Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The January 6 Committee Concludes Its Work


The 117th Congress convened in the waning weeks of Donald Trump's presidency and experienced directly his allegedly criminal acts three days later on January 6, 2021. The 117th Congress is about to go out of business - still in the shadow of Donald Trump.

So, yesterday, with just two weeks left in its mandate, the January 6 Committee held its last public session. And what a session it was! The committee unanimously voted to refer the former President to the Department of Justice on four charges: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement (conspiring "with others to submit fake electors to Congress and the National Archives”), and acting to "incite," "assist," or "aid or comfort" an insurrection. 

In a sense, such action on the Committee's part is largely symbolic, since Congress can't compel DOJ to prosecute, and the DOJ doesn't need a congressional referral in order to do so on its own. However, as one friend of mine, who is much more of an expert in such matters than I, observed: "one important virtue of the referrals and the committee report will be to make everything public whereas a lot of what the DOJ has will stay secret (grand jury testimony), even if Trump is indicted.  The committee report will be incredibly informative; it looks like the committee has been very serious and very thorough."

I still have reservations about whether it would be prudent for the DOJ to indict Trump. Those reservations are exacerbated by my worry whether a conviction could actually be secured. Those are concerns for the Justice Department and the Special Prosecutor, however. As for the House committee, it has done a superb job making its case and highlighting for all to see the central part played by the president and his enablers in the effort to undermine the electoral process and the peaceful transfer of political power. DOJ and the Special prosecutor will do whatever they decide to do. Meanwhile, the broader political case has been made before the tribunal of the American people. And it has consistently been my view that it is the American electorate that must make the ultimate decision about both Trump himself and his political party.

The assault on the American constitution and the accompanying erosion of American political culture was not confined to January 6, 2021. It had been years in the making, and it will takes year more to undo.

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