Jan. 6 committee expected to vote on Trump criminal referral in final public hearing

The U.S. House committee investigating the Capitol riot will make its final public presentation Monday about the unprecedented effort by Donald Trump to overturn the results of the presidential election he lost in 2020. The committee has called it an “attempted coup” that warrants criminal prosecution from the Justice Department.

That is expected to be the committee’s closing argument as it wraps up a year-and-a-half-long inquiry and prepares to release a final report later this week detailing its findings about the insurrection in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory. The committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans is set to dissolve at the end of the year, as Republicans will take over control of the House in early January.

Monday’s meeting will be the committee’s 11th public session since forming in July 2021. After conducting thousands of interviews — ranging from Trump cabinet secretaries to members of his own family — and obtaining tens of thousands of documents, congressional investigators say they have created the most comprehensive look at the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

The report is expected to roughly mirror the series of public hearings that have detailed the role of extremist groups in the violence on Jan. 6, Trump’s attempt to enlist the Justice Department in his schemes and Trump’s co-ordination with Republican lawmakers to overturn the election results.

Criminal referrals not legally binding

The committee is expected to make both criminal and civil referrals against the former president and his allies, who, according to lawmakers, broke the law or committed ethical violations.

The committee’s chair, Democrat Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said the referrals may include criminal, ethics violations, legal misconduct and campaign finance violations. Lawmakers have suggested in particular that their recommended charges against Trump could include conspiracy to defraud the United State, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress and insurrection.

Democratic House member Adam Schiff speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 13. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Canadian Press)

Democrat Adam Schiff of California said Sunday that he believes Trump committed multiple crimes. 

“This is someone who in multiple ways tried to pressure state officials to find votes that didn’t exist, this is someone who tried to interfere with a joint session, even inciting a mob to attack the Capitol,” Schiff told CNN’s State of the Union. “If that’s not criminal then I don’t know what it is.”

The committee’s referrals have no legal standing. The Justice Department, having appointed special counsel Jack Smith, is conducting an investigation into Jan. 6 and Trump’s actions.

But the 16-month investigation provides a road map of sorts for criminal investigations, influencing the probes of Trump and Jan. 6 that are progressing at the local, state and federal level.

Legislation to avoid a repeat

As the committee convenes one final time, a major legislative response to the insurrection could be on the fast-track to passage.

Lawmakers are expected to overhaul the arcane election law that Trump tried to subvert after his 2020 election defeat by including legislative changes in a year-end spending bill.

WATCH l New footage of legislators as riot swelled released by committee:

New footage of congressional leaders phoning for help during Capitol siege

The proposed overhaul of the Electoral Count Act is one of the many byproducts of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. A group of bipartisan lawmakers has been working on the legislation since the insurrection. Trump and his allies tried to find loopholes in that law before the congressional certification of the 2020 vote as the former president worked to overturn his defeat to Biden and unsuccessfully pressured Pence to go along.

The bill, if passed, would amend the 19th century law that, along with the Constitution, governs how states and Congress certify electors and declare presidential election winners, ensuring the popular vote from each state is protected from manipulation and that Congress does not arbitrarily decide presidential elections.

The committee is also expected to release its own legislative proposals in its final eight-chapter report, with ideas for how to strengthen and expand the guardrails that protected the Electoral College certification in 2021.

The committee on Monday could also make ethics referrals involving fellow lawmakers.

Lawmakers who did not comply with subpoenas from the Jan. 6 committee included House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, as well as his Republican colleagues Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama.

“We will also be considering what’s the appropriate remedy for members of Congress who ignore a congressional subpoena, as well as the evidence that was so pertinent to our investigation and why we wanted to bring them in,” Schiff said.”

He said the committee considered censure and ethics referrals and will be disclosing their decision Monday.

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