Four members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot pushed on Sunday for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to criminally investigate former President Trump.
The lawmakers argued the committee has gathered enough evidence of the former president’s actions — and inaction — leading up to the Capitol attack to merit investigation.
Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said Sunday that “there’s no question that we have seen very serious misconduct and certainly supreme dereliction of duty” from the former president.
“I think that Donald Trump — the violation of his oath of office, the violation of the Constitution that he engaged in — is the most serious misconduct of any president in the history of our nation,” Cheney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
She detailed evidence brought forth during the hearings of Trump’s attempts to pressure and sway the Department of Justice, former Vice President Mike Pence and state and local officials “to violate the law and the Constitution” in a bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The former president encouraged the Jan. 6 rioters, Cheney said, and refused to call them off when things turned violent, “despite the fact that people, everyone, really, was pleading with him” to step in and speak up.
The 187 minutes between when Trump delivered a speech telling supporters to march to the Capitol and when he finally told them to leave the building was the focus of the committee’s prime-time hearing on Thursday.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the president of the United States is unfit for further office,” Cheney said. “Any man who would conduct themselves — or woman — who would conduct themselves the way that he did in attempting to overturn an election and stay in power must never again be anywhere close to the Oval Office.”
The committee hasn’t decided yet whether to issue a criminal referral for Trump, which may add public pressure on the DOJ to open a criminal investigation, but Cheney confirmed the panel is still considering the option.
Cheney’s only fellow Republican on the panel, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), told ABC’s “This Week” co-host Jonathan Karl Sunday that he’s noticed “a significant amount of more movement” from within the DOJ as the panel churns out new evidence.
Kinzinger said he understands the hesitation to prosecute a prior administration, saying that’s “what you see in failed democracies.”
“But there is a massive difference between ‘I’m going to prosecute the last administration for political vengeance’ and not prosecuting an administration that literally attempted a failed coup,” Kinzinger said.
Not prosecuting when there is viable evidence sets the precedent that behavior like Trump’s is acceptable from any future president, the Illinois congressman argued.
“And I don’t think a democracy can survive that. So, I certainly hope they’re moving forward. I certainly think there’s evidence of crimes. And I think it goes all the way up to Donald Trump,” he said.
Kinzinger said on Friday that the House committee had “proven different components of a criminal case” against the former president.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said on Sunday the DOJ has “plenty” of evidence for a criminal investigation.
In an interview with moderator Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Luria called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to act. “If he’s watching today, I’d tell him he doesn’t need to wait on us because I think he has plenty to keep moving forward.”
The Virginia congresswoman said the Department of Justice has been closely monitoring the hearings.
“There have been cases of criminal defendants who have been charged and found guilty for events on January 6th, and they have actually quoted testimony from the January 6th witnesses and hearings,” Luria said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on Sunday that while the decision to investigate is up to the DOJ, the evidence reveals significant misconduct from the former president.
The select committee’s hearings have proven that “when all else failed, when all these other lines of effort to overturn the election failed, he made the decision to bring a mob to the Capitol. When he learned they were armed, his response was, ‘then take the magnetometers down,’ ” Schiff said.
“He wanted to march with that mob, that armed and dangerous mob, to the Capitol. When he was refused and brought to the safety of the cafeteria or the dining room of the White House, he wouldn’t lift a finger as he watched on TV, police officers being beaten and gouged and sprayed with chemicals in, you know, the most supreme dereliction of duty ever,” he added.
Trump’s multifaceted efforts to challenge the 2020 election results and stay in power “invoke various criminal laws” and merit further investigation, Schiff said.
The California congressman also noted that the Jan. 6 committee is working to establish links between the Trump administration and far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
Trump has used his social media platform Truth Social to respond to the hearings, often in real time, critiquing what he called “the Unselect Committee” for pursuing “their fake case” against him and lambasting Republicans who’ve taken part.
“I had an election Rigged and Stolen from me, and our Country. The USA is going to Hell. Am I supposed to be happy?” Trump shared on Truth Social Friday, after the hearing focused on his inaction on Jan. 6.