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US Capitol Riot Panel Refers Trump, Associates for Criminal Prosecution


A video presentation plays as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill, Dec. 19, 2022.
A video presentation plays as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill, Dec. 19, 2022.

The congressional committee that investigated last year’s January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has unanimously voted to adopt a final report and refer former President Donald Trump and his associates for criminal prosecution.

After an 18-month investigation that included interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses, examination of a million pages of documents related to the final weeks of Trump’s presidency and 10 riveting public hearings, the House of Representatives panel concluded that Trump and close associates engaged in an “attempted coup.”

The committee comprises seven Democrats and two anti-Trump Republicans. It voted on whether to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department on whether Trump and key advisers should be prosecuted for their actions in trying to upend the election results and thwart Congress from certifying the state-by-state vote counts showing that Biden had defeated him.

The panel votes on the criminal referrals will have no official standing.

But its assessment could lend impetus to the ongoing criminal investigations of Trump and others that are being conducted by special counsel Jack Smith, subject to oversight by Attorney General Merrick Garland and a state prosecutor in the southern state of Georgia.

Last week, a Trump spokesman belittled the possibility of the criminal referrals.

“The January 6th un-Select Committee held show trials by Never-Trump partisans who are a stain on this country’s history,” spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. “This kangaroo court has been nothing more than a Hollywood executive’s vanity documentary project that insults Americans’ intelligence and makes a mockery of our democracy.”

Ahead of the committee votes on Monday, several panel members have made clear they think Trump and several of his aides should be prosecuted for engaging in a wide-ranging illegal effort to help him claim another four-year term in the White House.

They also blame him for fomenting the rampage at the Capitol when 2,000 of his supporters stormed the building, vandalized and ransacked congressional offices, scuffled with police, and for hours kept Congress from certifying the Electoral College outcome.

More than 960 people have been arrested on an array of charges linked to the mayhem, with about half of them already pleading guilty or convicted in trials. Several have been sentenced to more than four years in prison.

FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump breach the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump breach the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.

The riot was the worst attack on the Capitol, the symbol of U.S. democracy around the world, in two centuries.

In the United States, presidents are not elected by the national popular balloting, although Biden won 7 million more votes than Trump. Instead, presidents are elected in the Electoral College, depending on the state-by-state outcome in each of the 50 states, with the most populous states having the most electors and thus the most sway on the national outcome.

After the rioters were cleared from the Capitol, Congress eventually affirmed Biden’s victory in the early hours of January 7, 2021.

The committee's chairperson, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, said the referrals may include criminal, ethics violations, legal misconduct and campaign finance violations. The panel’s lawmakers have said Trump specifically could be singled out for alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress and insurrection.

One of the committee members, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show on Sunday that he believes Trump committed multiple crimes.

On the insurrection allegation, Schiff said, “If you look at Donald Trump's acts and you match them up against the statute, it's a pretty good match."

"This is someone who in multiple ways tried to pressure state officials to find votes that didn't exist. This is someone who tried to interfere with a joint session [of Congress as it tried to certify the Electoral College outcome], even inciting a mob to attack the Capitol," Schiff said.

"If that's not criminal, then I don't know what it is,” Schiff concluded.

Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin said last week that the committee's referrals will focus on "key players" where there is abundant evidence that they committed crimes.

Schiff said the committee on Monday could also make ethics referrals involving fellow lawmakers.

"We will also be considering what's the appropriate remedy for members of Congress who ignore a congressional subpoena, as well as the evidence that was so pertinent to our investigation, and why we wanted to bring them in," Schiff said. "We have weighed what is the remedy for members of Congress. Is it a criminal referral to another branch of government, or is it better that the Congress police its own?"

Among those who refused to comply with a subpoena from the January 6 committee was House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is attempting to become the House Speaker when Republicans take control of the chamber next month.

The committee is planning to release its final written report on Wednesday.