Explained: Trump cries foul at January 6 panel criminal charge move. What is he accused of?
At the end of over a year of investigation, 10 public hearings, more than thousands of interviews, and several million documents, the January 6 congressional committee has recommended four separate charges for former United States President Donald Trump.
While these charges are largely symbolic and the Justice Department is not obliged to abide by these recommendations it marks a momentous step in the panel of seven Democrats and five Republicans’ of over 16 months of investigations. The referrals were made based on “sufficient evidence” which indicated that the former US president violated the following statutes.
What happened on January 6?
On January 6, 2021, a joint session of the Congress was set to convene to certify the 2020 presidential election and incumbent US President Joe Biden’s electoral vote win. Meanwhile, the now-former president’s supporters had gathered to listen to him speak. In what was eventually seen as an attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, Trump addressing his supporters said, “We will never give up. We will never concede.”
He also called on Vice President Mike Pence to reject Biden’s win while also asking his supporters to march to the US Capitol. What followed was chaos as thousands of Trump supporters stormed the building breaking the barricades while the police were outnumbered. Subsequently, the lawmakers present in the building who were unaware of the protests outside were evacuated from the Senate floor as the mob broke windows and doors to enter the building.
What are the recommended charges against the former US president?
Inciting, assisting, or aiding and comforting an insurrection
The committee accused Trump of not only inciting, assisting, or engaging “in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States,” but they also held the former president responsible for not taking appropriate action to stop the violence and in turn encouraged his supporters to come to Washington and wreak havoc.
Obstruction of an official proceeding
This charge makes “corruptly” obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding or attempting to do so a criminal offence. According to the committee, Trump was told that his VP Pence cannot decline to tally votes and has to abide by the Electoral Count Act. Additionally, the former president was also aware of his losses in state and federal lawsuits when he alleged voter fraud.
Furthermore, the committee also attributed this charge to Trump’s plans to persuade state officials to change the electoral results “provides further evidence that President Trump was attempting through multiple means to corruptly obstruct, impede or influence the counting of electoral votes on January 6th,” said the panel’s executive summary.
Conspiracy to defraud the United States
This is when two or more people conspire to either “commit any offence against the United States or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof”. The panel has recommended this charge citing Trump and his allies entering into agreements, formal or informal, to obstruct the Electoral College votes.
This also comes as the Justice Department told the panel that they had already concluded that there is no evidence or factual basis to argue that the election was stolen, a claim that Trump had made repeatedly. Furthermore, the former president also asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to “find” him over 11,000 votes, which the state official declined to do since he did not have the authority to do so, said the panel report.
Conspiracy to make a false statement
This statute makes it unlawful for a government official to cover up a scheme, make false statements, or issue false statements, or documents, knowing that it is not true. The panel claims that several people acting on Trump’s orders submitted fake slates of electors to Congress and the National Archives.
Subsequently, used the existence of those fake electors to assert that Pence could delay or reject the certification of Biden’s electors, said the committee in its report. It added, that the former president, “personally participated in a scheme to have the Trump electors meet, cast votes, and send their votes to the Joint Session of Congress in several states that Vice President Biden won, and then his supporters relied on the existence of these fake electors as part of their effort to obstruct the Joint Session.”
Trump’s response to the referred charges
On Monday, following the announcement of the panel’s recommendations and charges against Trump, he took to his social media platform, ‘Truth Social’ and posted a series of statements.
“These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” said the former president, seemingly brushing off the potential criminal charges.
He also asserted that he had “pushed for 20,000 troops to prevent violence on Jan 6, and that I went on television and told everyone to go home….” Furthermore, Trump accused House lawmakers of recommending “fake charges” against him in an attempt to stop him from running for the White House again.
“The people understand that the Democratic Bureau of Investigation, the DBI, are out to keep me from running for president because they know I’ll win and that this whole business of prosecuting me is just like impeachment was - a partisan attempt to sideline me and the Republican Party,” said Trump also referring to two impeachment trials during his presidency.
He added, “The Fake charges made by the highly partisan Unselect Committee of January 6th have already been submitted, prosecuted, and tried in the form of Impeachment Hoax # 2. I WON convincingly. Double Jeopardy anyone!”