WASHINGTON- House January 6 Committee Members said Sunday they can make criminal references to federal prosecutors implicating former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Roll out on Sunday shows to discuss the congressional inquiry forks public hearingsCommittee members said that while no formal decision has been made, they can imagine multiple references to the Justice Department based on evidence they have uncovered investigating the events surrounding the attack on the US Capitol.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, vice chair and one of two Republicans on the panel, said “we will make a decision as a committee” on whether to alert the Justice Department to potential crimes she has uncovered.
“The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral, and there could be more than one criminal referral,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He also pointed to last week’s explosive public hearing in which Cassidy Hutchinson, a former senior adviser to Mark Meadows when he was White House chief of staff, detailed Trump’s outbursts of anger the day he urged supporters to march on Capitol Hill. . “I don’t care if they have guns,” Trump said as he urged his aides to remove the magnetometers near the White House before heading to a “Stop the Steal” rally, Hutchinson testified. “They’re not here to hurt me.”
“It’s very chilling, and I think we will continue to present what we find to the American people,” Cheney said.
Asked if he was concerned about impeaching a former president who could soon announce another 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 has been in conflict over whether to refer its findings to the Justice Department. Last month, the committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters that “we have no authoritywhen pressed on whether the panel had ruled out the possibility of forwarding criminal charges against Trump.
As the committee continues to collect new evidence, other members appear to rally behind a referral, which would increase pressure on the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s actions. Until now, the department has said federal prosecutors were investigating the scheme to push lists of bogus Electoral College members who declared Trump the winner of states won by Joe Biden.
At the last public hearing in which Hutchinson testified, Cheney pointed out a new concern: The committee has learned that Trump allies have tried to influence witnesses who have cooperated with the panel.
NBC News has asked a Trump spokesperson for comment.
Trump has not been charged with any crime and the committee does not have prosecutorial powers. In public remarks, Trump denounced the committee as a “kangaroo court” and said Hutchinson’s account was false.
Another committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., agreed with Cheney that the committee could send multiple criminal references. He suggested that the Justice Department would be wrong to excuse Trump just because he is a former president.
“You know, for four years, the Justice Department took the position that you can’t impeach a sitting president,” Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If the department now takes the position that it cannot investigate or charge a former president, then a president is above the law.”
Schiff’s comments point to growing tensions between the committee and the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Department officials have pressured the committee to share transcripts of his interviews with witnesses, lamenting his “failure” to quickly provide the material.
Citing several officials, The New York Times reported last week that federal prosecutors were “stunned” by Hutchinson’s testimony. When asked about that, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, another member of the committee, said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” “I was surprised that the prosecutors were surprised. What are they doing there?