Five takeaways from the final public meeting of the Jan 6 committee

From criminal referrals to warnings of interference, the January 6 committee held a blockbuster final hearing

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 20 December 2022 13:39 GMT
Jan 6 committee votes to recommend criminal charges against Donald Trump

Monday marked the end of the January 6 committee’s efforts to investigate the deadly January 6 Capitol riot, with the House select committee holding its final public hearing nearly two years after the violence unfolded.

After more than a year of work, the committee’s lawmakers released their final report into the congressional record and took the long-awaited step of issuing criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, the first call for specific charges against Donald Trump’s inner circle related to the deadly attack on Congress.

These were the five biggest developments from Monday’s meeting:

Four criminal referrals for Donald Trump

Easily the biggest news of the day was the vote by the committee to refer former President Donald Trump to the Department of Justice for prosecution of four separate alleged violations of federal law. Those included obstructing an official proceeding; conspiring to make a false statement to the US government; conspiring to defraud the United States; and the final, most serious charge: Aiding or otherwise giving comfort to an insurrection.

The referrals notably did not include an even more serious charge, one that has been brought to bear against right-wing militia members who were present during the attack: Seditious conspiracy.

But they still represent serious accusations of criminal wrongdoing should the Justice Department reach a similar conclusion.

Donald Trump’s allies do not escape punishment

Mr Trump was far from the only individual targeted by the January 6 committee and accused of committing federal crimes at Monday’s public meeting of the panel.

Former Trump legal team members Rudy Giuliani, Kenneth Chesebro and John Eastman, as well as former assistant attorney general Jeffrey Clark and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, were also named in the referrals. None were accused of aiding an insurrection, but were accused of different combinations of the remaining three charges (Mr Eastman and Mr Chesebro being accused of committing all three violations).

Several members of the US House of Representatives who dodged subpoenas issued by the committee were also referred to the House Ethics Committee for potential punishment, including Reps Jim Jordan, Scott Perry and Andy Biggs as well as the GOP House leader, Kevin McCarthy.

Committee members warn of interference from Trump’s legal team

Members of the January 6 committee further spelled out the depths that Mr Trump’s legal team were plumbing in order to protect their boss. For the first time, lawmakers on Monday directly accused Mr Trump’s current legal team of dangling the promise of future employment for the president in front of witnesses before the committee, while warning that the same may be occurring with individuals set to testify in the DoJ or Fulton County investigations.

“We’ve…obtained evidence of efforts to provide or offer employment to witnesses” from lawyers who later went on to say that those witnesses could claim to not recall certain moments or events during their testimony, Congresswoman Zoe Lofrgren said.

Lawmakers lay out their final case against Trump

Coinciding with the release of the committee’s final report, members of the January 6 panel laid out a full summary of the events of the Capitol riot and, in particular, Mr Trump’s actions during the attack at Monday’s hearing. It was their final public opportunity to do so, and their presentation was not without a few new final revelations.

The most important one came from the testimony of Hope Hicks, former aide to Mr Trump, who was revealed for the first time to have texted members of the White House team, most notably White House attorney Erich Herschmann, pleading for them to convince the president to release a statement condemning violence and urging peaceful protests ahead of the attack.

Mr Trump refused her request, Ms Hicks said the attorney told her.

Liz Cheney makes a bid for her political future

Congresswoman Liz Cheney now ends her stint in the US House as well as her vice chairmanship of the January 6 committee.

She intended to go out with a bang on Monday as she used the committee’s public platform to once again lay out her case against Mr Trump; her condemnation of the former president seemed personal for the committee’s GOP co-chair who has made no secret of her intent to block Mr Trump from reaching the White House again even if she must throw her own hat in the ring to do so.

Her remarks on Monday followed new reporting from news outlets including NBC indicating that she has steered the panel’s final report to a particularly strong focus on Mr Trump, potentially even to the point where other areas including issues with the law enforcement response were ignored or fell by the wayside. That push by Ms Cheney, potentially motivated by her own political ambitions or animosity towards Mr Trump, has resulted in clashes between her and other members of the committee as the panel worked through its final days.

“No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office,” she said on Monday of Mr Trump and his actions during the attack.

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