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Saturday, July 13, 2024

JAN. 6 COMMITTEE REFERS FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

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WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol accused former President Donald J. Trump on Monday of inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an act of Congress and one more federal crime as it referred him to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.

The action, the first time in American history that Congress has referred a former president for criminal prosecution, is the coda to the committee’s intense 18-month investigation into Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in a violent mob of the former president’s supporters laying siege to the Capitol.

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol accused former President Donald J. Trump on Monday of inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an act of Congress and one more federal crime as it referred him to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.

The action, the first time in American history that Congress has referred a former president for criminal prosecution, is the coda to the committee’s intense 18-month investigation into Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in a violent mob of the former president’s supporters laying siege to the Capitol.

The referrals came as the lawmakers released an executive summary from their final report into the Capitol attack. The document, a narrative of Mr. Trump’s relentless drive to remain in power after he lost the 2020 election by seven million votes, identifies co-conspirators who aided Mr. Trump. But it singles out the former president as the primary cause of the mob violence.

“That evidence has led to an overriding and straightforward conclusion: the central cause of Jan. 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed,” the report states. “None of the events of Jan. 6th would have happened without him.”

The report closely follows the evidence from the committee’s 10 previous public hearings starting in July 2021, but the facts have been assembled into a narrative that tell an astonishing story of Mr. Trump’s efforts to effectively overthrow the government he led.

“Every president in our history has defended this orderly transfer of authority, except one,’’ Representative Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and vice chairwoman of the committee, said at the start of the hearing on Monday.

Much as it did during its widely viewed televised hearings this summer, the committee’s report laid out step by step how Mr. Trump sought to cling to power after losing the 2020 election: first, by lying about widespread fraud, despite being told his claims were false; by organizing false slates of electors in states won by President Biden by pressuring state officials, the Justice Department and Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election; and finally, by amassing a mob of his supporters to march on the Capitol, where they engaged in hours of bloody violence while Mr. Trump did nothing to call them off.

“Even key individuals who worked closely with President Trump to try to overturn the 2020 election on Jan. 6th ultimately admitted that they lacked actual evidence sufficient to change the election result, and they admitted that what they were attempting was unlawful,” the committee wrote.

The panel urged the Justice Department to investigate Mr. Trump for four crimes.

The committee said that the five other Trump allies warranted investigation because of their roles in conspiring to defraud the United States. The panel emphasized that its decision to name certain individuals did not mean it was clearing others of wrongdoing.

The panel also referred four Republican members of Congress to the House Ethics Committee, including the man seeking to become the next speaker, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, because of their refusal to comply with the panel’s subpoenas. The other Republicans referred were Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Andy Biggs of Arizona.

The panel asked the Justice Department to investigate whether anyone had interfered with or obstructed the panel’s investigation, including whether any lawyers paid for by groups connected to Mr. Trump “may have advised clients to provide false or misleading testimony to the committee.”

The committee also chastised certain witnesses that it said had not been forthright with investigators. It said it had “significant concerns about the credibility” of the testimony of Anthony M. Ornato, the former Secret Service agent and White House aide at the heart of a dispute over conflicting accounts of Mr. Trump’s actions on Jan. 6. The committee also said that Kayleigh McEnany, one of Mr. Trump’s former press secretaries, and Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, had been less than forthcoming.

The report demonstrated, as the committee’s hearings did, how despite being told time and time again that his claims of election fraud were false, Mr. Trump kept repeating them.

Bill Stepien, the former White House political director, told the committee how he and others would investigate the claims, find them to be false, and report back to the president. “It’s an easier job to be telling the president about, you know, wild allegations,” Mr. Stepien said. “It’s a harder job to be telling him on the back end that, yeah, that wasn’t true.”

The report also contained evidence that certain White House aides had grown concerned about the potential for violence on Jan. 6 and urged Mr. Trump to make a pre-emptive statement calling for peace. No such statement was ever made.

Hope Hicks, a former White House communications director, said she suggested “several times” on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 that Mr. Trump “publicly state that Jan. 6 must remain peaceful and that he had refused her advice to do so,” the panel wrote.

While the executive summary of the report focused heavily on Mr. Trump, it did conclude some findings about law enforcement failures, a topic not previously addressed at the panel’s hearings. The report concluded that “no analysis recognized the full scale and extent of the threat to the Capitol on Jan. 6,” although the “intelligence community and law enforcement agencies did successfully detect the planning for potential violence on Jan. 6, including planning specifically by the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper militia groups who ultimately led the attack on the Capitol.”

The panel also found that the “intelligence was shared within the executive branch, including with the Secret Service and the president’s National Security Council.

Over the past year and a half, the committee interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, obtained more than one million documents, issued more than 100 subpoenas and held hearings that consistently drew millions of viewers.

The House created the Jan. 6 committee after Senate Republicans used a filibuster to defeat a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the attack.

The committee — made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans — consistently broke new ground for a congressional investigation. Staffed with more than a dozen former federal prosecutors, the panel set a new production standard for how to hold a congressional hearing. It also got significantly ahead of a parallel Justice Department investigation into the events of Jan. 6, with federal prosecutors later interviewing many of the same witnesses Congress had already spoken with.

In recent weeks, federal prosecutors, under the supervision of a special counsel, have issued subpoenas to officials in seven states in which the Trump campaign organized electors to falsely certify the election for Mr. Trump despite the voters choosing Mr. Biden.

Lawmakers on the panel also believe they played a significant role in elevating the issue of threats to democracy in the minds of voters, who rejected many election deniers in the November midterms.

In terms of legislative recommendations, the panel has already endorsed overhauling the Electoral Count Act, the law that Mr. Trump and his allies tried to exploit on Jan. 6 in an attempt to cling to power. Lawmakers have also discussed changes to the Insurrection Act and legislation to enforce the 14th Amendment’s prohibition on insurrectionists holding office. Source: nytimes.com

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