Jan. 6 Panel Urges Trump Prosecution on Four Criminal Counts

December 19, 2022 by Dan McCue
Jan. 6 Panel Urges Trump Prosecution on Four Criminal Counts
A video of former President Donald Trump is shown on a screen, as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, siege on the U.S. Capitol sent Justice Department prosecutors a recommendation that former President Donald Trump be charged with four crimes.

Those alleged crimes are inciting or assisting an insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement.

It is now up to the Justice Department to decide how to proceed with the recommendation or whether to simply roll the committee’s final report and backing documents into its own ongoing investigations.

Regardless of what decision the DOJ ultimately makes, Monday’s hearing was history-making, marking the first time Congress has made such a referral against a former president.

“To cast a vote in the United States is an act of faith and hope,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said at the start of the hearing. “We expect the people whose name is on the ballot are going to uphold the deal. … Those who come up short ultimately accept the result and abide by the rule of law.

“Donald Trump broke that faith. He lost the 2020 election and knew it. But he chose to try to stay in office through a multi-part scheme, overturn the results and blocked the transfer of power. In the end, he summoned a mob to Washington and, knowing they were armed and angry, pointed them to the Capitol and told them to fight like hell. There’s no doubt about this.”

Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Screen grab)

Thompson said the committee would release some documents today — 154 pages in all — and the remainder of the “non-sensitive” material it has compiled over the past two years by the end of the week.

“These  transcripts and documents will allow the American people to see for themselves the body of evidence we’ve gathered and continue to explore the information that has led us to our conclusions,” he said.

“This committee is nearing the end of its work, but as a country we remain in strange and uncharted waters,” Thompson continued. “We’ve never had a president of the United States stir up a violent attempt to block the transfer of power. … If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again.”

The committee also voted to refer conservative lawyer John Eastman, who devised dubious legal maneuvers aimed at keeping Trump in power, for prosecution on two of the same statutes as the former president: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing an official proceeding.

In addition, it is referring four Republican House members — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Andy Biggs of Arizona, to the House Ethics Committee for ignoring the select committee’s subpoenas.

At a final meeting Monday, the panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans agreed with Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the body’s Republican vice chairwoman, that Trump was already guilty of “utter moral failure and a clear dereliction of duty.”

Tacitly acknowledging that the former president has already declared himself a candidate for the presidency in 2024, Cheney added that Trump is “unfit for any office.”

The committee also voted 9-0 to approve its final report, which will include findings, interview transcripts and legislative recommendations. The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday.

The report’s 154-page summary, made public as the hearing ended, found that Trump engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the election. 

While anyone following the committee’s work and the exhaustive media coverage it has received will be familiar with much of what’s in the summary, it is sure to add to the political pressure already on Attorney General Merrick Garland and Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is conducting an investigation into Jan. 6 and Trump’s actions.

Among the new tidbits contained in today’s release is a detail from a recent interview with Trump aide Hope Hicks. Describing a conversation she had with Trump around that time, she said he told her that no one would care about his legacy if he lost the election.

Hicks told the committee that Trump told her, “The only thing that matters is winning.”

The panel will dissolve on Jan. 3, 2023, with the swearing in of the new, Republican-led House. It has conducted more than 1,000 interviews, held 10 public hearings and collected more than a million documents since it launched in July 2021. 

Asked about the White House’s response to the Jan. 6 committee’s final decision to refer charges to the Justice Department, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters President Biden has repeatedly expressed his opinion that American democracy “remains under threat, and we all have a part to protect it.”

“The committee has been doing important, bipartisan work to get to the truth of what happened on that very day so that we can make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Jean-Pierre said.

She also said the White House would not comment on the committee’s decision to refer four Republican House members to the Ethics Committee.

As for Trump, he appeared on the “The Dan Bongino Show” on the Westwood One radio network as the hearing was ongoing, dismissing it as a “kangaroo court.”

“When I made the speech, I believe[d] it was the largest crowd I ever spoke before. And I’ve spoken before the biggest crowds. It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever spoken to … it went back to the Washington Monument,” he said. 

“And those are not people that walked down to the Capitol,” he claimed. “A very tiny proportion of them walked down to the Capitol. But I will say this. They don’t talk about the reason that everybody was there. It was because of the election. And because of election fraud. And they felt so strongly about it. 

“They didn’t spend one minute speaking about that, the Jan. 6 committee,” Trump said. “And essentially, we have all Democrats and Republicans in very poor standing, two of them. I mean, the whole thing, it’s a kangaroo court. What can I say?”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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