Common Dreams Logo

This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on December 19, 2022. It is shared here with permission.

The congressional committee probing the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Monday concluded its proceedings by unanimously voting to recommend that Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department investigate former President Donald Trump and some of his associates for four crimes in connection with the deadly insurrection.

“Donald Trump knowingly and corruptly repeated election fraud lies, which incited his supporters to violence on January 6.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House select committee on the January 6 attack and lead manager of Trump’s historic second impeachment after the insurrection, said during Monday’s hearing that the four alleged crimes are influencing or impeding an official proceeding of the U.S. government; conspiring to defraud the U.S.; unlawfully, knowingly, or willingly making false statements to the federal government; and assisting or engaging in insurrection against the United States.

The committee’s recommendation follows more than 1,000 witness interviews and 10 public hearings examining the far-right insurrection by supporters of Trump and his “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The panel previously found that Trump disseminated lies about the election; that he was part of a plan to put forth false electors; and that he pressed Republican state officials, the DOJ, and then-Vice President Mike Pence to participate in the plot.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the January 6 committee, said during his opening remarks Monday that Trump— who has already announced his campaign for the 2024 GOP nomination—”broke the faith” of U.S. elections.

“He lost the 2020 election and knew it. But he chose to try to stay in office through a multipart scheme to overturn the results and block the transfer of power,” Thomspon said. “We’ve never had a president of the United States stir up a violent attempt to block the transfer of power.”

Thompson stressed that if the U.S. “is to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again.”

“Evidence we’ve gathered warrants further action beyond the power of this committee or the Congress to help ensure accountability on the law,” he said. “We have every confidence that the work of this committee will help provide a roadmap to justice, and that the agencies and institutions responsible for ensuring justice under the law will use the information we provide to aid in their work.”

Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said during the hearing that there was “an enormous effort led by ex-President Trump to spread baseless accusations and disinformation in an attempt to falsely convinced tens of millions of Americans that the election had been stolen from him.”

“Ex-President Trump’s decision to declare victory falsely on election night wasn’t a spontaneous decision. It was premeditated,” she continued. “The committee has evidence that the ex-president planned to declare victory, and unlawfully to call for the vote counting to stop.”

“The committee found that Mr. Trump raised hundreds of millions of dollars with false representations made to his online donors,” Lofgren noted. “The proceeds from his fundraising, we have learned, have been used in ways that we believe are concerning.”

“Donald Trump knowingly and corruptly repeated election fraud lies, which incited his supporters to violence on January 6, [and he] continues to repeat this meritless claim that the election was stolen even today,” she added. “[He] continues to erode our most cherished and shared belief in free and fair elections.”

The DOJ is not required to act on the panel’s referrals, which carry no legal weight. However, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a committee member and a lead manager of Trump’s second impeachment, stressed that “the Justice Department must apply the same standard of law to Donald Trump as they would to any citizen.” 

“That’s what Attorney General Garland promised to do,” Schiff added. “And the country will hold the department to it.”

Progressive politicians and advocacy groups renewed calls for Trump’s prosecution following the committee’s referral, with Progressive Congressional Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) calling the former president’s actions “crimes against the American people and against our very democracy.”

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted, “No one is above the law. That’s why the criminal referral the January 6 Committee may make today is so important.”

“Trump needs to be indicted for the crimes he committed trying to overturn a free and fair election and the insurrection he incited, trying to cling to power,” the group added.

Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said in a statement that “the evidence presented by the bipartisan January 6 Committee leaves no doubt that Donald Trump engaged in conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, obstructed Congress from an official proceeding (the certification of the election), engaged in conspiracy to make false statements, and incited, assisted, and aided an insurrection.”

“The facts are in, and Trump and his allies must be held accountable,” the group added. “The select committee has completed its work. Now the DOJ must bring criminal charges, and the House Ethics Committee must do the same.”

Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.