Jan. 6 panel recommends 4 criminal charges against Donald Trump

A video of former President Donald Trump is shown as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its final public hearing to discuss the findings of an 18-month investigation on December 19, 2022. Pool photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. House committee investigating the violent insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, unanimously referred former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department on Monday on four criminal charges.

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said the panel recommends Trump be charged with obstruction of an official proceeding of the U.S. government, as well as conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make false statements and to "incite," "assist" or "aid or comfort" an insurrection.


"We believe that the evidence described by my colleagues today and assembled throughout our hearings warrants a criminal referral of former President Donald J. Trump, John Eastman and others for violations of this statute," Raskin said of the obstruction of an official proceeding charge.


"The whole purpose and obvious effect of Trump's scheme were to obstruct, influence and impede this official proceeding, the central moment of the lawful transfer of power in the United States."

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Raskin said that the committee has "more than sufficient evidence" to refer Trump, adviser Eastman and others for the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

"Former President Trump did not engage in a plan to defraud the United States acting alone. He entered agreements, formal and informal, with several other individuals who assisted him with his criminal objectives," Raskin said.

"Our report describes in detail the actions of numerous co-conspirators who agreed with and participated in Trump's plan to impair, obstruct and defeat the certification of President [Joe] Biden's electoral victory."

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The committee said Eastman masterminded an unlawful scheme to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject states' electoral votes on Jan. 6 and have fake electors submitted to the Congress instead.

Responding to the intended criminal referral, attorney Eastman said that the "American people have been ill-served by the January 6th committee and its members."

In a statement, he said the committee's referral to DOJ, which is not binding, "carries no more weight than if a regular person had done it."


"In fact, a 'referral' from the January 6th committee should carry a great deal less weight due to the absurdly partisan nature of the process that produced it," he said.

Raskin added that the committee does not attempt to identify all of Trump's alleged co-conspirators. That will be left to the Justice Department in its own investigation.

The lawmaker said that the committee referred Trump for conspiracy to make a false statement because "the evidence clearly suggests that Trump conspired with others to submit slates of fake electors to Congress and the National Archives."

"We believe that the evidence set forth in our report is more than sufficient for a criminal referral of former President Donald J. Trump and others in connection with this offense," Raskin said.

The fourth referral was for inciting an insurrection, which was described by Raskin as a "rebellion against the authority of the United States."

"It is a grave federal offense, anchored in the Constitution itself, which repeatedly opposes insurrection and domestic violence and indeed uses participation in insurrection by officeholders as automatic disqualification from ever holding public office again at the federal or state level," Raskin said.

Raskin added that the four charges identified by the committee are "not the only statutes that are potentially relevant to President Trump's conduct" and that, depending on evidence collected by the Justice Department, he could face additional criminal charges.


"To cast a vote in the United States is an act of faith and hope. When we drop that ballot in the ballot box, we expect the people named on the ballot are going to uphold their end of the deal. The winner swears an oath and upholds it," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the committee's chairman, said in his opening remarks.

"Those who come up short ultimately accept the results and abide by the rule of law. That faith in our system is the foundation of American democracy. If that faith is broken, so is our democracy.

"Donald Trump broke that faith. He lost the 2020 election and knew it. But he chose to try to stay in office through a multi-part scheme, to overturn the results, and to block the transfer of power.

"In the end, he summoned a mob to Washington and knowing they were armed and angry, pointed them to the Capitol and told them to 'fight like hell.' There is no doubt about this."

After the committee's final report is released Wednesday, Thompson said the panel intends to publicize the "bulk" of its non-sensitive records before the end of the year.

"These transcripts and documents will allow the American people to see for themselves the body of evidence we've gathered and continue to explore the information that has led us to our conclusions," Thompson said.


Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in her opening remarks as the vice chair of the committee that "every president in our history has defended this orderly transfer of authority except one."

"Jan. 6, 2021, was the first time one American president refused his constitutional duty to transfer power peacefully to the next," said Cheney, one of two Republicans on the panel.

Cheney added that Trump's continued claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him are "flatly false."

"Among the most shameful of this committee's findings was that President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television," Cheney said.

"For hours, he would not issue a public statement instructing his supporters to disperse and leave the Capitol."

Cheney added that beyond being "unlawful," Trump's actions constituted an "utter moral failure" and a "dereliction of duty."

"No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again," Cheney said. "He is unfit for any office."

During the hearing, the panel played videos from key evidence uncovered in earlier hearings, including footage of rioters clashing with U.S. Capitol Police and testimony from officers like Caroline Edwards, who recounted "slipping in people's blood."


Another officer, Michael Fannone, said he was "swarmed by a violent mob" who ripped off his badge and radio and seized his ammunition and "began to beat him."

Other videos included testimony from former Attorney General Bill Barr from June, when he said he was "demoralized" by Trump's claims of voter fraud as well as other members of his inner circle who said his actions were not honest or professional.

The committee also played videos of rioters chanting to "hang Mike Pence," then vice president, and testimony from White House security officials who said his security team was beginning to fear for their own lives.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., noted during her opening remarks Monday that many of the committee's efforts to gather information during the investigation "required litigation in federal court," including before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Based on this assembled evidence, the select committee has reached a series of specific findings," Lofgren said.

"Now many of these findings have pertained to what has been called 'The Big Lie,' the enormous effort led by ex-President Trump to spread baseless accusations and misinformation in an attempt to falsely convince tens of millions of Americans that the election had been stolen from him."


Lofgren said Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election began before the election had even occurred, before he then chose to falsely declare himself the winner.

"Ex-President Trump's decision to declare victory falsely on election night wasn't a spontaneous decision. It was premeditated," Lofgren said.

"The committee has evidence that ex-President Trump planned to declare victory and unlawfully to call for the vote counting to stop and that he told numerous allies about his intent in the weeks before the election."

Lofgren added that funds raised by Trump's unsuccessful campaign for president have been used in "concerning" ways, particularly that some of the funds were used to hire lawyers and to offer employment to witnesses in the committee's probe.

"For example, one lawyer told a witness that the witness could in certain circumstances say that she didn't recall facts when she actually did recall them," Lofgren said.

"That lawyer also did not disclose who was paying for the lawyer's representation despite questions from the client seeking that information."

Lofgren added that since the committee's last hearing, lawmakers have obtained testimony from new witnesses who have come forward to detail their conversations with Trump -- including adviser Hope Hicks.


"Evidence of fraud on a scale that would have impacted the outcome of the election and I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging his legacy," Hicks said.

When asked about Trump's response to her comments, Hicks recalled the former president saying: "'Nobody will care about my legacy if I lose, so that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.'"

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., spoke in his opening remarks about Trump's efforts to put pressure on states in the aftermath of the election.

"Many state officials were targeted by President Trump and his campaign: the local election workers he accused and baselessly of election fraud, the state officials he pressured to stop the count or to find votes that didn't exist, and the state legislative officials he urged to disregard the popular will of the voters and their oath of office in order to name him the winner instead," Schiff said.

Schiff said that the most egregious example of the actions of Trump and his "enablers" included his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

The hearing wraps up a probe led by Thompson and Cheney that has lasted nearly 18 months.

In its previous hearing, the committee voted unanimously to subpoena former President Donald Trump to participate in "one or more days of deposition testimony."


However, committee leaders said Trump refused to comply with the order after suing to block the subpoena, as he and his top aides have refused to cooperate with the panel.

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