The congressional committee responsible for investigating the Capitol riots, which took place on January 6, 2021, has recommended pressing criminal charges against former US President Donald Trump.
According to a summary of the committee’s final report, “None of the events of January 6 would have happened without him.” On this basis, the congressional committee recommended prosecuting Trump on at least four charges.
Ultimately, it is the US Justice Department that will decide whether to prosecute Trump. Any legal challenges could complicate the former president’s bid to return to the Oval Office in 2024.
The congressional committee’s January 6 report
According to the congressional committee, there are grounds to prosecute the former president on four charges. These are the obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to make a false statement, and inciting, assisting, aiding, and comforting an insurrection.
The committee’s chair, Bernie Thompson, commented on the situation, saying, “We have every confidence that the work of this committee will help provide the road map to justice.”
“We will also show that evidence we’ve gathered points to further action beyond the power of this committee or the congress to help ensure accountability in the law,” Thompson added.
Thompson accused Trump of “breaking” faith in democracy and addressed fellow committee members, maintaining that “if we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again.”
Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the committee, agreed with and reiterated Thompson’s statement that the January 6th events cannot under any circumstances be repeated if the United States is to continue acting as an agent of democracy.
“No man who would behave that way, at that moment in time, can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again,” Cheney added. “He is unfit for any office.”
Legal and political stakes
The January 6 committee’s recommendations could be costly for Trump if they are put into action. The former president would face fines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to two decades in prison, and a bar on ever running for political office again.
However, the congressional committee does not have the legal power to prosecute Trump. This power lies with the U.S. Department of Justice. The vote in Congress is essentially a recommendation for the Department of Justice to go ahead and press charges.
If legal action does materialize, this could jeopardize Trump’s 2024 presidential run, which he announced in November. November was when Republicans took control of the House, albeit by a much smaller margin than they had hoped for.
The Capitol riot
After losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, Trump alleged that the result was fraudulent and the democrats had cheated.
Then, on January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington D.C. to protest the result. A sizeable number planned to prevent Congress from formalizing the result and about two thousand rioters stormed the Capitol building.
Five people were killed in the ensuing chaos, and about thirty million dollars worth of repairs and additional security measures were required in the aftermath. In November of last year, the first person was sentenced in connection with the January 6th attack.