House committee refers Trump to DOJ: What happens now?

Politics

(NewsNation) — The House Jan. 6 committee urged the Justice Department on Monday to bring criminal charges against former President Donald Trump, but whether he’ll actually face those charges remains an open question.

In its final public meeting, the committee accused Trump of violating four federal laws related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Those alleged crimes include: inciting an insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and obstruction of an official proceeding.

“Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass,” said committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland.

It’s the first time in history a former president is the subject of a criminal referral by Congress.

But that doesn’t mean Trump will be prosecuted.

The DOJ is under no obligation to take up the House committee’s recommendations, although the findings may serve as a useful road map for federal prosecutors.

The Justice Department’s own investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, which was recently put under the purview of a special counsel, is still ongoing and the attorney general will ultimately decide whether or not to prosecute the former president.

House committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Monday he expects the Justice Department will eventually charge Trump.

Each of the charges referred by the committee would carry significant prison sentences if pursued.

NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt, who testified before the House Committee earlier this year, said the more important question is whether the GOP will stand behind the former president in light of the committee’s work.

“The question now is, yes for the Justice Department, but I’d suggest it’s more for Republicans and whether they’re ready to be done with Donald Trump,” Stirewalt said.

Monday’s criminal referrals are just the latest development in a series of legal problems facing the former president. Trump, who launched his 2024 presidential bid last month, faces a separate DOJ investigation related to the handling of classified documents.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans continued to slam the House Committee’s work. On Monday, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, said it was a waste of resources and taxpayer money and called the investigation one of the “most biased” in this nation’s history.

The panel will dissolve on Jan. 3 at which point the new Republican-led House will take control of congressional proceedings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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