Trump Faces Slim Chance of Up to 20 Years in Jail if Capitol Riot Probe Slaps Him With Obstruction

© AFP 2023 / JONATHAN NACKSTRANDA protester holds a placard featuring US President Donald Trump behinid bars during the so-called "Helsinki Calling" march towards the Senate Square to defend the human rights, freedom of speech and democracy on July 15, 2018
A protester holds a placard featuring US President Donald Trump behinid bars during the so-called Helsinki Calling march towards the Senate Square to defend the human rights, freedom of speech and democracy on July 15, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.12.2021
The former president has dismissed the House select committee investigation into the 6 January attack as a political sideshow and continuation of the alleged “witch hunt” against him by Democrats and ‘RINO’ (Republican in Name Only) lawmakers. The probe was launched in July after previous efforts to bar Trump permanently from office fell through.
Donald Trump could theoretically face up to 20 years in prison if the select committee investigating the Capitol attack charges him with obstruction of Congress and issues a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, The Hill reports.
Never-Trump Republican Liz Cheney, one of the two GOP members of Congress tapped for the 6 January probe along with seven Democrats when it was formed in July, hinted the committee’s exploration into potential criminal wrongdoing by Trump earlier this month, while citing texts sent to Mark Meadows, the former president’s chief of staff, by Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, who urgently wrote to Meadows on the day of the riot and said his father has “got to condemn this sh*t – ASAP.”
“These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes,” Cheney said in a committee hearing earlier this month, referring to the amount of time that passed between the moment rioters stormed the Capitol and when the president appealed to them to go home.
“Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceedings to count electoral votes? Mark Meadows’ testimony is necessary to inform our legislative judgements,” Cheney suggested.
The Hill points out that the obstruction charge carries with it a maximum penalty of up to two decades behind bars, and that it has already been applied by prosecutors against hundreds of Capitol rioters. In November, Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman who came to the riot adorned in a horned helmet and fur pelt, pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction and was sentenced to 41 months in prison, 36 months of supervised release and a $100 fine.
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo, Jacob Anthony Chansley, who also goes by the name Jake Angeli, a Qanon believer speaks to a crowd of President Donald Trump supporters outside of the Maricopa County Recorder's Office where votes in the general election are being counted, in Phoenix. In its annual report set to be released Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, the Southern Poverty Law Center said it identified 838 active hate groups operating across the U.S. in 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.09.2021
'QAnon Shaman' in US Capitol Riot Pleads Guilty to Felony Obstruction - Justice Dept.
The problem for the committee is how to charge Trump, who wasn’t anywhere near the Capitol building at the time of the violence, with the felony.
“The challenge is… this undefined territory of the circumstances under which an executive official crosses the line between exercising executive power to actual obstruction of justice,” University of Chicago law professor Daniel Hemel told The Hill.
On Thursday, Bennie Thompson, a Democrat representative of Mississippi's second congressional district and chairman of the select committee, revealed to the Washington Post that during those crucial 187 minutes, Trump was apparently busy taping and retaping an address to rioters urging them to disperse. “It appears that he tried to do a taping several times, but he wouldn’t say the right thing,” Thompson said, citing interviews, media reports and witness testimony.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. U.S. - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.12.2021
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“That dereliction of duty causes us real concern. And one of those concerns is that whether or not it was intentional, and whether or not that lack of attention for that longer period of time, would warrant a referral,” Thompson added.

The lawmaker assured the Washington Post that “if a criminal referral would be warranted, there would be no reluctance on the part of this committee to do that.”

Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated by the Biden Justice Department over its alleged “failure” to slap the former president with some kind of formal criminal charge, with the ruling party revved up on the prospect of seeing the Republican behind bars after Biden suggested that the Capitol riot was the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War” and labelled the rioters “domestic terrorists".
The 6 January probe has faced a series of setbacks in recent weeks, starting with revelations that Congressman Adam Schiff, a committee member, presented a doctored version of a text message from GOP lawmaker Jim Jordan to Meadows, and complemented by lawsuits against the committee by multiple former Trump officials and other supporters of the president, who have largely refused to testify.
Trump’s supporters see the select committee probe as another attempt by Democrats to stop the billionaire from taking another shot at the presidency in 2024 after the Russiagate investigation, two impeachments, and brainstorming about using a constitutional provision to deem him unfit for office failed to bear fruit.
Trump, who continues to insist that he actually won the “rigged” 2020 election, has hinted repeatedly that he might run again, and dismissed the House probe as a “witch hunt” aimed at distracting the public from President Biden’s “massive failures".
In this Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, file photo the Supreme Court is seen at sundown on the eve of Election Day, in Washington - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2021
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