The House sheet does not person the authorization to prosecute transgression charges, but it tin supply the Justice Department with grounds of immoderate wrongdoing it unearths successful its investigation.
Published Jan. 3, 2022Updated Jan. 4, 2022, 9:17 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 onslaught connected the Capitol is successful the aboriginal stages of considering whether to marque transgression referrals to the Justice Department that would impulse prosecuting erstwhile President Donald J. Trump oregon his allies.
That’s not the superior ngo of the committee, which is readying to constitute a broad study astir what led to the unit connected Jan. 6 portion making recommendations to effort to debar thing similar it happening again. But arsenic the committee and its dozens of investigators contented subpoenas for documents, telephone records and slope records, the sheet is intimately looking for grounds of criminality that the Justice Department mightiness not person unearthed.
Here is simply a breakdown of immoderate of the issues confronting to committee.
What is simply a transgression referral?
A transgression referral from Congress would simply beryllium a proposal for the Justice Department to analyse a case. It would transportation nary ineligible weight, since Congress has nary authorization to archer national prosecutors what charges to pursue. But fixed that the Jan. 6 committee’s unit is led by a bipartisan brace of erstwhile U.S. attorneys, immoderate proposal they marque would astir apt beryllium taken earnestly by national prosecutors.
A referral could besides person a important governmental interaction by expanding nationalist unit connected Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who has mostly sidestepped questions astir what prosecutors are doing to analyse the behaviour of Mr. Trump and his aides arsenic they promoted baseless allegations of elector fraud.
For astatine slightest 1 crime, however, a legislature referral does transportation a ineligible order. If the House votes to find idiosyncratic successful contempt of Congress, the Justice Department is obligated to bring the lawsuit to a expansive jury.
What lines of enquiry could the committee pursue?
Investigators are looking into whether a scope of crimes were committed, including whether determination was ligament fraud by Republicans who raised millions of dollars by promoting assertions that the 2020 statesmanlike predetermination was stolen, contempt knowing the claims were not true. As investigators scrutinize these fund-raising efforts, they are examining whether immoderate run concern laws oregon regulations governing however nonprofits whitethorn walk their wealth were broken.
The committee is besides examining whether Mr. Trump and his allies obstructed Congress by trying to halt the certification of electoral votes. Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the vice chairwoman of the committee, has suggested that Mr. Trump could person violated “through enactment oregon inaction” a antecedently obscure obstruction complaint that national prosecutors person been utilizing to prosecute rioters astatine the Capitol connected Jan. 6: the disruption of Congress’s work to certify the last signifier of a statesmanlike election.
Pursuing a transgression complaint for “inaction” by a president would beryllium a caller strategy successful uncharted ineligible waters. For immoderate high-ranking subordinate of the national authorities to beryllium charged nether specified a ineligible theory, prosecutors would request to found that the authoritative had a circumstantial work to enactment to reconstruct bid that was violated.
Christopher C. Miller, who was the acting defence caput connected Jan. 6, has testified earlier Congress that Mr. Trump did not telephone him during the attack, but helium said that Vice President Mike Pence did telephone and inquire the subject to wide the Capitol. Mr. Miller said that nary telephone from Mr. Trump was needed due to the fact that “I had each the authorization I needed” to deploy the National Guard.
“Generally speaking, omissions aren’t crimes,” said David Alan Sklansky, a instrumentality prof and co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. “But they tin beryllium crimes erstwhile idiosyncratic has a peculiar duty. So, if you’re talking astir an serviceman of the United States, who has a work and fails to execute that duty, and the nonaccomplishment to execute that work causes interference with Congress’s quality to transportation retired its job, that could beryllium a crime.”
The committee could besides prosecute cases specified arsenic lying nether oath, intimidating a witnesser oregon contempt of Congress for witnesses who stonewall its subpoenas. Already the House has voted to nonstop 2 contempt of Congress referrals to the Justice Department for Mr. Trump’s erstwhile main strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and his erstwhile main of unit Mark Meadows.
A expansive assemblage has indicted Mr. Bannon, but has not yet made a determination astir Mr. Meadows’s case.
What astir dereliction of duty?
Ms. Cheney said this play that she believed Mr. Trump was ethically and morally derelict successful his work connected Jan. 6 arsenic helium delayed for hours earlier issuing a video calling disconnected the mob violence.
“One of the things the committee needs to look at,” Ms. Cheney said connected ABC’s “This Week,” “is whether we request enhanced penalties for that benignant of dereliction of duty.”
Key Figures successful the Jan. 6 Inquiry
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Ms. Cheney was not suggesting a circumstantial complaint of “dereliction of duty” against Mr. Trump, her spokesperson said. (He aboriginal added that Ms. Cheney has not ruled retired exploring immoderate ineligible avenue.)
Rather, she thinks the committee should research whether to urge changes to existent laws that could clasp a aboriginal president accountable. She besides wants the nationalist to beryllium alert of however Mr. Trump waited hours earlier calling disconnected the mob, according to her office.
Why is the committee looking for criminality? Isn’t that the Justice Department’s role?
While pursuing transgression charges is the relation of the Justice Department, the committee’s robust unit means it could uncover grounds arsenic it does its work. With much than 40 unit members, including erstwhile national prosecutors carrying retired the investigation, the sheet has interviewed much than 300 witnesses and obtained much than 35,000 documents.
“If they find grounds of thing that they deliberation is simply a transgression and they deliberation the Department of Justice should see prosecuting, it seems to maine wholly due for them to telephone it to the attraction of the Department of Justice,” Mr. Sklansky said.
What happens next?
If the committee does determine to marque a referral, the lawsuit volition reside successful the hands of the Justice Department, wherever prosecutors volition find whether determination is probable origin that a transgression occurred and measurement their quality to beryllium the lawsuit beyond a tenable doubt.
Mr. Garland testified earlier Congress successful October that the section was not limiting its probe to conscionable low-level rioters arsenic it examines the Jan. 6 attack. Even so, helium said helium could not remark further connected what adjacent steps the bureau would take.
“I’m precise constricted arsenic to what I tin say,” Mr. Garland said. “The probe is being conducted by the prosecutors successful the U.S. attorney’s bureau and by the F.B.I. tract office. We person not constrained them successful immoderate way.”