The Jan. 6 committee will take up criminal referrals against Donald Trump
Updated December 18, 2022 at 10:13 PM ET
The House Select Jan. 6 Committee will take up criminal referrals against former President Donald Trump on at least three charges: the crime of insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to a source familiar with the committee's discussions but not authorized to speak publicly on the plans.
The referrals will be voted on Monday, during what's very likely to be the last public meeting of the panel before it sunsets at the end of the month.
The referrals will come in the form of a letter from the committee to the Justice Department making its case for prosecution. Insurrection is rarely prosecuted as a criminal charge and remains so even in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Referrals do not carry any legal weight or compel the Justice Department to act.
NPR obtained a small portion of a draft script for the Jan. 6 panel's Monday hearing that shows they intend to accuse lawyers John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro of being tied to the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Cheseboro's attorney, Adam Kaufmann, in an emailed statement to NPR on Monday said his client gave the Trump campaign legal advice on a pro bono basis related to "arcane provisions of the 12th amendment and the electoral count act, just as he did for the Gore campaign in 2020."
"Unlike other attorneys, he never went to court advocating wild theories of election fraud," Kaufmann said in the statement. "Rather, he advised a client of procedures to preserve its legal challenges. A referral for such conduct sets a dangerous precedent and would undermine the ability of attorneys to advise clients in the political realm."
Eastman's attorney declined to comment earlier on Monday.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has repeatedly noted that attorneys who were tied to the plot could be referred for disciplinary action through their various bar associations to lose their licenses to practice law. Eastman was a Trump ally who helped lead the effort to overturn President Biden's win, while Chesebro has been considered a central figure in the scheme pushing for a slate of fake Trump electors in various states won by Biden.
In all, the panel is expected to consider criminal referrals for less than a dozen individuals.
The referrals are part of a larger list of recommendations from the committee's subpanel of lawyers, led by Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Other members include Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Adam Schiff of California and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. The subpanel was created in October to address criminal referrals and other recommendations.
Monday's meeting punctuates a nearly two-year investigation into what led to the violent attack at the U.S. Capitolon Jan. 6, 2021 as a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Joe Biden won.
The committee's final report, which Chairman Bennie Thompson previously told NPR could be roughly 1,000 pages long, could be released as soon as Monday. It's expected the report's appendices and transcripts of over 1,000 witness interviews will be released on Wednesday.
In addition to criminal referrals, the panel may issue other categories of referrals — to the Federal Election Commission, the House Ethics Committee, and bar associations to discipline attorneys.
The Justice Department is separately conducting its own extensive probe into the events of Jan. 6 with a special counsel.
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