There is growing expectation that Donald Trump could be charged with preventing Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s election this year as a House panel gathers further evidence of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, former say Prosecutors and other experts.
Speculation about possible charges against the former U.S. president was sparked by a recent rhetorical bombshell by Republican representative and Vice-Chairwoman Liz Cheney on Jan.
Former prosecutors say if the panel finds new evidence that Trump’s role is interfering with the work of Congress to confirm Biden’s election, it could help support a possible Justice Department case.
In different ways, Cheney’s comments were taken up by two other members of the House Special Committee, Republican Adam Kinzinger and Democrat Jamie Raskin, which sparked discussion of how an obstruction law could apply to Trump, which would lead the panel to one Making criminal evidence would be for the Justice Department to investigate, DoJ veterans say.
Cheney’s remarks, creating the specter of criminal charges against Trump, came twice at committee hearings earlier this month. Experts believe the allegations, in the face of Trump’s actions on Jan.
“Based on what is already publicly available, there is strong evidence that numerous individuals inside and outside the government have tried – and at least for a while – an official process – that is, the certification of the president – to impede the election,” said former Justice Department inspector general and former prosecutor Michael Bromwich in a statement to the Guardian. “It’s a crime.”
While a referral to the House of Representatives over Trump’s obstruction would not compel the DOJ to initiate criminal proceedings against him, it could help provide more evidence of one and put pressure on the judiciary to move forward, former prosecutors say.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has so far declined to say whether his department may already be investigating Trump and his key allies over their role in the Capitol attack.
The panel has gathered significant evidence, including more than 30,000 recordings and interviews with more than 300 people, including some key White House staff.
The evidence against Trump himself could include his actions at the Stop the Steal rally near the White House, where he urged supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell”. [or] you will have no more land ”. Trump then for hours resisted multiple appeals from Republicans and others to urge his violent supporters to stop the attack.
Recent judgments by Trump-appointed district court judges have endorsed the use of the obstruction law, which federal prosecutors have cited in approximately 200 cases where rioters were charged by the DOJ for their role in the Capitol attack that injured approximately 140 police officers and killed five became.
However, experts point out that the role of the House Committee was to compile a comprehensive report on the events of January 6 and work on legislation to prevent such attacks on democracy. They warn that any criminal referral to the DOJ that documents Trump’s obstruction of Congress will take time and more evidence to support an investigation by the DOJ.
Some DOJ veterans say that any referral to the DOJ by the House of Representatives for criminal proceedings against Trump – and perhaps top allies like former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, whom the House cited last week for criminal contempt for refusing to This includes Trump’s aggressive pressure on federal and state officials before Jan. 6 to block Biden’s victory with unfounded allegations of fraud.
Bromwich stressed that “the evidence that would unequivocally prove disability is growing steadily. The final question is who would be the defendants in such a disability case? There is growing evidence that this could legally and in fact include Trump, Meadows and other members of Trump’s closest circle. “
Cheney first raised the issue of Trump’s potential guilt at a House hearing last week when she demanded that Meadows be despised for his refusal to be deposed and then hit Trump with a rhetorical bombshell.
“We know hours have passed without the president doing anything to protect the United States Congress from attack while we were counting the votes,” Cheney said.
“Has Donald Trump corruptly tried, by acting or failing to act, to impede or impede the official process of Congress for counting votes?”
Cheney’s comments on Trump were very precise, including those from the Criminal Disability Act, and she stated that her question was a “key” issue for the panel’s legislative work.
Raskin, too, has told Politico that the question of whether Trump broke the law by obstructing an official process “is clearly one of the things some members of the committee are concerned about”.
“The possibility of a disability charge is legally permissible,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former DOJ attorney who served on Ken Starr’s team during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, noting that two Trump-appointed district judges “before recently stated that the law will cease efforts on January 6th to stop the election count ”.
For example, in a recent advisory opinion, Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected the allegation made by some defendants who challenged the DOJ’s view that the January 6th session of Congress conformed to the legal definition of “official process”.
Rosenzweig suggested that given Trump’s various attempts to undermine election results before January 6, a wider conspiracy case could be another option for prosecutors. Should the DOJ look into broader conspiracy allegations, Trump’s continued pressure on incumbent Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his senior deputy to assist in blocking Biden’s victory would likely be relevant, former prosecutors say.
On a call on December 27, 2020, Trump urged Rosen and his deputy to falsely label the election as “illegal” and “corrupt” despite the DOJ finding no evidence of widespread election fraud.
Paul Pelletier, a former acting chief of the DOJ’s fraud division, said Cheney’s statements “were carefully crafted and apparently based on evidence the committee saw. Should Congress ultimately refer the case to the DOJ for investigation and prosecution, the DOJ’s investigation would not be limited to a single charge of disability, but rather investigate broader conspiracy allegations that may involve Trump and other key loyalists. “
The panel has quickened its pace lately by sending out dozens of subpoenas for documents and testimony, some to shut down Trump advisers. Meadows has become a central subject of the investigation, in part due to tweets he received during and near the insurrection, which are among the roughly 9,000 documents he turned over to the panel, much to Trump’s annoyance.
With limited success Trump’s efforts to prevent the panel from moving forward, he has relied on sending out email attacks, including one last month that read, “The Unselect Committee itself is rigged, piled with Never trumpers, Republican enemies and two disgraced RINOs, Cheney and Kinzinger, who could not be voted ‘dog catchers’ in their districts. “
Despite Trump’s furious attacks on the panel, some ex-prosecutors say prosecuting Trump is important to the health of American democracy – if enough evidence is found to justify a charge.
Former Georgia US attorney Michael J. Moore told the Guardian, “I hate to think of a legal system that allows the most powerful person in the country to go unchallenged when he’s surrendered his highest priority, namely the security of our citizens. Trump’s behavior that day was not unlike a Mafia boss. “