Here’s what the January 6 committee’s criminal referrals mean for Trump – and why they matter

For months, the Jan. 6 committee has been back and forth over whether it would refer former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. On Monday, the committee did not hesitate.

The committee referred Trump to the DOJ on at least four criminal charges, including:

  • Obstruction of due process
  • Scam the United States
  • Make false statements
  • Assisting or aiding an insurrection

The panel said in its summary that it had evidence of possible charges of conspiracy to injure or obstruct an officer and seditious conspiracy.

So what is a criminal reference? A referral is a recommendation that the Department of Justice investigate and consider charging the individuals in question. The House committee’s final report — to be released Wednesday — will provide a rationale for the panel’s investigation to recommend the charges.

In practice, referral is effectively a symbolic measure. That doesn’t compel the Justice Department to act, and regardless, Attorney General Merrick Garland has already appointed special counsel, Jack Smith, to lead two Trump-related investigations, including the 6 January.

But the official criminal referrals and the unveiling of its report this week underscore just how deeply the Jan. 6 committee unearthed and exposed Trump’s efforts to nullify the 2020 election by Jan. 6. Now the ball is in the Justice Department’s court. to research.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said at Monday’s meeting that he was “completely confident that the work of this committee will help provide a roadmap to justice, and that the agencies and institutions charged with providing justice under the law will use the information we have provided to assist them in their work.

After the panel meeting, Thompson told CNN that the evidence supporting the panel’s decision to refer Trump to the DOJ is “clear,” adding that he is “convinced” the department will eventually indict Trump.

CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed reporting for this post.


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