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The committee going to help or hurt Trump?

Don't count on Donald doing any time in the big house. Instead, the attention is going to help energize his base.


Believe me; nobody would like to see him safely tucked away where he can't do any more damage. This isn't going to have the desired outcome, I fear.


Jan. 6 Committee Votes to Refer Trump to Justice Department for Criminal Charges

The investigation focused on the former president’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election


By Scott Patterson, WSJ



Updated Dec. 19, 2022 8:46 pm ET


WASHINGTON—The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol voted to refer former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department for four potential criminal charges, culminating its 18-month probe.


Key findings in the committee’s investigation include allegations that Mr. Trump disseminated false allegations of fraud related to the 2020 election, provoking his supporters to violence on Jan. 6, according to the executive summary, which the committee released following the Monday meeting.


Despite knowing that he had lost dozens of election lawsuits, Mr. Trump refused to accept that his opponent, Joe Biden, won the election and “plotted to overturn the election outcome,” the committee concluded, according to the summary, which contained a large amount of testimony aired in previous hearings.


“We’ve never had a president of the United States stir up a violent attempt to block the transfer of power,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.), chairman of the committee, said in an opening statement at Monday’s meeting. “I believe nearly two years later this is still a time of reflection and reckoning.”


Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.), the committee’s vice chairwoman, said: “Among the most shameful of this committee’s findings was that President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television [and] would not issue a public statement instructing his supporters to disperse.” She added: “He is unfit for any office.”


The committee in its meeting unveiled four criminal referrals of Mr. Trump to the Justice Department, including obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to make false statements and incitement of an insurrection.


A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on the committee’s referrals.


The criminal referrals, the first ever by Congress against a former president, don’t carry legal weight, since Congress has no formal say in Justice Department decisions. The Justice Department has been pursuing its own investigation related to Jan. 6 and last month named a special counsel, Jack Smith, to lead that effort.


Earlier this month Mr. Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, was convicted of criminal tax fraud in connection with an off-the-books compensation scheme to pay some executives in car leases, apartments and cash. The former president and a number of his political allies are also under investigation in Georgia for their efforts to overturn his election defeat there.


The legal challenges come as Mr. Trump has launched a bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and against the backdrop of disappointing midterm election results, in which a number of high-profile candidates he endorsed lost. A number of elected officials and wealthy donors have said Mr. Trump should step aside, aides say his nascent campaign is regrouping.


“These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me,” Mr. Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”


The committee also made criminal referrals of John Eastman, a constitutional lawyer acting as Mr. Trump’s lawyer in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 and who spoke to the crowd at the Ellipse before the Capitol, for obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiring to defraud the U.S. A lawyer representing Mr. Eastman criticized the committee in a statement, saying it was “absurdly partisan” and designed to benefit Democrats.


“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,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Md.) said in the meeting.


A federal judge in a case involving the committee earlier this year said Messrs. Trump and Eastman “more likely than not” committed a felony in their efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Mr. Eastman filed a lawsuit against the committee to stop the release of emails to House investigators, claiming they were the product of his work as an attorney and exempt from disclosure. The judge, in rejecting the lawsuit, cited the crime-fraud exception, which removes protections for documents written in furtherance of a crime.


Mr. Eastman in comments to reporters after the panel’s meeting Monday said he was merely conducting research into election laws and recommended that Vice President Mike Pence delay counting Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 because of requests from state legislators.


The panel is also referring Republican House members Kevin McCarthy of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona to the House Ethics Committee for failing to comply with subpoenas sent by the committee earlier this year to the lawmakers. Mr. McCarthy, the minority leader, is running to be speaker of the next session of the House and Mr. Jordan is expected to become the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.


“This is just another partisan and political stunt made by a select committee,” a spokesman for Mr. Jordan said in a statement, while a spokesman for Mr. Perry said the referrals came from “a petulant and soon-to-be defunct kangaroo court desperate for revenge.” Mr. Biggs, in a statement posted on Twitter, said it was inappropriate to use the House Ethics Committee “to help reach the J6 Committee’s pre-determined conclusions.”


Representatives for Mr. McCarthy didn’t respond to requests for comment.


Mr. Trump, who last year was impeached in the House and acquitted in the Senate on a count of inciting an insurrection, has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong and has called the Jan. 6 committee a partisan witch hunt.


Over nine previous public hearings this year, the committee laid out its case that Mr. Trump launched a campaign to reverse the election results and, in his efforts, summoned supporters to Washington and incited them to storm the Capitol. The hearings featured new disclosures and allegations regarding Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure state and government officials to help keep him in power, as well as witness testimony, often from senior Republicans and top officials from his own administration, about his actions on the day of the riot.



Rep. Jamie Raskin speaking at Monday’s hearing of the Jan. 6 committee.

PHOTO: AL DRAGO/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, is expected to release the final report on its investigation later in the week. The panel will disband with the forming of the new Republican-led House in January.


The full report will consist of eight chapters and supplemental material that could include interview transcripts. Chapters will cover subjects such as efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to pressure state officials to change the results of the election, a plan, led by Mr. Eastman, to enlist false electors to replace genuine electors when Congress counted the vote on Jan. 6, according to the summary.


Chapter eight will document how the extremist group the Proud Boys helped lead the Capitol attack on Jan. 6 in response to Mr. Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020, tweet asking his followers to attend a rally in Washington that day, concluding, “Be there, Will be Wild,” according to the summary.


A trial against leading members of the Proud Boys for their role in the Jan. 6 riot started Monday in a Washington, D.C., federal court. The members face multiple charges, including for seditious conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election.


The committee in its summary said it has “substantial concerns” about efforts to obstruct its investigation by attorneys paid by groups connected to Mr. Trump, saying they might have advised clients to provide false or misleading testimony. The committee also said it is “aware of multiple efforts by President Trump” to contact witnesses and that the Justice Department is aware of “at least one of those circumstances.”


A spokesman for Mr. Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on those allegations.


The summary highlighted the panel’s concerns about testimony from Tony Ornato, deputy chief of staff for operations in the Trump White House and a former Secret Service agent, regarding the former president’s plans to march to the Capitol alongside the rioters. Mr. Ornato testified that “he was not aware of a genuine push by the President to go to the Capitol,” according to the summary.


The summary cited text messages between Cassidy Hutchinson, then-aide to Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Mr. Ornato, indicating that Mr. Ornato was aware of plans to go to the Capitol. Ms. Hutchinson wrote that Mr. Trump “kept mentioning [an off-the-record trip] to the Capitol before he took the stage,” according to the summary. “Bobby will tell him no,” Mr. Ornato replied, referring to Robert Engel, head of Mr. Trump’s Secret Service detail. “It’s not safe to do. No assets available to safely do it.”


Highlighting dangers in the crowd at the Ellipse that day, the summary contained a list of weapons and other prohibited items seized by Secret Service agents, including 242 canisters of pepper spray, 269 knives or blades, 18 brass knuckles, 18 tasers, six pieces of body armor, three gas masks, 30 batons or blunt instruments and 17 miscellaneous items like scissors, needles or screwdrivers.


Write to Scott Patterson at scott.patterson@wsj.com

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