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capitol riot aftermath

Report: Jan. 6 committee considering possibility of criminal referrals

Now several months into their probe, members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot are weighing the possibility of sending criminal referrals to the Justice Department, The New York Times reports.

The panel was formed to put together the most complete account of the assault on the Capitol and make recommendations to prevent similar attacks in the future. Since beginning the investigation over the summer, the committee has interviewed more than 300 witnesses and received tens of thousands of documents and records. The more they learn about the Capitol riot, the days leading up to it, and the players involved, the more panel members are considering asking the Justice Department to pursue specific criminal cases, the Times reports.

Committee investigators are specifically looking at two crimes: whether wire fraud was committed by Republicans who raised millions of dollars off of baseless election fraud claims, and whether former President Donald Trump and allies obstructed Congress by attempting to block the certification of electoral votes, people familiar with the matter told the Times. They did not share what evidence the committee has that may support criminal referrals. 

A criminal referral from Congress does not have legal weight, but it could pressure Attorney General Merrick Garland into investigating Trump's conduct in connection with Jan. 6, the Times says. The House has sent contempt of Congress referrals to the Justice Department for two Trump allies who have refused to cooperate with the committee's investigation: former chief strategist Stephen Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.