Plans by a House committee on Jan. 6 to soon release its list of criminal extraditions are raising questions about how far the panel will go to implicate former President Trump and his allies in a plot that the t -resulting in a deadly attack on the Capitol.
Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters Tuesday that the committee reached “general agreement” to send criminal referrals to the Justice Department.
It’s a move that would allow the panel to fine-tune its year-long investigation, naming names and specifying specific statutes that were violated in what it repeatedly said was a lawless campaign for the peaceful transfer of block power.
And while it would still be up to the Department of Justice to act on the recommendations, it could put pressure on a department that, at least publicly, left the committee in its own review on January 6.
“They stiffen the spine of state and federal prosecutors by encouraging them to act,” Norm Eisen, counsel for Democrats in Trump’s first impeachment, said of the referrals on a call with reporters.
Legal experts have argued for some time that there are several statutes that could be used for a possible prosecution of Trump, including conspiracy to defraud the US.
But another question for the committee is how broad they will go in describing potential illegal behavior among allies.
“This is what we’re discussing as we enter the final days of our work on this important investigation,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of the committee’s members, said in an interview Wednesday morning on NPR .
“And that is, what would be the impact of our referrals if we did referrals, against whom and for what offences?”
Publications from the Department of Justice
The Justice Department previewed the scope of its investigation in a November request made public this week, sending subpoenas to local officials in three states — Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin — seeking any communications with just under 20 campaign officials. and Trump associates.
That group includes a wide variety of lawyers who work in various capacities for the campaign, such as Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, who created memos encouraging Vice President Mike Pence to perform his ceremonial duty to certify the election results. They were all involved in efforts i seven key states where Trump lost to President Biden igniting pressure from the campaign to send false slates of voters from each.
Others listed on the publication include campaign manager Bill Stepien, who shared the panel’s testimony critical of Trump’s efforts, and Bernard Kerik, an assistant to Giuliani investigating the fraud claims Trump was pushing.
How far could referrals go?
But a referral from the committee could cast a wider net, particularly for those within the government who have aided Trump’s efforts. That includes then-chief of staff Mark Meadows as well as Jeffrey Clark, whom Trump has considered installing as attorney general to investigate his baseless claims of election fraud.
Some members of the committee have suggested that the referrals could go beyond just Trump.
“We are all very careful about who is responsible. The role played by the former president on January 6th has been outlined in our hearings, and in terms of supporting the United States Capitol and making it known and telling his supporters to come out here. Aguilar (D-Calif.), a member of the panel, said in an interview with CNN.
But doing it right, Aguilar went on to say, means “telling the truth and making sure within the time we have that we ask all the questions available and we are not shy about making suggestions and recommendations, to the United to protect. State Capitol as well as holding people accountable.”
There is a bounty of statutes that Justice Department lawyers could use to cut those involved in the policy from staying in power.
A federal judge in California has already determined that Trump, in collaboration with Eastman, probably committed a conspiracy to defraud the US as well as another crime, obstructing an official event, which prompted the use of violence.
The ruling came from Judge David Carter in a civil case in which Eastman challenged his duty to turn over documents to the committee.
Beyond federal crimes, Trump’s attempt could run afoul of various state statutes — a dynamic already seen in Georgia as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis conducts her own investigation into a push to “find” additional votes for Trump and challenge give the results of the election with flawed claims. of fraud.
Prosecution of cases January 6
But what matters most to prosecutors is whether they can successfully win a guilty verdict in high-profile cases, which can be more challenging under certain statutes that require a showing of intent.
The Department of Justice also has a mixed track record in adopting the committee’s recommendations.
The panel, followed by the full House, voted to censure four people the committee seized who they say failed to comply with their subpoenas.
The Justice Department brought cases against two of the figures – one-time White House strategist Steve Bannon and Trump adviser Peter Navarro. But he declined to do so in the case of Meadows — who provided several requested documents sought by the committee — or Dan Scavino, Trump’s communications guru.
Maybe DOJ wants more than referrals
The decision on referrals comes after the panel formed a subcommittee of its four lawyers to consider the decision and make specific recommendations.
Eisen said that while any referral would likely include legal analysis and statute-by-statute recommendations, the Justice Department may be more eager to get other information from the committee.
“The roadmap, the evidence – that’s the most important part. If I’m a prosecutor, I’d much rather have the evidence than the legal analysis and the conclusion of whether to charge you,” he said.
So far the committee has resisted calls from the DOJ to share its work, even after the panel agreed to share about 20 transcripts with investigators. Thompson said they were never turned over because the committee “decided not to do it,” pointing out that the DOJ would receive the final report along with the public.
Schiff said the committee weighed details.
“To what extent should we detail the evidence, knowing that the Justice Department has sources of evidence that we don’t have, that she was able to execute certain subpoenas and testify that we couldn’t?” he said.
“So in some ways, I think the information that we will provide will exceed that of the Department. In other areas, they have more evidence than we do.”