Earlier this week, Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson told reporters that the House select committee on Jan. 6 would be making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. According to Thompson, the committee was in “general agreement” on the referrals, but had not yet determined exactly what charges they would be forwarding to the Department of Justice.
“I wish I could tell you one, two, three, four,” said Thompson, “but that’s all still being discussed.”
However, on Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the committee, appeared on NPR to discuss what the committee has learned, and what should be expected in the short time before Republicans follow through on threats to shut down the investigation. Schiff was definitely more specific when it came to who might be facing charges.
Schiff: I can't go into the particulars of what we may refer, but just looking, for example, at what Judge Carter in California had to say ... and he concluded that President Trump and others were likely engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct the Congress in its work. So there you have a federal jurist who's making that determination. And obviously, those are facts that we weigh, along with a body of evidence that was not available to the judge.
The Department of Justice isn’t required to act on any charges brought by the committee, but after almost 18 months of investigations and receiving testimony that has not yet been heard by the public, there’s little doubt that the select committee members and staff are among the best-informed people on the planet when it comes to the events of Jan. 6, the planning that went into that day, and how Donald Trump’s entire scheme to overturn the 2020 election led directly to bloody violence in and around the Capitol.
If the select committee forwards recommendations, Republicans will try to dismiss it as political. But it will have real weight. The Department of Justice will, at the very least, take a closer look at any charges forwarded and how they fit with the evidence it has already seen.
Schiff provided some insight into the class of criminal acts that are likely to be noted by the committee.
Schiff: … generally, those referrals involve crimes against the institution of the Congress, so people who are refusing to testify or people who commit perjury when they testify. But here you have the ultimate crime against Congress. And that was a violent attack on a Congress doing its work to certify a presidential election. So it's consistent with what we've done in the past if we go forward. At the same time, it's a whole new level of seriousness in terms of what we'd be referring.
Acknowledging that Republicans have made it clear they intend to close down the select committee as soon as they take control of the House, Schiff indicated that the committee intends to preserve the evidence it has collected so that the Republicans can’t sweep it all under the nearest My Pillow.
Schiff: We intend to make our evidence public and in that way make sure that is accessible to everyone, to the Justice Department, so that when the Republicans take over, they can't cherry-pick certain evidence and mislead the country with some false narrative.
It’s safe to assume there will be cherry-picking and false narratives no matter what the committee makes public, and that too many outlets in the national media will give more attention to the concocted “scandals” put forward by Republicans than the real evidence of criminal behavior found by the bipartisan committee.
Even so, criminal referrals will have an impact. Now it’s just a matter of who will be charged and how severe those charges are going to be. Speaking to NBC News all the way back in April, Rep. Liz Cheney said it was “absolutely clear” that Trump had engaged in illegal acts, and that he knew they were illegal. So it seems unlikely she’d be lobbying for any reduced charge today.
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