The referral, which was expected, came during the committee’s final meeting before releasing the final report on its investigation into the events of Jan. 6, 2021 and the larger effort to keep Trump in office despite losing handily to Joe Biden. The committee has said it will release the report on Wednesday.
Congress asking the Justice Department to criminally charge a former president is a historic move that speaks to the magnitude of the evidence the committee has gathered against Trump, who they have placed at the center of the scheme to overturn the election. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) laid out the details of the referrals, noting that the committee is seeking charges be brought against Trump for obstructing an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the United States government; knowingly and willingly making a false statement to the federal government; and inciting, assisting, or engaging in insurrection.
“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,” Raskin concluded. “But we have gone where the facts and the law lead us and inescapably they lead us here.”
It was later reported that the committee will also refer lawyers John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro, along with former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, for obstruction of an official proceeding. Eastman, Chesebro, and Clark will also be referred for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, as will Rudy Giuliani and former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Eastman and Chesebro will be referred for conspiracy to make a false statement charges, as well.
The committee has been investigating the Capitol riot for 18 months and interviewed over 1,000 witnesses. It subpoenaed Trump in October, but the former president has yet to comply. The committee previously referred former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for criminal charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena. Bannon was charged with contempt of Congress last November, and convicted this July before being sentenced to four months in prison. Leveling charges against a former president is a far more serious proposition, however, especially considering the charges in question are more complex than contempt of Congress.
It will now be up to the Justice Department, which has been conducting its own investigation into the events of Jan. 6 and the effort to overturn the election, to weigh the evidence and decide whether to do so. The Jan. 6 committee certainly believes they should. “There’s evidence Donald Trump committed criminal offenses in his effort to overturn the 2020 election,” committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote on Sunday. “He tried to interfere with a joint session. Pressed officials to find votes that didn’t exist. And set a bloodthirsty mob on the Capitol. If that’s not criminal, nothing is.”
Trump was not happy, railing against the committee on Truth Social.
“The Fake charges made by the highly partisan Unselect Committee of January 6th have already been submitted, prosecuted, and tried in the form of Impeachment Hoax #2,” he added. “I WON convincingly. Double Jeopardy anyone!”