy.”
By saying his former boss knew he had lost the election, Mr Barr is undermining another plank of Mr Trump’s defence which is that he was not defrauding the American people because he always believed he had won