The desk of Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, before a hearing in Washington, DC, US, on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Jan. 6 select House committee on Monday referred former President Donald Trump to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation and potential prosecution for his efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election.
The committee’s historic referral says there is sufficient evidence to refer Trump for four crimes: obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the government, making knowingly and willfully make materially false statements to the federal government, and inciting or assisting an insurrection.
While the Justice Department takes criminal referrals seriously, it isn’t obligated to charge anyone with a crime. Trump hasn’t been charged with any crimes related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol and has denied any wrongdoing.
If Trump were to be charged and convicted of insurrection, he theoretically could be barred from holding federal office again under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Trump last month announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
However, it underscores how seriously the committee views Trump’s actions after the election, in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the halls of Congress by a mob of his supporters.
The House committee on Monday also recommended that the DOJ investigate and potentially prosecute Trump’s election law attorney John Eastman for his role in advancing a plan to overturn the election results. Eastman’s referral was for his alleged violation of two criminal statutes: impeding an official proceeding of the United States government, and conspiring to defraud the United States.
Eastman was the author of a two-page memo that outlined a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify several states’ Electoral College electors when Congress met for that purpose on Jan. 6.
Panel member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, said the committee would refer four members of Congress “for appropriate sanction by the House Ethics Committee for failure to comply with lawful subpoenas.” He did not name them, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is among the members who defied a subpoena from the committee.
The committee’s referrals come after nearly 18 months of investigation, which included more than 1,000 witness interviews, subpoenas for documents and electronic communications, and public hearings.
The DOJ already is conducting a criminal probe of Trump for those actions, which involved an effort to reverse his losses to President Joe Biden in several swing states, and to pressure Pence to refuse to accept Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
The DOJ also is separately investigating him for his removal of government documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021.
Jack Smith, who was appointed special counsel for the DOJ last month to handle its investigations of Trump, said at the time of that appointment, “I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”
Smith added at that time: “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgement and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”
The members of the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol sit beneath a video of former U.S. President Donald Trump talking about the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election as they hold their final public meeting to release their report on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Trump has called the investigations into his conduct after the 2020 election “witch hunts,” and defended his actions as legitimate.
He has falsely claimed he won the election, and that Biden’s victory was the result of widespread voter fraud in the swing states he lost.
Trump also has claimed that Pence had the authority to reject the Electoral College votes of those contested swing states.
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