The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the January 6th riots has recommended criminal charges be laid against former President Donald Trump.
The committee’s recommendations do not carry any legal weight, but it is the first time a Congressional committee has referred a former President for suspected crimes.
Here’s what you need to know.
On January 6 2021, supporters of Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol aiming to stop the certification of the 2020 Presidential election results.
This committee was set up to investigate that event and had a particular focus on Trump’s role in encouraging it.
Democrats established the committee with minimal Republican support using their majority in the House of Reps, which they will lose in January following recent midterm elections.
The committee conducted interviews with a number of key figures including Trump’s children Ivanka and Donald Jr and former Attorney-General William Barr.
Trump himself did not participate and has frequently dismissed its legitimacy.
The committee concluded Trump “purposely” spread false claims of fraud in the 2020 election, tried to influence officials to overturn the result, verified false documents used in court and openly encouraged a violent mob of his supporters to attack the Capitol.
It recommended a number of criminal charges including obstructing an official proceeding, “conspiracy to defraud” the U.S, and inciting or assisting an insurrection. It also recommended criminal charges against Trump’s lawyer John Eastman.
What does it mean?
The committee has recommended the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) pursue criminal charges.
It is up to the DoJ, led by Attorney-General Merrick Garland, to decide whether to do so. The DoJ is already carrying out its own investigations into January 6 and a separate matter relating to Trump’s storage of official documents.
If Trump was charged and then convicted of the crimes listed by the committee, he could face a lengthy prison sentence.
“To cast a vote in the United States is an act of faith and hope…. those who come up short ultimately accept the results and abide by the rule of law. That faith in our system is the foundation of American democracy… Donald Trump broke that faith. He lost the 2020 election and knew it… [but] he summoned a mob to Washington and, knowing they were armed and angry, pointed them to the Capitol and told them to fight like hell. There’s no doubt about this,” said Committee Chair Representative Bennie Thompson in his opening statement at the committee’s final session.
“The Fake charges made by the highly partisan Unselect Committee of January 6th have already been submitted, prosecuted, and tried… These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” said Donald Trump, via his social media platform ‘Truth Social’.