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CRIMINAL CHARGES REFERRAL

Trump should be prosecuted for role in January 6 Capitol attack, says US House panel

Donald Trump speaks during the "Save America Rally" near the White House in Washington, DC, on 6 January 2021. (Photo: Eric Lee / Bloomberg)

A House committee recommended Donald Trump be prosecuted for his role in the January 6 assault on the US Capitol, the first such referral of a former US president in the culmination of a 17-month investigation.

The committee voted unanimously Monday to refer Trump for prosecution for multiple offences including insurrection, which Representative Jamie Raskin said would disqualify the former president from holding office, if convicted.

The US is not a country where “foot soldiers go to jail and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass”, the Maryland Democrat said.

The committee’s referral doesn’t require the Justice Department to prosecute Trump and in fact has no formal legal impact. But it is a powerful statement to federal and state prosecutors as well as the broader public. The committee also recommended charges related to obstructing a congressional proceeding.

The action adds to the troubles plaguing the 2024 re-election bid Trump launched last month. Another House committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to consider publicly releasing Trump’s tax returns, which he fought to keep private. The Ways and Means Committee obtained the documents after a lengthy court battle.

In recent weeks, Trump’s company has been convicted of tax fraud, his dinner with a white supremacist provoked furious criticism and polls show his support plummeting after disappointing Republican results in midterm elections. Some polls show him trailing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary and Democratic President Joe Biden in a hypothetical 2024 rematch.

Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice-chair, called Trump’s conduct “an utter moral failure and a dereliction of duty” that renders him “unfit for any office”.

The committee vote is to be accompanied by a detailed final report on its investigation, laying out a case for Trump’s culpability for the mob attack. The committee has accumulated evidence including interviews with more than a thousand witnesses that it also plans to share with prosecutors and the public.

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, another panel member, said the panel uncovered evidence of attempts to influence witnesses. She cited on instance in which a witness was offered financial benefits ahead of testifying but those offers were withdrawn after her testimony was reported.

“We believe these efforts may have been part of a strategy to prevent the committee from finding the truth,” Lofgren said.

Hearings the committee held over the spring and summer regularly dominated their television time slots, with riveting insider accounts punctuating a case against Trump and key associates. Several publishers plan to rush out custom editions of the committee report in anticipation of reader interest. The panel also plans online multimedia presentations to amplify the impact of its findings.

Any subsequent conviction on an insurrection charge would complicate Trump’s reelection effort. Under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, anyone who has previously taken an oath to support the Constitution — which presidents and members of Congress must do — is barred from federal office if they engage in insurrection.

But it’s not clear exactly how that section of the Constitution would work in practice, especially in a nationwide presidential race. The Constitution doesn’t spell out a uniform process for pursuing disqualification. Recent challenges under the 14th Amendment to a candidate appearing on the ballot have unfolded on a state-by-state basis. Congress failed to act this year on proposed measures to create a standardized process aimed at avoiding legal chaos.

The insurrection disqualification is also a relatively untested area of the law, and any effort to keep Trump off the ballot is likely to trigger a fierce court fight.

No sitting or former president has ever been tried for a crime, though Ulysses Grant was arrested and fined $20 while president for speeding down a Washington street in his horse and buggy. President Gerald Ford pre-empted charges against Richard Nixon with a pardon following the Watergate scandal.

At the end of his presidential term, Bill Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law licence and $25,000 fine in a deal with independent counsel Robert Ray not to bring criminal charges against him for lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

(With assistance from Zoe Tillman, Steven T Dennis, Laura Davison, Mark Niquette and Chris Strohm.)

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  • Ron Ron says:

    Oh WOW, what a shock! The January 6 committee especially formed from people who had already made up their minds to find the ex-President guilty found him guilty. Probably just as well that it holds no weight in law, it is just theatre. I think there’s an opportunity going missing here to make a TV series about the Trump Presidency entitled “Yes, Mr President” with a nod to the BBC’s “Yes, Prime Minister” of 40 years ago. Should be hilarious.

    • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

      It is not true. You need to be educated on the US democracy and how it works. It would be interesting to hear your views on Zuma whom I believe our own public representatives failed and are still failing to hold him to account. US public representatives are not a bunch of cheque collectors but men and women who are very serious about their oath of office. The conduct of Trump just like Zuma and Boris Johnson as political vandals speak on their own and the committee did a very sterling work. In the face of state capture and its aftermath we have our own appointed public representatives very silent on the matter. Zuma ought to be impeached and his pension removed for the vile conduct as the President of our country. You need to be ashamed of yourself given the delinquency of Trump and his continued threat to the US edifice that serves as a beacon for all those who aspire for genuine democracy including this country with a flawed constitution. When you have a party system you have a problem of those appointed to parliament by their leaders to hold to account such leaders. You have to tell me if Mantashe appoints you to parliament and can remove you how do you hold him to account without risking him sending you back to poverty?

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The decision of the January 6 Committee is the ultimate and final act of the public representatives not bound by party authority but their oath to the Constitution to hold Trump to account despite leaving office. I have questioned the useless adult day care centre we call parliament having to wait on the executive to give it its proposals of a programme of action on the Zondo Commission than having its own committee to study what actions it can take on the Zondo Commission including expelling Ministers, Deputy Minister and MPs named in wrong doing through its ethics committee. The media is failing the country by not asking the ANC Speaker what actions is parliament going to take on the Zondo Commission beyond being lapdogs of the executive. It is at these moment that true public representatives like Ben Turok are missed. May his soul rest in peace. He would be a very busy person creating fear in people like Kodwa a mamed thief in the Zondo Commission as well as Mantashe and others and he would not be taking the review drivel peddled by ANC and Calland. The US democracy lives and has life that even how much Trump insults them they do not flinch in discharging their constitutional mandate. I listened with a sense trepidation when Chief Justice Zondo addressed the Public Service Commission on PRASA specifically. That speech tells you there is no Ramaphosa fighting any corruption when it come to ANC big wigs close to him. Because PRASA will have to send Mantashe to jail!

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