WASHINGTON — Members of the House Jan. 6 committee said Sunday they may make criminal referrals to federal prosecutors involving former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Airing the Sunday programs to discuss the Congressional investigation and its public hearings, committee members said that while no formal decision has been made, they may consider several referrals to the Justice Department on the basis of evidence they uncovered while investigating the events surrounding the attack. on the United States Capitol.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice president and one of two Republicans on the panel, said “we’ll make a decision as a committee” on whether to alert the DOJ to possible crimes that they discovered.
“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,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”
She also pointed to last week’s explosive public hearing in which Cassidy Hutchinson, the former senior aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, detailed Trump’s outbursts of rage the day he urged his supporters to march towards the Capitol. “I don’t care if they have guns,” Trump said while urging his aides to remove the magnetometers near the White House before addressing a “Stop the Steal” rally, Hutchinson testified. “They are not here to hurt me.
“It’s very scary and I think we’re going to, you know, continue to present to the American people what we’ve found,” Cheney said.
Asked if she was worried about suing a former president who could soon announce another presidential bid in 2024, Cheney said, “I’m more concerned about what it would mean if people weren’t held accountable for this. what happened here.”
The panel has been in conflict over whether to refer its findings to the DOJ. Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters last month, “We don’t have authority,” when asked if they had ruled out the possibility of firing criminal charges against Trump.
As the committee continues to gather new evidence, other members appear to be coalescing behind a dismissal, which would increase pressure on the DOJ to investigate Trump’s actions. So far, the department said federal prosecutors are looking into the scheme to push lists of bogus Electoral College members declaring Trump the winner of states Joe Biden has won.
At the last public hearing at which Hutchinson testified, Cheney highlighted a new concern: The committee had learned that Trump allies had tried to influence witnesses who had cooperated with the panel.
NBC News has reached out to a Trump spokesperson for comment.
Trump has not been charged with any crime and the committee has no prosecutorial powers. In public statements, Trump denounced the committee as a “kangaroo court” and called Hutchinson’s account false.
Another committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, agreed with Cheney that the committee could send multiple criminal referrals. He suggested the department would be wrong to excuse Trump simply because he is a former president.
“You know, for four years the Justice Department has taken the position that you can’t indict a sitting president,” Schiff said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If the department now takes the position that you can’t investigate or indict a former president, then a president becomes above the law.”
Schiff’s comments point to growing tensions between the committee and the DOJ, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Ministry officials urged the committee to share transcripts of its interviews with witnesses, lamenting its “failure” to provide the documents quickly.
Citing multiple officials, The New York Times reported last week that federal prosecutors were “astonished” by Hutchinson’s testimony. Asked about it, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, another committee member, said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” “I was surprised the prosecutors were surprised. What what are they doing there?