House Jan. 6 committee recommends criminal charges against Trump

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The House panel investigating the violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol urged the Justice Department on Monday to seek criminal charges against former President Donald Trump for his extensive efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Lawmakers recommended charges on four counts stemming from Trump’s monthslong effort to stay in power after his election defeat — obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and efforts to incite, assist, or aid or comfort an insurrection.

Then-President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives to speak at a rally in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.  (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Then-President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives to speak at a rally in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The panel voted unanimously to send the criminal referrals to the Justice Department. The referrals, which mark the first time that the House has recommended criminal charges against a former president, do not guarantee that Trump will be indicted — but they do add to the evidence being weighed by the Justice Department and special counsel Jack Smith in its own investigation of Trump.

Members of the panel argued that Trump’s efforts to overthrow the election results — including pushing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and urging his supporters to send fake electors to Washington — form enough evidence for federal prosecutors to win a conviction against the former president.

“Even if it were true that President Trump genuinely believed the election was stolen, this is no defense. No president can ignore the courts and purposely violate the law no matter what supposed ‘justification’ he or she presents,” House investigators wrote in a section of their report released Monday.

The House committee made criminal referrals against John Eastman, a lawyer and Trump loyalist who aided the former president's efforts to overturn his election loss, on the same charges except the insurrection offense.

Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington on Janury 6, 2021.  (John Minchillo/AP)
Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington on Janury 6, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP)

The panel also recommended the House ethics committee investigate colleagues who brushed aside congressional subpoenas seeking testimony on their knowledge and efforts about the Jan. 6 attack — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa.

In advance of Monday’s final hearing, Trump attacked the House lawmakers in posts to his social media platform, Truth Social.

“The Unselect Committee of political hacks are the same group that came up with the RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA HOAX, not to mention many others. They are Corrupt cowards who hate our Country!” he wrote.

Trump did not directly address the report’s findings, including the core tenet that he goaded his followers to action but didn’t join them himself, but he did repeat his unfounded claims that the 2020 election was “rigged and stolen.”

The criminal referrals mark a historic end to the 18-month-long investigation by the House select committee and are detailed in the portions of its report released Monday. The release comes just days before House Republicans, including many who worked with Trump in his effort to toss the 2020 election results, take power next month as a result of the November midterms.

Protesters clash with Capitol Police.
Protesters clash with Capitol Police on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In a 154-page section of the panel’s larger report, which is expected to be released publicly later this week, lawmakers wrote that Trump obstructed an official proceeding of Congress with his repeated efforts to delay or deny the counting of the electoral votes on Jan. 6 that would finalize the transfer of power to then-President-elect Joe Biden.

The lawmakers wrote that Trump committed a “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” particularly when he offered to make Clark acting attorney general if Clark agreed to help him push the fake electors scheme by falsely claiming the Justice Department had found evidence of widespread voter fraud.

They also wrote that Trump entered into a “conspiracy to make a false statement” when he “conspired with others to submit fake electors to Congress and the National Archives.”

And for the fourth criminal referral, they wrote that Trump sought to incite, assist or aid and comfort an insurrection. “President Trump was directly responsible for summoning what became a violent mob to Washington, D.C., urging them to march to the Capitol, and then further provoking that already violent and lawless crowd with his 2:24 p.m. tweet about the vice president,” the lawmakers wrote.