January 6 committee says Donald Trump violated several criminal statutes in referrals to DoJ

DoJ is pursuing its own investigation but may use evidence gathered by lawmakers to prosecute Trump and his allies

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 19 December 2022 22:40 GMT
January 6 panel chair says Trump 'broke the faith' of US elections in final session
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The January 6 committee met on Monday and made its most important move yet in the effort to hold ex-President Donald Trump and his associates accountable for the attack on Congress.

Lawmakers on the panel voted unanimously to send four criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, all naming Mr Trump and claiming that there is enough evidence to convict him of violating several criminal statues. The most serious of the four charges was the final one: aiding or providing comfort to an insurrection aimed at toppling the United States government.

The other charges suggested by the members of the committee including obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, as well as conspiracy to make a false statement to the US government.

The Department of Justice is not expected to act based on the committee’s referral, as the agency operates independently of the other branches of government including the White House. Still, the investigators at the Justice Department working on a federal grand jury investigation into January 6 and the effort to overturn the 2020 election are likely to use statements and other evidence gathered by the House committee in their efforts to prosecute individuals connected to the attack going forward.

The DoJ confirmed for the first time in recent weeks that Mr Trump may face criminal charges over January 6 as well as the unrelated investigation into his potentially illegal retention of presidential records at Mar-a-Lago; as a result, a special counsel has been appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to independently determine whether the ex-president should be charged given that he is once again a candidate for the presidency.

Mr Trump has denounced all three investigations stemming from his efforts to overturn the 2020 election — in Georgia, on Capitol Hill and at the DoJ — as politically motivated even as he continues to falsely insist that voter fraud or other election manipulation cost him his victory. He also continues to demand reinstatement as president from his Florida abode, and in November launched a third campaign for the White House.

One potential criminal charge that was not among the committee’s final recommendations was that of seditious conspiracy, which several members of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia faced after their participation in the attack. The committee also notably did not say that Mr Trump should be prosecuted for “inciting” the attack on the Capitol.

Still, the potential charges are very serious were the Justice Department to pursue them and the most prominent of the four, giving aid to an insurrection, would bar him permanently from running for office again.

Attorney General Merrick Garland as of yet has given no indication as to whether Mr Trump will face those charges or any other, while stating that his agency will follow the facts wherever they lead and hold no American above the law.

Mr Trump also remains under investigation separately by the US Justice Department for his retention, apparently illegaly, of presidential records including classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

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