The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection culminated its 18-month investigation on Monday with a final public meeting in which it unanimously voted to refer criminal charges against Donald Trump and his associates to the Justice Department.
In a 9-0 vote, the committee recommended four statutes for prosecution: conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to make a false statement, and inciting an insurrection.
The committee’s vote came after a series of public hearings in which it illustrated its findings and questioned former White House officials, Trump family members, and state election officials under oath, and ahead of the release of its long-awaited final report, which is expected this week.
During Monday’s meeting, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and member of the committee, described each charge the committee is recommending against Trump and John Eastman, the Trump lawyer who devised unconstitutional plots to overturn the election. Some of the reasons for the referrals are described in the executive summary of the report, and Raskin noted that fuller reasoning for the criminal referrals are outlined in the committee’s forthcoming report.
“Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail and the masterminds and ring leaders get a free pass,” Raskin said.
Here’s a closer look at the four federal crimes the committee recommended against Trump.
Obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress
The statute makes it unlawful for anyone to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede any official proceeding of the United States government.
“We believe that the evidence described by my colleagues today and assembled throughout our hearings warrants a criminal referral of former president Donald J. Trump, John Eastman, and others for violations of this statute,” Raskin said.
Raskin said the “whole purpose and obvious effect of Trump’s scheme were to obstruct, influence and impede this official proceeding, the central moment for the lawful transfer of power in the United States.”
The executive summary of the report states that the evidence the committee developed has showed that “President Trump was attempting to prevent or delay the counting of lawful certified Electoral College votes from multiple States. President Trump was directly and personally involved in this effort, personally pressuring Vice President Pence relentlessly as the Joint Session on January 6th approached.”
The summary states that the basis for charging Trump is the plan to coerce Mike Pence to prevent the certification of the election before the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, but also the plan to create fake slates of electors.
Conspiracy to defraud the United States
The committee said it believes there is “more than sufficient evidence” to refer Trump and Eastman to the Justice Department for violating the statute that makes it a crime to conspire to defraud the United States.
“In other words to make an agreement to impair, destruct, or defeat the lawful functions of the United States government by deceitful or dishonest means,” Raskin said.
Trump did not “engage in the plan to defraud the United States” alone, Raskin alleged, he entered into formal and informal agreements with others who helped him “with his criminal objectives.”
The executive summary cites Jeffrey Clark, the environmental lawyer within the Department of Justice — who Trump wanted to appoint as acting attorney general — as one of the potential coconspirators.
“With regard to the Department of Justice, Jeffrey Clark stands out as a participant in the conspiracy, as the evidence suggests that Clark entered into an agreement with President Trump that if appointed Acting Attorney General, he would send a letter to State officials falsely stating that the Department of Justice believed that State legislatures had a sufficient factual basis to convene to select new electors,” the summary states. It also noted that the department had concluded there was no factual basis to argue the election was stolen.
Other people who allegedly participated in the multi-part plan to overturn the election appear to have included Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Kenneth Chesebro.
Conspiracy to make a false statement
The charge of conspiracy to make a false statement makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully make materially false statements to the federal government.
“The evidence clearly suggests that President Trump conspired with others to submit slates of fake electors to Congress and the National Archives,” Raskin said. “We believe that this evidence we set forth in our report is more than sufficient for a criminal referral of former president Donald J. Trump and others in connection with this offense.”
The summary states that the evidence shows that Trump “personally participated” in a scheme to have the Trump electors meet, cast votes, and send their votes to Congress in states that Biden had won. Then Trump’s supporters relied on the fake electors in their attempt to obstruct the joint session of Congress.
The summary cites testimony from Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, who told the committee that Trump and Eastman requested that the RNC “organize the effort to have these fake (i.e. Trump) electors meet and cast their votes.”
Aiding an insurrection
The final statute “applies to anyone who incites, assists, or engages in insurrection against the United States of America, and anyone who gives aid or comfort through an insurrection,” Raskin said.
“An insurrection is a rebellion against the authority of the United States,” Raskin said. “It is a grave federal offense, anchored in the Constitution itself, which repeatedly opposes insurrections and domestic violence and indeed uses participation in insurrection by officeholders as an automatic grounds for disqualification from ever holding public office again, at the federal or state level.”
Raskin said that “anyone who incites others to engage in rebelling, assist them in doing so, or gives aid and comfort to those engaged in the insurrection, is guilty of a federal crime.”
“The committee believes that more than sufficient evidence exists for a criminal referral of former president Trump for assisting or aiding and comforting those at the Capitol who engaged in a violent attack on the United States,” Raskin said.
He cited the committee’s evidence that Trump tried to disrupt the peaceful transition of power set forth in the Constitution.
“The president has an affirmative and primary constitutional duty to act to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” Raskin said. “Nothing could be a greater betrayal of this duty than to assist in insurrection against the constitutional order.”
Potential charges initiated by the Justice Department
While the committee is recommending four charges for prosecuting Trump to the Justice Department, Raskin noted that they are not the only charges that could be relevant in connection with Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
“Depending on evidence developed by the Department of Justice, the president’s actions could certainly trigger other criminal violations,” Raskin said.
Referral of four members of Congress to the House Ethics Committee
The committee referred four Republican members of Congress — Representatives Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, and Andy Biggs — to be sanctioned by the House Ethics Committee for their failures to comply with subpoenas.
Raskin said on Monday that the panel issued subpoenas to multiple members of Congress after they refused to voluntarily speak to the committee about the Jan. 6 attack and effort to overturn the election. None of them complied with the subpoenas.
“The Rules of the House of Representatives make clear that their willful noncompliance violates multiple standards of conduct and subjects them to discipline,” the executive summary said.
“The Committee also believes that each of these individuals, along with other Members who attended the December 21st planning meeting with President Trump at the White House, should be questioned in a public forum about their advance knowledge of and role in President Trump’s plan to prevent the peaceful transition of power,” the summary stated.