The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has unanimously voted to refer criminal charges against former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department, a historic conclusion to a sweeping investigation into the events leading up to and during the day Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s election.
The charges include insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to make a false statement and conspiracy to defraud the government, which came after an 18-month investigation involving hundreds of interviews with over 1,000 witnesses and the collection and review of 1 million documents. It is the first time in U.S. history a president has been referred to the Justice Department for criminal charges.
House committees do not have the power to prosecute, so the referral is mostly a symbolic gesture for Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department, which is already conducting its own investigation into the insurrection. However, a referral from Congress adds new pressure to the already politically charged probe into Trump’s actions surrounding the 2020 election and riot at the Capitol.
“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, but we have gone where the facts and the law lead us and inescapably they lead us here,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.
Four Republican members of Congress were also referred to the House Ethics Committee to be sanctioned for failing to comply with subpoenas. The panel subpoenaed House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama. Brooks was the only one who wasn’t referred to the ethics committee for sanctions.
Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in his opening statement he was confident the panel’s work would help the criminal justice system provide accountability for Jan. 6.
“We have every confidence that the work of this committee will help provide a roadmap to justice,” he said.
Ahead of the vote, the committee played a video that essentially summarized its previous hearings featuring recorded and in-person testimony from former administration officials, U.S. Capitol police, state lawmakers and election officials and others.
Throughout the previous hearings, lawmakers sought to lay out a case as to how the insurrection at the Capitol came to be and Trump’s role in both the run-up and events that unfolded that day. Numerous administration aides and high-ranking officials laid out the events of that day and the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including how the Justice Department had debunked many conspiracy theories about vote counts being changed and told the president they had no merit.
“This was an utter moral failure, and a clear dereliction of duty,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the committee. “Evidence of this can be seen in the testimony of President Trump’s own White House counsel and several other White House witnesses. No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again.”