Referral For Criminal Conspiracy Under Consideration By Jan 6 Committee

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The House committee investigating the Capitol riot is examining the possibility that former President Trump is guilty of overseeing what amounts to a criminal conspiracy involving his efforts to stop the formal certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, according to a new report from The Guardian. As explained by that publication, this potential criminal conspiracy “connected the White House’s scheme to stop Joe Biden’s certification with the insurrection.”

The panel’s interest in potential culpability in a criminal conspiracy was heightened after ex-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows handed over communications indicating coordination in efforts to stop Biden’s win from getting certified, the report explains. In one text that investigators have obtained, a Republican member of Congress complained to Meadows about the inability to stop Biden’s win from getting certified, which could point to “one part of a conspiracy by the White House to obstruct the joint session” of Congress for the certification of the election outcome, The Guardian explains.

As told by The Guardian, the riot investigation committee “has several thousand messages… which include some that suggest the Trump White House briefed a number of House Republicans on its plan for then-vice president Mike Pence to abuse his ceremonial role and not certify Biden’s win.” Investigators on the committee had already been reported to be examining the possibility of recommending Trump for prosecution on a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding — which is a felony offense that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, if convicted, although much shorter sentences are possible. According to The Guardian, investigators are “also looking at whether Trump oversaw an unlawful conspiracy that involved coordination between the ‘political elements’ of the White House plan communicated to Republican lawmakers and extremist groups that stormed the Capitol.”

It’s worth noting that a federal judge already broadly noted Trump’s culpability in what unfolded at the Capitol and how the violence around the Capitol complex was designed to stop the certification of Biden’s victory — meaning obstruct an official proceeding. It was not a formal court conclusion, but federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson observed that those behind the January 6 rally in D.C. that immediately preceded the attack on the Capitol — a group that includes Trump — 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.”

The Guardian notes that the riot investigation committee has “yet to find evidence tying Trump personally to the Capitol attack… and may ultimately only recommend referrals for the straight obstruction charge” — which would be plenty serious. A recommendation for Trump’s prosecution from the riot investigation committee would not force officials at the Justice Department to bring charges, but any such recommendation — generally known as a criminal referral — would no doubt have a lot of evidence backing it up, increasing the pressure for action at the Justice Department. There have been concerns about whether the Justice Department has been moving appropriately aggressively to respond to the threats posed by Trump and his cronies.