January 6 committee refers Donald Trump to Justice Department on four criminal charges

Former president 'unfit for any office', committee member Liz Cheney says

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The US House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection voted on Monday to recommend four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump for his central role in attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

In an unprecedented move, the nine-member panel urged the Department of Justice to prosecute Mr Trump for incitement of insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the US and conspiracy to make a false statement.

Mr Trump did not immediately issue any public reaction.

No one associated with the attack on the Capitol has previously faced the charge of insurrection, and it is the first time in US history that Congress has formally referred a former president for prosecution.

Donald Trump referred for criminal charges by House panel

FILE PHOTO: Former U. S.  President Donald Trump makes a fist while reacting to applause after speaking at the North Carolina GOP convention dinner in Greenville, North Carolina, U. S.  June 5, 2021.   REUTERS / Jonathan Drake / File Photo

“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,” panel member Congressman Jamie Raskin said when introducing the referrals.

Calling him “unfit for any office”, the panel's vice chairwoman Liz Cheney accused the former president of failing to perform his duty when his supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to halt the certification of Joe Biden's presidential victory.

“No man who would behave that way, at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again,” she said.

Shortly after the public meeting concluded, the committee published an executive summary introducing its full report ahead of an expected release on Wednesday.

The Justice Department is not obligated to abide by the committee's referrals. Special counsel Jack Smith is overseeing federal investigations into Mr Trump.

"The entire nation knows who is responsible for that day. Beyond that, I don't have any immediate observations," Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said:

Mr Trump's former vice president Mike Pence told Fox News that an indictment by the Justice Department would be "terribly divisive in a country at a time when the American people want to see us heal".

"And my hope is the Justice Department will think very carefully," Mr Pence said.

The committee has also referred John Eastman, a lawyer for Mr Trump who supported his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, to be criminally prosecuted.

It also referred several members of Congress to be sanctioned by the House Ethics Committee for defying the panel's subpoenas: Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and representatives Jim Jordan, Scott Perry and Andy Biggs.

Mr Trump's actions leading up to the events of January 6 have been at the heart of the committee's work since last year.

The committee has accused Mr Trump of being central to a plan to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Democratic challenger Mr Biden by seven million votes.

It says that Mr Trump for months ignored advice from White House officials and instead pursued baseless claims that the election was stolen from him through a nationwide Democratic conspiracy.

Mr Trump defied a subpoena to testify in front of the committee and has repeatedly attacked the integrity of the panel.

Hearings this year featured live testimony from dozens of officials including a White House aide and election officials who said they had been pressured by the Trump administration.

Monday's meeting aired testimony for the first time from Hope Hicks, who served as Mr Trump's communications director.

Video shows Nancy Pelosi took charge during January 6 attack

Video shows Nancy Pelosi took charge during January 6 attack

Ms Hicks recalled a conversation she had with Mr Trump in which the former president suggested no one would care about his legacy if he lost the election.

“The only thing that matters is winning,” she recalled him saying.

The actions undertaken by the committee cap more than a year-long effort that included the testimony of thousands of witnesses and millions of documents.

The panel was under pressure to complete its work before Republicans take control of the House next year. They are expected to launch their own enquiries into January 6, seeking to blame the events of the day on law enforcement shortcomings.

Updated: December 23, 2022, 4:26 AM