The January 6th committee is apparently determined to end things with the equivalent of stripping naked and running through the bear enclosure at the zoo. Despite finding essentially no evidence to support their chief assertions, which we’ll get to momentarily, criminal referrals are on the way.
Now, we are getting the first details of what they will include. According to multiple outlets, citing sources close to the committee, three referrals will be made targeting Donald Trump.
Multiple outlets reported on Friday that the committee will vote to recommend the Justice Department pursue criminal charges against Trump for insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment when reached by The Hill.
The committee is working to wrap up its probe and release its findings before the end of this year, when Republicans are slated to take control of the House and dissolve the panel.
I’m speaking as if the vote is a forgone conclusion because we all know it’s a foregone conclusion. There is no way a majority of the committee votes not to make these referrals. All the members, from Liz Cheney to Adam Schiff, have spent the last year building to this moment, and there is no scenario where they bow out and concede that Trump didn’t commit any crimes.
As to the details, the three referrals will be for insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding of Congress, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Let’s talk about that.
Trump did not commit insurrection. There is no actual legal argument for that. It’s a purely political attack that lacks any and all evidence. At no point did Trump encourage people to become violent at the Capitol Building. At no point did he tell people to enter the Capitol Building. At no point did he incite anybody to do those things. To suggest that would be to broaden out the definition of incitement into absurdity and make every politician liable for every single thing a random person does in response to political statements.
As to the charge that he obstructed an official proceeding (i.e. the certification of the election), that is again farcical. Trump was not at the Capitol that day. He did not order people to obstruct the actions of congress by proxy either. Batting around the idea of Mike Pence sending certification back to the states and not doing it is not obstruction of an official proceeding. Again, we are talking about broadening the definitions of crimes out to levels that make the statutes completely malleable. That’s not justice, no matter what one thinks of Trump.
Then there’s the idea that Trump was conspiring to defraud the United States. This is the only charge that might have some meat on the bone, and not coincidentally, it appears to be the only one the DOJ is really looking into (hence the recent subpoenas of state election officials). In short, Trump associates were organizing with state officials to produce so-called “alternate slates of electors.” The problem is that nothing ever materialized, and the plan was only meant to be used if states voted to de-certify and change the results. Pence put a stop to that from his position of overseeing certification. The entire scheme was a pipedream, but was it a conspiracy to commit fraud? Again, that’s a big stretch.
But as I’ve said before, I’m not sure all the facts and logic in the world matter here. Trump is going to be indicted. It’s just a matter of timing. The January 6th committee was simply meant to may political hay for the mid-terms while providing a hook for the DOJ. And while the entire thing is idiotic and spits on the rule of law, it may well accomplish its mission.