Donald Trump Could Be One of ‘Multiple Criminal Referrals’ by January 6 Committee, Cheney Says
© AP Photo / Chip SomodevillaRep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., delivers opening remarks at the first hearing of the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021.
© AP Photo / Chip Somodevilla
Lawmakers on the House January 6 Select Committee are holding public hearings as part of their probe into the events at the US Capitol, alleging that ex-president Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ from him stoked the violence. However, bringing legal charges against Trump isn’t within the committee’s purview.
The US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol could make multiple criminal referrals, including of former President Donald Trump, the panel's vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, said in an ABC News interview on Sunday.
The bipartisan committee has been on a self-appointed mission to gather evidence, arguing that Trump “oversaw and coordinated” a plan to overturn the 2020 election, which he claimed was “rigged” to favour his democratic rival, Joe Biden. However, the lawmakers cannot themselves charge anyone with a crime.
When Cheney was asked whether a criminal referral of Trump for further prosecution was possible, she replied, “Yes.”
“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," the Wyoming Republican said.
Cheney went on to say that the panel would possibly “have a view on” whether Trump should be prosecuted.
"If you just think about it from the perspective of: What kind of man knows that a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is under threat? It's very chilling, and I think certainly we will continue to present to the American people what we've found," Cheney continued.
Liz Cheney, who has faced GOP backlash for becoming a prominent critic of Trump, also offered a preview of the upcoming “chilling evidence” at the disposal of the committee, corroborating the ex-POTUS’s reported ire at being told he couldn't go to the Capitol on January 6.
"The committee has significant evidence on a whole range of issues, including the President's intense anger. You will continue to see in coming days and weeks additional detail about the President's activities and behavior on that day."
Even as Cheney insisted the panel’s ongoing proceedings did not seek to ‘politically disqualify’ Trump from running for president again, she claimed:
"A man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again," she said in the interview.
Cheney chose to focus on her own reelection effort as Wyoming's member of Congress in the US House of Representatives when asked about a potential White House bid, saying:
"I haven't made a decision about that yet, and I'm obviously very focused on my reelection, I'm very focused on the January 6 committee, I'm very focused on my obligations to do the job I have now. And I'll make a decision about '24 down the road."
Panel ‘Split’ on Referrals
Lawmakers on the panel appear to be split on whether they will bring any criminal referrals after concluding their work.
Liz Cheney’s stance on criminal referral was earlier echoed by California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who also serves on the January 6 panel. In Schiff’s opinion, Trump "engaged in multiple violations of the law and that should be investigated."
"For four years, the Justice Department took the position you can’t indict a sitting president. If the Department now were to take the position that you can't investigate or indict a former president, then the president becomes above the law. And that's a very dangerous idea that the Founders would never have subscribed to, even more dangerous I think in the case of Donald Trump," Schiff said on Sunday's edition CBS' Face the Nation.
However, previously, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told reporters “it’s for someone else to decide whether” allegations they’ve made are “criminal or not” and that isn’t “the purview” of a House committee.
Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) similarly said earlier that the committee will not make any criminal referral of former President Donald Trump or anyone else to the Justice Department.
"No, you know, we're going to tell the facts. If the Department of Justice looks at it, and assume that there's something that needs further review, I'm sure they'll do it," Thompson said.
That statement had prompted Rep. Liz Cheney to release a statement contradicting the chairman's comments.
The January 6th Select Committee has not issued a conclusion regarding potential criminal referrals. We will announce a decision on that at an appropriate time.— Rep. Liz Cheney (@RepLizCheney) June 14, 2022
She tweeted that the committee has not issued a' conclusion regarding potential criminal referrals.'
In his Sunday interview Adam Schiff also touched upon the committee's next public hearing, saying it would focus on links between the Trump administration of the time and various organizations present at his January 6 rally in Washington ahead of the Capitol events.
"Our very next hearing will be focused on the efforts to assemble that mob on the mall… Who was participating, who was financing it, how it was organized, including the participation of these White nationalist groups like the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and others," the California Democrat said.
30 June 2022, 04:13 GMT
The bipartisan committee originally said it would hold seven hearings on the initial findings from its probe into events dating to January 6, 2021. On that day, supporters of then-US President Donald Trump attempted to block certification of presidential election results that the 45th POTUS had dismissed as fraudulent. The mob had stormed the US Capitol and temporarily disrupted the work of the joint sitting of Congress.
As a result of those events, five people, including a police officer, died.
Trump was accused of "incitement of insurrection" and impeached by the US House of Representatives. He was later acquitted by the US Senate in a trial weeks after he left office.
The former POTUS has denied wrongdoing, while denouncing the committee’s work as a ‘witch-hunt’.
30 June 2022, 14:22 GMT
In the latest, sixth, such hearing, the panel was offered explosive testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. The ex-aide recalled being told of Trump's anger when told by his Secret Service detail he couldn't accompany protesters to the Capitol on January 6.
Hutchinson claimed she was told by former White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato that Trump had even lunged for the steering wheel of the car when he was told they were going back to the West Wing. However, this testimony has since been questioned by some Trump allies.
After the public hearing, Donald Trump dismissed the claims made by Hutchinson in a series of 12 posts on his Truth Social networking app. He slammed the ex-WH aide as "A Total Phony!!!" and called the January 6 Committee "a Kangaroo Court."
The Secret Service has said the agents involved in the alleged incident, some of whom were already interviewed by the panel, will be made available to testify again under oath. The panel is yet to set a date for the next public hearing.