The Select Committee of US Congress that investigates the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, has said the Department of Justice (DOJ) can move to charge former President Donald Trump on various counts related to instigating supporters. The panel has recommended that the former president can be potentially prosecuted on four counts related to attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
According to the panel, there is evidence that Trump committed crimes such as obstructing the official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the government, making knowingly and willfully make materially false statements to the federal government, and inciting or assisting an insurrection.
"The committee has developed significant evidence that president Trump intended to disrupt the peaceful transition of power under our Constitution .... "We believe that the evidence described by my colleagues today, and assembled throughout our hearings, warrants a criminal referral of former President Donald J. Trump," Representative Jamie Raskin said, according to Agence France-Presse.
While seven Democrats voted in agreement, two anti-Trump Republicans in Congress also voted to recommend criminal proceedings against the former president.
The charges levelled against Trump are serious especially at a time when he has announced the decision to run for the White House in 2024. If Trump is convicted of the charges raised by the panel, he could even be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison, according to reports. Besides, he would be liable to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and could be barred from running for office.
What the Move Means
According to the BBC, the January 6 committee's decision does not have any legal binding. The move is a gesture, not an indictment, says the broadcaster.
"Congress does not have the ability to charge Mr Trump with any of the listed federal crimes. That power lies solely in the hands of the US Justice Department, which is part of President Joe Biden's administration ...What the Justice Department does with all this, however, is entirely out of the committee's control," says the report.
However, the panel has put together a trove of evidence and supporting details that can worsen Trump's legal worries, as the Justice Department may find it convenient to pursue the case against Trump. The Committee has been working on the issue for more than 18 months and has collected allegedly incriminating material through multiple subpoenas, testimonies and document reviews.
Will the Move Backfire?
The Congress move can also backfire and help drive support in favor of Trump. The former president and his supporters have always called out partisan attempts to paint him in negative light. The Congress decision to recommend criminal charges against the former president can be used by the supporters to raise the issue of 'witchhunt'. Trump has not made significant advances in his putative 2024 campaign weeks after the announcement.