The House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 riot is considering criminal references for at least four individuals in addition to former President Donald Trump, multiple sources told CNN.
The panel is weighing criminal references for former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, right-wing attorney John Eastman, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, the sources said.
The commission has not yet officially decided who should be referred to the Justice Department for prosecution and for what offenses, sources said. The four individuals under consideration, whose names have not been previously disclosed, provide a glimpse into the panel’s deliberations.
While the criminal references would be largely symbolic in nature — as the DOJ has already conducted an extensive investigation into the attack on the US Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election — committee members have stressed that the move serves as a way for their views on the dossier.
A spokesperson for the January 6 commission declined to comment.
Commission President Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said Thursday that committee members are expected to make a decision on criminal referrals when members meet virtually on Sunday.
Thompson told reporters on Thursday how members moved toward the idea of issuing criminal references as the panel’s investigation progressed.
“I think the more we looked at the amount of evidence we had gathered, we got the sense that while we’re not investigating people for criminal activity, we just couldn’t overlook some of it.”
Maryland Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who leads the Jan. 6 subcommittee charged with presenting recommendations on criminal referrals to the full committee, said Thursday: “I think anyone engaging in criminal actions should be held accountable for that. . And we are going to draw that up.”
“The biggest violation in constitutional terms is the attempt to overturn presidential elections and circumvent the constitutional order,” Raskin told reporters. “Secondary to all that are a slew of legal violations, which support the seriousness and scale of that violent attack on America.”
Raskin, along with Democratic Representatives Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, and the panel’s vice chair, GOP Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, form the subcommittee.
Schiff told CNN that there is a “consensus among members” regarding referrals and that members have a unified approach on that front.
Thompson told reporters earlier this week, “we will refer. How much, we haven’t decided yet.” CNN previously reported that the committee is weighing Trump and several of his closest allies for criminal references.
Thompson said the panel aims to release its final report Dec. 21 and vote publicly on criminal references.
“There will be some form of public presentation. We haven’t decided exactly what that would be yet,” Thompson said.
The commission subpoenaed Meadows last September for documents and testimony, and he turned over more than 2,000 text messages he sent and received between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration. The text messages, obtained by CNN, show top Republican Party officials, right-wing figures and even Trump family members discussing with Meadows what Trump should say and do after the election and in the midst of the insurgency.
Meadows did not turn over any other documents he had, and the House committee voted to indict him for felonious contempt of Congress for it and for his refusal to testify, and referred the case to the Justice Department. The Justice Department has declined to charge Meadows with evading his subpoena, given his senior position in the Trump West Wing and claims of executive privilege.
Raskin also suggested on Thursday that previous DOJ references for contempt of Congress would not affect how the panel handles these criminal references.
“We previously disdained Congressional references and there is a whole legal process in place to allow that to happen,” he said. “But you know we’ll explain our decisions in detail — why we make certain kinds of referrals for certain people and other kinds for others.”
Eastman sat down for an interview with the panel last year but is relying on his Fifth Amendment rights that protect against self-incrimination.
Amid a legal battle to get Eastman’s emails, a federal judge ruled in March that Eastman, along with Trump, may have been plotting a crime when they attempted to disrupt congressional certification of the January 6 presidential election. The FBI seized Eastman’s phone in June as part of its criminal investigation, according to an Eastman police report.
David O. Carter, a California federal judge, ordered Eastman to turn over 101 emails from around January 6, 2021, which he tried to keep secret from the House Select Committee, which after a protracted lawsuit, the panel finally received .
Carter’s reasoning was a crucial admission by a federal court that Trump’s interest in overturning the election could be considered criminal.
“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter wrote.
At a hearing over the summer, the panel presented revelations that provided new insight into Eastman’s role as a central figure in the Trump-led effort to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election. Eastman was integral to the intense campaign of pressure that Trump directed at then-Vice President Mike Pence to force Pence to implement a plan to overturn the election results.
At the hearing, the committee discussed how Eastman advanced a legal theory that Pence could unilaterally block the certification of the election — a theory that was flatly rejected by Trump’s White House lawyers and Pence’s team, but was nonetheless embraced by the former president.
Clark invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times during his statement to the committee. Federal investigators raided Clark’s home as part of their own criminal investigation.
The former DOJ official at the time was facing criminal contempt of reference by Congress after he refused to answer the committee’s questions on an earlier deposition. The referral was never sent to DOJ because on the day the committee voted on the contempt referral, Clark’s attorney informed the committee that he intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions on the grounds that this could incriminate him.
The panel devoted much of a June hearing to Clark’s role in Trump’s efforts to arm the Justice Department in the final months of his term as part of the plot to overturn the 2020 election and to to stay in power.
The committee focused in particular on the efforts of Rep. Scott Perry, the Republican from Pennsylvania, who connected Clark to the White House in December 2020.
CNN has previously reported on the role Perry played, and the Committee on Lawsuits released text messages Perry exchanged with Meadows about Clark.
“He wanted Mr. Clark — Mr. Jeff Clark to take over the Justice Department,” Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Meadows associate, said of Perry in a clip of her statement played at that hearing.
Giuliani, Trump’s former personal attorney and a lead architect of his effort to overturn the 2020 election results, met with the panel in May for more than nine hours.
In its first subpoena, the commission alleges that Giuliani “actively promoted claims of election fraud on behalf of the former president and attempted to persuade state lawmakers to take steps to overturn the election results.” The subpoena also stated that Giuliani was in contact with Trump and members of Congress “about strategies to delay or nullify the results of the 2020 election.”