The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol took the major – albeit largely symbolic – step of voting to recommend criminal charges against a former president, along with one of his key allies and “others” on Monday while introducing a handful of new findings.
Nearly a year and a half after lawmakers began their investigation of “enormous scale,” compiling a mountain of evidence including testimony from more than a thousand witnesses that the public saw only glimpses of during the panel’s numerous hearings in recent months, the committee took a bow on Monday, armed with multiple referrals to the Justice Department and a forthcoming report that’s expected to leave little to the imagination.
“The evidence we have gathered points to further action beyond the power of this committee or this Congress to help ensure accountability under law – the accountability that can only be found in the criminal justice system,” Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said. “We have every confidence that the work of this committee will help provide a road map to justice.”
The panel voted to refer four criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department on Monday: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make false statements to the government and insurrection. The committee also referred charges against John Eastman, one of Trump’s lawyers and the author of the plan to overturn the election results, along with “others” who were not specified.
“We understand the gravity of each and every referral we are making today, just as we understand the magnitude of the crime against democracy that we described in our report,” Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said. “But we have gone where the facts and the law lead us and inescapably they lead us here.”
The panel also agreed to refer four members of Congress – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona – to the House Ethics Committee for failure to comply with subpoenas issued by the Jan. 6 panel for their testimony.
While introducing the referrals, Raskin seemed to acknowledge that, although the Justice Department has prosecuted a number of rioters who participated in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, “ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass.”
Apart from the referrals, Monday’s meeting reminded viewers of the findings displayed in the panel’s previous hearings. At times, members often stated plainly what had previously been more subtly veiled.
“He is unfit for any office,” GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming said of Trump on Monday.
The committee also introduced a handful of new findings on Monday, including more details on an apparent effort from Trump’s circle to tamper with a witness that the panel alluded to earlier this year, offering the witness employment in an effort to affect her testimony and effectively urging the witness to be less-than truthful under oath. The panel also featured a clip from a recent interview with former White House communications director Hope Hicks, where she detailed Trump’s apparent concern over his legacy if he did not win the election, along with new details about her own urging that Trump needed to make clear to rioters in a tweet that the violence should end on Jan. 6, to no avail.
Indeed, the summary and new findings were perhaps a glimpse of the committee’s final report, which the panel voted to officially adopt on Monday. The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday.
While the referrals are largely symbolic – and could even detract from a DOJ investigation already underway by threatening to politicize the probe, despite the efforts of Attorney General Merrick Garland to meticulously remove any appearance of partisan bias – the report could be more substantial and far-reaching. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, 64% of voters say they’re at least somewhat likely to read the committee’s final report.
Monday’s meeting comes two years to the day after the former president, whose hope of finding an avenue to overturn the election results was fading, seemed to take matters into his own hands with a single tweet that the committee said would “unleash a political firestorm.”
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump wrote. “Be there, will be wild!”
It also comes as the sun sets on the the 117th Congress, which under Democratic control often rebuked the former president and used its subpoena power to uncover more details about his actions while in office, and as a new GOP House majority – helmed by some of those who have since Jan. 6 returned to Trump’s side – takes charge.