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January 6 committee to issue criminal referrals, chairman says

A committee spokesperson says members will make ‘decisions about specifics in the days ahead’ (Jose Luis Magana, File/AP)
A committee spokesperson says members will make ‘decisions about specifics in the days ahead’ (Jose Luis Magana, File/AP)

The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol will make criminal referrals to the Justice Department as it wraps up its probe and looks to publish a final report by the end of the year, the panel’s chairman said.

Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson told reporters that the committee has decided to issue the referrals recommending criminal prosecution, but did not disclose who the targets will be or if former president Donald Trump will be among them.

“At this point, there’ll be a separate document coming from me to DOJ,” Mr Thompson told reporters at the Capitol.

Mr Thompson said the committee is meeting later on Tuesday to discuss the details.

“The Committee has determined that referrals to outside entities should be considered as a final part of its work,” a spokesperson for the select committee told The Associated Press. “The committee will make decisions about specifics in the days ahead.”

The decision to issue referrals is not unexpected.

Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the committee, has for months been hinting at sending the Justice Department criminal referrals based on the extensive evidence the nine-member panel has gathered since it was formed in July 2021.

While Congress can send criminal referrals to the Justice Department, it is ultimately up to federal prosecutors whether to pursue charges.

In the past year, the committee has referred several members of Mr Trump’s inner circle to the agency for refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. So far only one contempt of Congress charge, against Steven Bannon, has turned into an indictment.

The panel — comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans — has sought to create the most comprehensive record of what the lawmakers have called Mr Trump’s “staggering betrayal” of his oath of office and his supporters’ unprecedented attempt to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

The committee built its case against the former president over a series of public hearings that began in early June and included live and video testimony from members of Mr Trump’s family, his White House aides and other allies.

At the end of the last hearing, the committee voted unanimously to subpoena Mr Trump for his testimony under oath as well as documents. In response, Mr Trump filed a lawsuit against the panel.