20 Dec 2022

Trump should face insurrection, obstruction charges, US Capitol riot panel says

11:50 am on 20 December 2022
PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 15: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump announced that he was seeking another term in office and officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign.   Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The panel is asking the Justice Department to charge Donald Trump with obstruction, conspiracy to defraud the US, making false statements and aiding or inciting and insurrection. Photo: AFP

The US House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol has asked federal prosecutors to charge Donald Trump with obstruction and insurrection for his role in sparking the deadly riot.

The Democratic-led select committee's request to the Justice Department is non-binding, but comes as a special counsel is overseeing two other federal probes of the Republican former president related to his attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat, and the removal of classified files from the White House.

The panel asked the Justice Department to charge Trump with obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States, making false statements and aiding or inciting and insurrection.

"An insurrection is a rebellion against the authority of the United States. It is a grave federal offence, anchored in the Constitution itself," said Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the select committee member, as he announced the charges.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the committee's move. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Today's meeting was the last final public gathering of a nine-member panel that spent 18 months probing the unprecedented attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power by thousands of Trump backers, inspired by his false claims that his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud.

The committee also said it referred four Republican House members, including Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, to the chamber's ethics committee, for failing to comply with its legal subpoenas as it investigated the attack.

"If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again," said Representative Bennie Thompson, the select committee's chairperson, as the meeting began.

Slamming Trump for summoning the mob to the Capitol nearly two years ago, Thompson also criticised the former president for undermining faith in the democratic system.

"If the faith is broken, so is our democracy. Donald Trump broke that faith," Thompson said.

Trump has already launched a campaign to seek the Republican nomination to run for the White House again in 2024.

Several investigations

The select committee's work is one of a series of investigations into the riot. Five people, including a police officer, died during or shortly after the incident and more than 140 police officers were injured. The Capitol suffered millions of dollars in damage.

"Among the most shameful of this committee's findings, was the President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office, watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television," Representative Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee and its vice chairperson, said.

A jury has already found members of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia guilty of sedition for their role in the attack. Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed last month to lead federal probes into Trump.

Trump has faced a series of legal problems since leaving office. His real estate company was convicted on December 6 of carrying out a 15-year-long criminal scheme to defraud tax authorities.

Trump has dismissed the many investigations he faces as politically motivated. He says the January 6 committee, dominated by Democrats, is biased against him.

"The highly partisan Unselect Committee is illegally leaking confidential info to anyone that will listen," the former president wrote on his Truth Social platform before the meeting. "How much longer are Republicans, and American Patriots in general, going to allow this to happen."

The select committee approved its report including the recommendation of charges unanimously, with all of its seven Democrats and two Republicans in favour.

The House Ways and Means Committee is due to meet on Tuesday to decide what to do with Trump's tax returns, which it obtained late last month after a long court fight. Trump was the first presidential candidate in decades to not release his tax returns during either of his campaigns for president.

- Reuters

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