Speed Reads

Your move, DOJ

Jan. 6 committee refers Trump to Justice Department for criminal prosecution

After months of investigations, thousands of hours of interviews, and 10 televised hearings, the House Select Committee to Investigate January 6 announced on Monday that it would refer former President Donald Trump to the Department of Justice on four separate criminal charges. 

By a unanimous vote, the committee decided to refer Trump to the DOJ on charges of Obstruction of an Official Proceeding, Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Conspiracy to Make False Statements, and — perhaps most significantly — criminally Inciting, Assisting, or Aiding or Comforting an Insurrection. 

The decision to make criminal referrals for Trump, as well his attorney John Eastman, and as-of-yet unspecified "others" who aided the former president in his alleged scheme to overturn the 2020 election results, came during the committee's final meeting, during which each member spoke solemnly about the panel's findings and their implications for the future of American democracy.

"I believe nearly two years later, this is still a time of reflection and reckoning," Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said as he opened the proceedings. "If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again."

"We understand the gravity of each and every referral we are making today," explained Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), as he read out the four referral charges. "Just as we understand the magnitude of the crime against democracy we describe in our report."

"But," Raskin continued, "we have gone where the facts and the law lead us, and inescapably they lead us here."

In addition to the four criminal referrals for Trump, Eastman, and others, the committee also voted to refer four of their fellow members of Congress to the House Ethics Committee for sanction, after the lawmakers refused to comply with the committee's subpoenas to testify. Those members were identified in the committee's 154-page "introductory" report as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). A full, official report is expected to be made public in the coming days. 

While the criminal and ethics referrals are a significant capstone to the more than two and a half years of the committee's work, they ultimately represent a passing of the baton to the Justice Department and House Ethics Committee, respectively, each of which can now choose whether to act on the committee's recommendations or not.