Criminal Referral For Donald Trump Floated By Jan 6 Chairman

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During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union over the weekend, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) — who is the chairperson of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot — confirmed to host Dana Bash that the panel was prepared to issue criminal referrals targeting individuals including former President Donald Trump himself, although Thompson made no commitments at this time. It’s previously come up that the panel was considering the possibility of issuing criminal referrals for actions directly related to the Capitol violence, although such referrals would not force the Justice Department to bring charges. Still, any referral would no doubt be supported by a significant tranche of evidence, increasing pressure on the Justice Department to act.

Thompson pointedly commented as follows when asked about whether there would be a conclusion of criminal liability on Trump’s part:

‘Well, we don’t know. We’re in the process of trying to get all the information. But I can say if there’s anything that we come upon as a committee that we think would warrant a referral to the Department of Justice, we’ll do that. And that’s our oath as members of Congress. So it’s not just that. It’s any of the other things we’re looking at, if there’s any confidence on the part of our committee that something criminal, we believe, has occurred, we’ll make the referral.’

Watch Thompson below:

An offense for which Trump could be referred to the Department of Justice is obstruction of an official proceeding. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the riot investigation panel, previously raised the question of whether “Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly [sought] to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes.” Obstruction of an official proceeding is a felony that’s punishable by up to 20 years in prison, if found guilty, although substantially shorter sentences associated with the charge are possible. Cheney confirmed during a weekend appearance on ABC that the committee has testimony indicating that Trump was watching television coverage of the Capitol violence as it unfolded, as though he was reveling in his lack of meaningful action. When Trump finally spoke out that day, he peppered his remarks to the rioters with statements like “we love you; you’ve very special.”

Hundreds upon hundreds of individuals have been charged by the Justice Department for their roles in the on-the-ground violence of January 6, including numerous instances of brutal assaults on police officers. When Trump and other Republicans proclaim that the attack on the Capitol wasn’t so bad after all, these debilitating attacks on law enforcement personnel are among what they’re glibly defending. That’s just the reality — it would be ridiculous to pretend like right-wing insistences upon “backing the blue” (meaning police) are anything but a game of political charades as long as Trump keeps perpetrating this vitriol.