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Jan. 6 Committee Shutting Down, Final Criminal Referral of Trump Has No Real Legal Standing

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The House Jan. 6 committee is shutting down, having concluded an 18-month investigation of the 2021 Capitol incursion and having sent its work to the Justice Department along with a recommendation for prosecuting former President Donald Trump.

The committee’s time officially ends Tuesday when the new Republican-led House is sworn in. With many of the committee’s staff already departed, remaining aides have spent the last two weeks releasing many of the panel’s materials, including its 814-page final report, about 200 transcripts of witness interviews, and documents used to support its conclusions.

Lawmakers said they wanted to make their work public to underscore the seriousness of the attack.

“Accountability is now critical to thwart any other future scheme to overturn an election,” Democratic Chairman Bennie Thompson and Republican Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney wrote in a departing message on Monday. “We have made a series of criminal referrals, and our system of Justice is responsible for what comes next.”

Some of the committee’s work — such as videotape of hundreds of witness interviews — will not be made public immediately. The committee is sending those videos and some other committee records to the National Archives, which by law would make them available in 50 years. Members of the committee said they didn’t release that videotape now because it would have been too difficult to edit it and redact sensitive information.

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Incoming Republican leaders may try to get those materials much sooner, though. A provision in a package of proposed House rules released Sunday calls for the National Archives to transfer “any records related to the committee” back to the House no later than Jan. 17.

It is unclear whether the GOP-led House could enforce the provision and what they would do with the materials.

The committee’s conclusion comes after one of the most aggressive and wide-ranging congressional investigations in recent memory. The panel formally or informally interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, collected more than 1 million documents and held 10 watched hearings.

In the end, the panel came to a unanimous conclusion that Trump coordinated a “conspiracy” on multiple levels, pressuring states, federal officials and lawmakers to try to overturn his defeat and inspired supporters to enter the Capitol and interrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s win. The panel recommended that the Justice Department prosecute Trump on four crimes, including aiding an insurrection.

Should the GOP pursue this committee’s provisions?

A so-called criminal referral has no real legal standing.

“This is the most intense investigation I’ve been involved in,” said Democratic California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who has been in the House for almost three decades and served as an aide to a member on the House Judiciary Committee in the 1970s when Congress was preparing to impeach then-President Richard Nixon. Lofgren was also in the House for former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and served as an impeachment manager during Trump’s first impeachment three years ago.

“I have never been involved in anything as wide ranging and intense,” Lofgren said.

Lofgren said she believes the committee made clear that Trump was responsible for the incursion and “it was not done at the last minute.”

“I think we proved that, and we sent it all to the Department of Justice,” Lofgren said. “We’ll see what they do.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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