“It’s notable that for the first time in history, the House has referred a former president for criminal prosecution,” said Professor Alan Rozenshtein, a national security law expert from the University of Minnesota and former Justice Department official. “And I think it’s particularly notable that they did not just do so on fraud and conspiracy – although those are important charges – but also on the charge of insurrection, which is particularly serious.”
The insurrection referral is the most damning of the claims made by the committee, which could exclude Trump from running for office if the department pursues the charge and secures a conviction. But this would require prosecutors to clear a high bar by proving beyond reasonable doubt that the former president intended to incite the violence that occurred that day.
According to the committee’s findings – some of which were unveiled today ahead of a lengthy full report to be released later this week – Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election was part of a multi-part, coordinated and premeditated plan. Elements included concocting an elaborate scheme to use fake electors to flip the 2020 election; attempting to corrupt his own Justice Department by pushing top law enforcement officials to cast doubt on the results; pressuring his vice president to stop Joe Biden’s election victory from being certified; and ignoring family and top aides who disagreed with his view that he could overturn the election results.
“In summary, President Trump lit the flame. He poured gasoline on the fire and sat by in the White House dining room for hours watching the fire burn, and today still continues to fan those flames. That was his extreme dereliction of duty,” said Democratic member Elaine Luria.
Trump – who last month announced his plan to run for the White House again in 2024 – has consistently claimed he is a victim of a witch hunt and has been using this narrative to fundraise for his campaign.
“Republicans and Patriots all over the land must stand strong and united against the Thugs and Scoundrels of the Unselect Committee. It will be a dark period in American history, but with darkness comes light!!!” he wrote on his Truth Social online platform ahead of today’s hearing.
The former president is also the subject of multiple other investigations. Among them are two Justice Department probes – one into the mishandling of sensitive documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate; the other into his attempts to subvert the 2020 election.
In Trump’s former home city of New York, he is now facing multiple investigations into his company and personal finances. And in the battleground of Georgia, prosecutors are investigating whether Trump and his allies broke the law by trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in that state, too.
The department’s inquiry into the Capitol attack is the largest criminal investigation in the department’s history. More than 900 people across the US are now facing charges for taking part in the violence, and prosecutors have indicated that hundreds more cases could be filed.
“We have every confidence that the work of this committee will help provide a roadmap to justice and that the agencies and institutions responsible for ensuring justice under the law will use the information we provided the aid in their work,” Thompson said.
The committee’s work over the past 18 months has been informed by about 1000 interviews, more than one million documents, about 100 subpoenas and countless public tips to a confidential hotline. The most powerful testimonies came from those within Trump’s own orbit, such as his former attorney general Bill Barr, former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson, his then-legal counsel Pat Cipollone, and daughter Ivanka Trump.
Today’s referrals mark the start of a bad week for the former US president. Tomorrow (US time) another Congressional committee – House Ways and Means Committee – will meet privately to discuss what to do with the six years of Trump’s tax returns that it finally obtained after years of legal efforts by the former president to block their release.
On Wednesday, the committee will hand down its multi-part finally report on the January 6 probe, which will also include numerous investigations to stop such an incident from happening again. And also today, jury selection began into the role of far-right group The Proud Boys in the capital riots.
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