WASHINGTON — Members of the House Jan. 6 committee said Sunday they can make criminal references to federal prosecutors implicating former President Donald Trump and his efforts to reverse the 2020 election results.
During Sunday’s programs to discuss the Congressional investigation and public hearings, committee members said that while no formal decision has been made, they can envision multiple referrals to the Justice Department based on evidence they uncovered when investigating the events surrounding the attack on the United States Capitol.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice chair and one of two Republicans on the panel, said “we will make a decision as a committee” on whether or not to warn the Department of Justice of potential crimes it could commit. has discovered.
“The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the commission to make a criminal referral, and there could be more than one criminal referral,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”
She also pointed to last week’s explosive public hearing in which Cassidy Hutchinson, the former top aide to Mark Meadows when he was White House chief of staff, detailed Trump’s outbursts the day he urged supporters to march to the Capitol. “I don’t care if they have guns,” Trump said, urging his aides to remove magnetometers near the White House before holding a “Stop the Steal” rally, Hutchinson testified. “They’re not here to hurt me.”
“It’s very horrifying, and I think we’re going to, you know, continue to present to the American people what we’ve found,” Cheney said.
Asked if she was concerned about prosecuting a former president who could soon announce a new presidential bid in 2024, Cheney said: “I’m more concerned about what it would mean if people weren’t held accountable for what happened here. .”
The panel is divided on whether it should refer its findings to the Department of Justice. Last month, the committee chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters that “we have no authority” when he was pressured about whether the panel had ruled out the possibility of referring criminal charges for Trump.
As the commission continues to gather new evidence, other members appear to be rallying behind a referral, which would increase pressure on the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s actions. So far, the Department has said federal prosecutors are investigating the plan to push fake electoral college members who declare Trump the winner of the states that Joe Biden has won.
At the latest public hearing in which Hutchinson testified, Cheney pointed to a new concern: The committee had learned that Trump allies had tried to influence witnesses who cooperated with the panel.
NBC News has asked a Trump spokesperson for comment.
Trump has not been charged with any crimes and the commission has no prosecution powers. In public statements, Trump denounced the commission as a “kangaroo court” and said Hutchinson’s account was false.
Another committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., agreed with Cheney that the commission could send multiple criminal referrals. He suggested that the Justice Department would be wrong to excuse Trump just because he is a former president.
“You know, the Justice Department has taken the stance for four years that you can’t charge a sitting president,” Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If the department now takes the position that you can’t investigate or charge a former president, then a president will be above the law.”
Schiff’s comments point to mounting tensions between the commission and the Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Department officials have urged the commission to share transcripts of its witness interviews, lamenting its “failure” to provide the material promptly.
Citing some officials, The New York Times reported last week that federal prosecutors were “astonished” by Hutchinson’s testimony. Asked about that, Representative Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, another committee member, said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press”: “I was surprised the prosecutors were surprised. What are they doing there?”