The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol has decided to make criminal references to the Justice Department, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, to reporters Tuesday.
Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said the committee has not narrowed the universe of individuals who may be referred.
Asked if Thompson believed there were witnesses who committed perjury, he said, “That’s part of the discussion.”
When the panel refers, Thompson said it will be a separate document from the panel’s final report that will be sent to DOJ.
The committee, which declined to comment on Thompson’s comments, is expected to meet later Tuesday.
According to multiple sources familiar with the commission’s work, a subcommittee of members was tasked with providing the full commission with options on how to present evidence of possible obstruction, possible perjury, and possible witness tampering, as well as possible criminal references to the Department of Justice.
Democratic Representatives Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren and GOP Representative Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice chair, all trained attorneys, make up this subcommittee.
The decision whether or not to issue criminal references has been high on the committee’s mind. Panel members broadly agree that former President Donald Trump and some of his close allies committed a crime when he pushed a conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, as they laid out during their hearings. But they have long been divided on what to do about it, including whether or not to refer Trump to the Justice Department.
In the past, the question has sparked fierce, sometimes controversial debate among committee members, sources say. Those who previously said that criminal references are not necessary to close the panel’s investigation say the committee has no prosecuting powers and that the Justice Department does not need Congress to investigate crimes since it conducts its own criminal investigations into the attack on the Capitol is underway.
Yet the idea of a Trump criminal referral, even if entirely symbolic in nature, has hung over the panel like a shadow since it was first formed, and many members felt it was a necessary measure to complete its work.