House Jan. 6 panel recommends DOJ prosecute Trump on several charges. Which ones and why?

Written by on December 19, 2022

WASHINGTON – The House committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, voted Monday to recommend the Justice Department bring criminal charges against Donald Trump.

  • Decision to charge Trump is up to DOJ: The recommendation is nonbinding, but if the department agreed, it would be the first time a former president faced federal charges.
  • Recommendation comes weeks after special counsel hired: The move comes weeks after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to investigate potential charges against Trump and others stemming from the attack. 
  • Move is one of Jan. 6 committee’s final acts: The panel’s 18-month investigation of the riot comes to a close at the end of December. 
Former President Donald Trump at a November rally in Miami.

Insurrection, obstruction and conspiracy among potential charges

The committee report documented how Trump repeatedly tried to overturn the 2020 election, pressured state officials, assembled a mob and sent it to the Capitol to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

While the department already has a special counsel, Jack Smith, investigating Trump, the committee explained the evidence and possible charges against the former president.

“The Committee’s work has produced a substantial body of new information,” the report said.

The potential charges include:

“We understand the gravity of each and every referral we are making today, just as we understand the magnitude of the crime against democracy that we described in our report,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. :But we have gone where the facts and the law lead us and inescapably they lead us here.”

Trump has said he did nothing wrong in challenging 2020 election results and argued the committee investigation is a partisan sham.

The committee also urged the Justice Department to charge John Eastman, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, who developed the scheme to recruit alternate slates of electors in states President Joe Biden won. A federal judge in California ruled in a civil case dealing with a committee subpoena that Eastman and Trump “more likely than not” acted unlawfully.

DOJ has big decision to make

Prosecutors don’t necessarily have to listen to the committee. The panel previously recommended criminal charges for contempt of Congress against four people who defied committee subpoenas. 

  • Steve Bannon, a Trump political strategist, has been convicted and sentenced to four months in jail.
  • Peter Navarro, a former Trump trade adviser, awaits trial.
  • No charges: But the department declined to pursue charges against Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff, or Dan Scavino, former deputy chief of staff.
Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

More than 800 charged in the attack

The Justice Department has charged more than 800 people in the attack. Two members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, were convicted in November of seditious conspiracy for their roles in the riot.

Raskin, who led the impeachment prosecution against Trump on charges he incited the riot, said the Oath Keeper convictions confirmed Trump’s central role in Jan. 6. Trump was acquitted in the Senate trial.

“I think that what Donald Trump did when he occupied the Oval Office was the most dangerous set of political assaults on American political institutions in the history of the White House,” he said.

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