Trump Criminal Referrals Under Consideration By Jan. 6 Committee

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As outlined in a new report from The New York Times, the House committee investigating the Capitol riot is examining the question of whether it ought to refer certain individuals — including former President Donald Trump — to the Justice Department for potential prosecution in connection to January 6 and its surrounding circumstances. Such a referral would not force the Justice Department to act, but for the committee to undertake such a move would no doubt mean that a compelling case against Trump (or someone else) had been assembled, possibly making it more difficult for certain Justice Department officials to evade questions of whether they’ll bring the case(s). Final decisions rest with such officials.

As summarized by the Times, “investigators for the committee are looking into whether a range of crimes were committed, including two in particular: whether there was wire fraud by Republicans who raised millions of dollars off assertions that the election was stolen, despite knowing the claims were not true; and whether Mr. Trump and his allies obstructed Congress by trying to stop the certification of electoral votes.” Those are serious allegations — obstruction of an official proceeding is a felony that comes with a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years, if found guilty. Significantly lower sentences are possible, but the possibility of something higher helps highlight the gravity of the situation. That money, meanwhile, was raised under false pretenses, setting up the potential fraud.

Charges of obstruction of official proceedings have been slapped on hundreds of individual participants in the storming of the Capitol, in addition to allegations of other serious offenses, like conspiracy and assaulting or otherwise impeding law enforcement officers. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who serves as vice chair of the riot investigation committee, publicly indicated the panel’s interest in examining potential violations of the anti-obstruction law at a recent hearing covering a contempt of Congress finding targeting ex-Trump official Mark Meadows. As Cheney posed the question, “Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?”

Going forward, the committee has already heard from over 300 witnesses, and members’ efforts to obtain relevant testimony are continuing. Cheney has revealed that weeks of public hearings are under development for next year as an avenue to publicly outline some of what the committee has assembled. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), another member of the riot investigation panel, shared as follows: “Most of the criminal referrals that I’m aware of, judging from experience in the Russian and Ukrainian investigations, were perjury-related or witness intimidation-related. But it’s not unprecedented for Congress to make referrals when we are aware of evidence that people engage in other criminal activity. I wouldn’t exclude that possibility.” Read more at this link.