WASHINGTON | The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is considering recommending the Justice Department pursue an unprecedented criminal charge of insurrection and two other counts against former President Donald Trump.
Besides insurrection, an uprising aiming to overthrow the government, the panel is also considering recommending prosecutors pursue charges for obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The committee’s deliberations were continuing late Friday, and no decisions were formalized on which specific charges the committee would refer to the Justice Department.
The panel is to meet publicly Monday afternoon when any recommendation will be made public.
The deliberations were confirmed to the AP by a person familiar with the matter who could not discuss the matter publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. A second person familiar with the deliberations confirmed the committee was considering three charges.
The decision to issue referrals is not unexpected. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice chair of the committee, has for months been hinting at sending the Justice Department criminal referrals based on the extensive evidence the nine-member panel has gathered since it was formed in July 2021.
“You may not send an armed mob to the Capitol; you may not sit for 187 minutes and refuse to stop the attack while it’s underway. You may not send out a tweet that incites further violence,” Cheney said about Trump on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ in October. “So we’ve been very clear about a number of different criminal offenses that are likely at issue here.”
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., detailed possible referrals last week as falling into a series of categories that include criminal and ethics violations, legal misconduct and campaign finance violations.
It would then fall to federal prosecutors to decide whether to pursue any referrals for prosecution. While it doesn’t carry any legal weight, recommendations by the committee would add to the political pressure on the Justice Department as it investigates Trump’s actions.
“The gravest offense in constitutional terms is the attempt to overthrow a presidential election and bypass the constitutional order,” committee member Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told reporters last week. “Subsidiary to all of that are a whole host of statutory offenses, which support the gravity and magnitude of that violent assault on America.”
Raskin, along with Cheney and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, comprised the subcommittee that drafted the referral recommendations and presented them to the larger group for consideration.
Over the course of its investigation, the committee has made recommendations that several members of Trump’s inner circle should be prosecuted for refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. One, for Steve Bannon, has resulted in a conviction.