House January 6 committee has decided to make criminal referrals, chairman says
(CNN) — The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol has decided to make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, told reporters Tuesday.
Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said the committee has not narrowed down the universe of individuals who may be referred.
Asked whether Thompson believed any witnesses perjured themselves, he said, “that’s part of the discussion.”
When the panel makes referrals, Thompson said it will be a separate document from the panel’s final report that will be sent to DOJ.
The committee is expected to meet later Tuesday.
A source tells CNN the criminal referrals the January 6 committee will ultimately be making “will be focused on the main organizers and leaders of the attacks.”
A subcommittee of members was tasked with providing options to the full committee about how to present evidence of possible obstruction, possible perjury and possible witness tampering as well as potential criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, according to multiple sources familiar with the committee’s work.
Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren and GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the panel, all trained lawyers, comprise this subcommittee.
The decision of whether to issue criminal referrals has loomed large over the committee. Members on the panel have been in wide agreement that former President Donald Trump and some of his closest allies have committed a crime when he pushed a conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, as they’ve laid out in their hearings. But they have long been split over what to do about it, including whether to make a criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department.
In the past, the question has led to a vigorous, at times contentious, debate among committee members, sources have said. Those who previously said criminal referrals are not necessary to close out the panel’s investigation say the committee lacks prosecutorial powers, and that the Justice Department does not need Congress to investigate crimes as it has its own criminal investigations into the Capitol attack that are ongoing.
Still, the idea of a criminal referral of Trump, even if entirely symbolic in nature, has hung like a shadow over the panel since it was first formed, and many members felt it was a necessary measure in order to complete its work.