The possibility of former President Donald Trump facing criminal charges seems more likely following information from the January 6 House committee. According to The New York Times, the House committee investigating the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, has found evidence that could lead to Trump being charged with criminal conspiracy.
Trump isn’t the only one who may face criminal charges for actions leading up to and including the day of the violence in Washington, D.C. Lawyer John Eastman and other Trump allies could be held criminally responsible for obstruction of Congressional proceedings and conspiracy to defraud Americans.
The House committee can’t file criminal charges, but could make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.
The House committee is legislative only and doesn't have any authority to charge Trump or anyone else with a crime. Its findings may indicate plans to make a criminal referral to the DOJ (Department of Justice). It isn't clear whether Attorney General Merrick Garland would pursue the case.
Part of the committee filing states that Eastman led the effort to “persuade state officials to alter their election results…as the president and his associates propagated dangerous misinformation to the public.”
The House documents say, “The apparent objective of these efforts was to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and declare Donald Trump the winner,” as reported by CNN. “In this way, the conspiracy aimed to obstruct and interfere with the proper functioning of the United States government.”
Trump’s repeated insistence that the election was stolen could amount to common law fraud.
One of the claims made by the House committee relates to Trump’s repetition of the baseless claims that the election was stolen. The committee’s filing discusses evidence that Trump’s repeating the false claim that Democrats had stolen the election could amount to common law fraud.
Information from over 550 interviews with state officials, Trump aides, and officials from the DOJ was included in the committee’s filing.
For several months, the committee has been conducting interviews and weighing the possibility of making criminal referrals to the DOJ. Texts and documents from Mark Meadows and numerous other officials have been examined.
What would a criminal referral mean for Trump?
If the committee makes a criminal referral to the DOJ, it would raise pressure on the department to make official charges against Trump, Eastman, and other allies. It doesn't guarantee that anyone would be charged.
In December 2021, the NYT noted that at times Congress might “overstate the evidence of criminality,” which could cause the DOJ not to take referrals seriously.
Criminal court proceedings could cause headaches for Trump if he intends to run for president in 2024.
Trump’s lawyer John Eastman has tried to block the committee's access to emails.
Eastman, an attorney who represented Trump in the 2020 Supreme Court case regarding invalidating the election results, is also under investigation. Reuters reported that in legal memos, he promoted the idea that Vice President Pence had the power to reject certain electors to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.
The NYT reported that Eastman has turned over about 8,000 emails of 19,000 he attempted to keep hidden from the committee. One message harshly rebuked Greg Jones, chief counsel to Pence, for not promoting Trump’s election falsehoods.