Potential Trump Criminal Offenses Under Investigation By Jan. 6 Committee

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The possibility of ex-President Trump being guilty of a criminal offense in connection to the January riot at the Capitol is under consideration by the members of the House committee investigating that riot, according to a new report from POLITICO. As the publication put it, “Members of the Jan. 6 select committee are homing in on a politically explosive question: Did Donald Trump’s actions amid the Capitol attack amount to criminal obstruction of Congress?” In remarks to fellow House members, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — the vice chair of that committee — posed the question of whether “Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly [sought] to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceeding to count electoral votes” — a question using the exact language of an anti-obstruction law.

POLITICO notes that whether the riot itself constituted obstruction of Congress in that sense has been a key question amid certain criminal cases connected to the riot. Numerous rioters have been formally charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, which is a felony offense that comes with the possibility of up to 20 years in jail, if convicted.

Separately, it would no doubt be worth noting that numerous rioters have tied their actions directly to Trump (although the connections to Trump had already been clear), and it’s been noted in court proceedings that Trump bears responsibility. Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that those behind the January 6 rally in D.C. that immediately preceded the attack on the Capitol are guilty of having “deliberately stoked the flames of fear and discontent and explicitly encouraged [attendees] to go to the Capitol and fight for one reason and one reason only: to make sure the certification of the election didn’t happen.” That sure sounds like criminal obstruction — and it’s from a federal judge, not someone random. Trump spoke at that rally.

Broadly, POLITICO says that ‘Cheney’s suggestion that “inaction” could lead to a violation of the obstruction statute is among the broadest interpretations of that law,’ and the publication adds that ‘[among] the variables that judges in obstruction cases must consider is whether the law in question could apply to someone like Trump, whose specific actions on Jan. 6 may have technically been “lawful” even if they were done with the “corrupt” intent of interfering with Congress.’ Cheney, POLITICO also notes, has angled the question of whether Trump is guilty of obstruction of Congress as required for the riot investigation committee’s “legislative judgments.” Concluding one way or the other could help with laying out laws so that such hopefully doesn’t happen again.