Panel may urge criminal charges against Trump
Referrals by the Jan. 6 committee could raise pressure on the Justice Department, but they carry no legal weight.
Besides insurrection, defined as an uprising aiming to overthrow the government, the panel is also considering recommending that prosecutors pursue charges of obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. The committee’s deliberations were continuing late Friday, and no decisions were formalized on which charges the panel would refer to the Justice Department.
The committee is to meet publicly Monday afternoon, when any recommendation would be made public.
The deliberations were confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who could not discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A second person familiar with the deliberations confirmed that the committee was considering three charges.
The decision to issue referrals is not unexpected. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the committee, for months has been suggesting the panel might send the Justice Department criminal referrals based on the extensive evidence the nine-member panel has gathered since it was formed in July 2021.
“You may not send an armed mob to the Capitol; you may not sit for 187 minutes and refuse to stop the attack while it’s underway. You may not send out a tweet that incites further violence,” Cheney said about Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in October. “So we’ve been very clear about a number of different criminal offenses that are likely at issue here.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chair, detailed possible referrals last week as falling into categories that include criminal and ethics violations, legal misconduct and campaign finance violations. It would then fall to federal prosecutors to decide whether to pursue referrals for prosecution. Although they carry no legal weight, the recommendations would add to the political pressure on the Justice Department as a special counsel it appointed investigates Trump’s actions.
“The gravest offense in constitutional terms is the attempt to overthrow a presidential election and bypass the constitutional order,” committee member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters last week. “Subsidiary to all of that are a whole host of statutory offenses, which support the gravity and magnitude of that violent assault on America.”
Raskin, along with Cheney and Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), made up the subcommittee that drafted the referral recommendations and presented them to the full committee.
The committee has made recommendations that several members of Trump’s inner circle should be prosecuted for refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. One, for Stephen K. Bannon, has resulted in a conviction.