US Capitol riot: Lawmakers recommend filing charges against Trump

Congressional panel urges Justice Department to indict former president on four charges, including inciting insurrection.

US lawmakers investigating the riot at the United States Capitol last year have recommended filing criminal charges against Donald Trump, accusing the former president of “inciting” insurrection.

During a public meeting on Monday, the congressional panel voted unanimously to refer four criminal charges against Trump to the Department of Justice, which has the final say on whether to indict the ex-president.

The recommended charges are inciting, assisting or aiding insurrection; disrupting an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the US; and conspiracy to make a false statement to the federal government.

“The committee believes that more than sufficient evidence exists for a criminal referral of former President Trump for assisting, or aiding and comforting, those at the Capitol who engaged in a violent attack on the United States,” Congressman Jamie Raskin said as he outlined the panel’s findings.

“The committee has developed significant evidence that President Trump intended to disrupt the peaceful transition of power under our Constitution,” he said.

Over the past year, the Democratic-led committee has argued that Trump’s false voter fraud claims led to the riot on January 6, 2021, which saw a mob of his supporters storm the US Capitol building as Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice chair, said during its final session on Monday that Trump’s failure to call on his supporters to end the attack was not only “unlawful” but also an “utter moral failure and a clear dereliction of duty”.

“No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again,” Cheney said of her fellow Republican. “He is unfit for any office.”

The panel is expected to release a final report on its findings this week as well as make public all “non-sensitive records” before the end of the year.

“These transcripts and documents will allow the American people to see for themselves the amount of evidence we’ve gathered and continue to explore,” Congressman Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, said on Monday.

Trump and his supporters have rejected the panel’s efforts as a partisan witch hunt.

The former president rebuked the committee ahead of Monday’s session, comparing its investigation to the years-long inquiry into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia, which he described as a “hoax”.

In posts on his Truth Social platform, Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, also reiterated unfounded accusations that Democrats “cheated” in the 2020 election.

“The real criminals are the people who are destroying our once great Country!” he wrote.

After the meeting, Trump hit out at Cheney, one of his most vocal Republican critics who lost her primary to a challenger backed by the former president earlier this year. But he did not comment on the criminal referrals against him.

“But Liz Chaney [sic] lost by a record 40 points!” he wrote on Truth Social.

Other observers welcomed the panel’s push for US prosecutors to file criminal charges against Trump, however, saying the move is necessary to hold those responsible for the violence on January 6 last year accountable.

“Today marks an essential step toward transparency and accountability,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the US. “Our leaders and the courts must hold accountable all the planners, perpetrators, funders and those who incited the insurrection.”

The committee’s work is one of several investigations into last year’s riot.

Criminal charges have been filed against a number of participants in the attack on the Capitol, including the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers group, Stewart Rhodes, who was found guilty of seditious conspiracy last month for his role in what happened.

Reporting from Capitol Hill, Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna noted that one of the charges recommended by the panel against Trump on Monday – obstruction of official proceedings – has been used to prosecute hundreds of accused January 6 rioters.

“That is a charge that the Justice Department is really familiar with,” Hanna said.

“The Justice Department has brought over 900 prosecutions in relation to the events on that day, and [is] likely to bring many more. Now it’s up to the Justice Department to decide whether or not Donald Trump is going to become one of those who will face charges related to January 6.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies