WASHINGTON – A House committee on Jan. 6 called on the Justice Department on Monday to file criminal charges against former President Donald Trump, laying out what it called a “road map to justice” in response to the violent Capitol uprising in 2021.
After one of the most comprehensive and aggressive investigations in Congress, seven Democrats and two Republicans recommended criminal charges against Trump and his associates who helped him launch a broad pressure campaign to try to reverse his 2020 election defeat. The commission also released a detailed summary of its final report, which said Trump engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to thwart the will of voters.
At its latest meeting on Monday, the committee said Trump violated four criminal laws both before the riots and during the uprising itself, recommending that the former president be prosecuted by the Justice Department. Among the charges they recommend for prosecution is aiding and abetting an insurrection, an attempt to hold him directly responsible for his supporters storming the Capitol that day.
The committee also voted to indict conservative lawyer John Eastman, who engineered questionable legal maneuvers to keep Trump in power, under two of the same statutes as Trump: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
While the criminal referral is largely symbolic, with the Justice Department ultimately deciding whether to prosecute Trump or others, it is a decisive end to an investigation that has had a near-single-minded focus from the start.
Chairman Benny Thompson, MP, said the criminal justice system could provide accountability after Trump “broke the faith” people had when they voted in a democracy.
“We are fully confident that the work of this committee will help create a road map to justice,” he said.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the panel, said in opening remarks that every president in American history has defended the orderly transfer of power “except one.”
The committee also voted 9-0 to approve the final report, which will include findings, interview transcripts and legislative recommendations. The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday.
A 154-page executive summary of the report released after the hearings concluded that Trump was involved in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the election. While most of the report’s main findings are not new, overall it is one of the most damning portraits of an American president in recent history, laying out in great detail Trump’s sweeping efforts to reverse his own defeat and what he believes legislators, is his direct responsibility for the uprising of his supporters.
The commission, which will dissolve Jan. 3 with the new Republican-led House, has conducted more than 1,000 interviews, held 10 well-attended public hearings and collected more than a million documents since its launch in July 2021. After amassing a vast body of evidence, members emboldened to say that Trump, a Republican, was responsible for the violent attack on the Capitol by his supporters nearly two years ago.
After fighting their way past police and injuring many of them, rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and disrupted the certification of Biden’s presidential victory, repeating Trump’s lie about widespread voter fraud and sending lawmakers and others running for their lives.
The attack followed weeks of efforts by Trump to reverse his defeat — a campaign that was detailed by the committee in its numerous public hearings and laid out again by lawmakers on a panel at Monday’s hearing. Many of Trump’s former aides testified about his unprecedented pressure on states, federal officials and Pence to oppose Biden’s victory. The committee also described in great detail how Trump infuriated a crowd at a rally that morning and then did little to stop his supporters for hours while watching the violence unfold on television.
The panel presented some new evidence at the meeting, including a recent interview with longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks. Describing a conversation with Trump around that time, she said he told her 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.”
Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but on Sunday the former president blasted committee members as “thugs and scoundrels” as he continued to falsely challenge his 2020 loss.
Although the so-called criminal referral has no real legal basis, it is a strong statement from the committee and increases political pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation into January 6 and Trump’s actions. .
Regarding the recommendation to charge Trump with aiding the uprising, the committee said in a summary of the report that the former president “was directly responsible for inciting what turned into a violent mob” and refused repeated requests from his aides to condemn the rioters or encourage them to leave.
The committee cited Trump’s relentless taunting of Vice President Mike Pence and others to prevent the January 6 election results from being certified as obstruction of justice. And his repeated lies about the election and efforts to overturn the results open him up to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, the group said.
The latest charge recommended by the panel is conspiracy to make a false statement, citing a scheme by Trump and his allies to release fake voter lists in battleground states won by President Joe Biden.
Among the other charges contemplated but not approved by the committee was seditious conspiracy, the same charge Justice Department prosecutors used against a subset of rioters belonging to far-right groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.
After the hearing, Thompson said the seditious conspiracy charge “is something the committee has not come to terms with.”
The panel was created in the summer of 2021 after Senate Republicans blocked what would have been a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the insurgency. When those efforts failed, the Democratic-controlled House created its own investigative committee.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a Trump ally, opted out after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected some of his appointments. That left room for two anti-Trump Republicans in the House — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to join the seven Democrats, launching an unusually unified caucus in a divided Congress.
While the committee’s mission was to provide a comprehensive account of the rebellion and inform the public about what had happened, they also targeted their work to an audience of one person: the attorney general. Lawmakers on the panel have openly pressured Garland to investigate Trump’s actions, and last month he appointed special counsel Smith to oversee two Trump-related investigations, including one related to the insurgency and the presence of classified documents in the Trump estate. in Florida.
The committee also sent five House Republicans — including McCarthy — on ethics charges who ignored congressional subpoenas from the panel.
The commission subpoenaed McCarthy, California, and representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Moe Brooks of Alabama. The panel investigated McCarthy’s conversations with Trump on the day of the attack and the meeting of four other lawmakers with the White House before Trump and some of his allies tried to overturn his election defeat.
Committee members said there is still work to be done, even as their work comes to an end.
“Our system is not a system of justice where soldiers go to jail and ringleaders get a free pass,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
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