The House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack is examining whether Donald Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy on Jan.6 that connected the White House plan to stop Joe Biden’s certification to the insurrection, say two sources from the high level familiar with the matter.
The committee’s new focus on the potential for a conspiracy marks an aggressive escalation in its investigation, as it confronts evidence suggesting that the former president potentially engaged in criminal conduct egregious enough to warrant a referral to the justice department.
House investigators are interested in whether Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy after communications delivered by former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others suggested the White House coordinated efforts to stop certification. from Biden, the sources said.
The select committee has several thousand messages, including some suggesting that the Trump White House briefed several House Republicans of its plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to abuse his ceremonial role and not certify victory. from Biden, the sources said.
The fact that the select committee has messages suggesting that the Trump White House directed Republican members of Congress to execute a plan to stop Biden’s certification is significant, as it could lead the panel to consider referrals for potential referrals. crimes, the sources said.
Members and attorneys of the select committee are examining in the first instance whether by trying to stop certification, Trump and his aides violated federal law prohibiting obstruction of a congressional proceeding, the Jan.6 joint session, the sources said. .
The select committee believes, the sources said, that Trump may be guilty of one count of obstruction given that he did not intervene for hours to stop the violence on Capitol Hill perpetrated by his supporters on his behalf.
But the select committee is also looking at whether Trump oversaw an illegal conspiracy that involved coordination between the “political elements” of the White House plan communicated to Republican lawmakers and the extremist groups that stormed the Capitol, the sources said.
That would probably be the most serious charge for which the select committee could consider a referral, as it considers a variety of other criminal conduct that has emerged in recent weeks from obstruction to possible wire fraud by the Republican Party.
The select committee’s vice chair, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, referenced the obstruction charge when she read the penal code before members voted unanimously last November to recommend Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify.
The Guardian previously reported that Trump personally ordered attorneys and political agents working from the Willard Hotel in Washington DC to find ways to prevent Biden’s certification from occurring on January 6, just hours before the attack on the Capitol.
But House investigators have yet to find evidence linking Trump personally to the attack on Capitol Hill, the sources said, and can ultimately only recommend referrals to the charge of direct obstruction, which has already been brought against some 275 rioters. , rather than conspiracy.
The justice department could still indict Trump and his aides separately from the select committee’s investigation, but one source said the panel, in mid-December, had no idea whether the agency is actively examining the possible criminality of the former president.
A spokesman for the select committee declined to comment on the details of the investigation. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on whether the agency had opened a criminal investigation for Trump or his closest allies on Jan.6.
Still, the select committee appears to be moving toward making at least some references, or alternatively recommendations in its final report, that an aggressive justice department prosecutor could use to conduct a criminal investigation, the sources said.
The select committee is examining the evidence primarily to identify legislative reforms to prevent a repeat of Trump’s plan to subvert the election, but members say that if they find Trump violated federal law, they have an obligation to refer it to the justice department.
Sending a criminal referral to the justice department, essentially a recommendation for prosecution, carries no formal legal weight, as Congress lacks the authority to compel you to open a case, and House investigators have no authority to charge witnesses. of a crime.
But a credible criminal referral from the select committee could have a substantial political effect given the importance of the January 6 investigation, and put pressure on attorney general Merrick Garland to launch an investigation or explain why he might not.
Internal discussions about criminal referrals escalated after communications delivered by Meadows revealed alarming lines of communication between the Trump White House and Republican lawmakers on Jan.6, the sources said.
In an exchange posted by the select committee, a Republican lawmaker texted Meadows with an apology for not carrying out what could have been a coup, saying that January 6 was a “terrible day. “Not because of the attack, but because they couldn’t stop it. Biden Certification.
The select committee believes messages like that text, as well as comments from a Republican on the House floor when the Capitol was attacked, could represent part of a White House conspiracy to obstruct the joint session, the sources said.
Referencing the six-state objections, the text also appears to be consistent with a memorandum written by Trump’s attorney, John Eastman, who suggested filing six-state objections, raising the specter that the White House distributed the plan further. widely than previously known.
Bennie Thompson, chairman of the select committee, added on ABC last week that the investigation had found evidence to suggest that the events of January 6 “appeared to be a coordinated effort by several people to undermine the election.”
Advisor to the select committee indicated in your contempt of congress report to Meadows that they intended to ask Trump’s former chief of staff about those communications he voluntarily delivered, before he broke a cooperation agreement and refused to testify.
Thompson has also suggested to reporters that he believes Meadows stopped cooperating with the investigation in part due to pressure from Trump, but the select committee has not opened a separate witness intimidation investigation against the former president, one of the sources said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism