Schiff: ‘Sufficient evidence’ to criminally charge Trump over efforts to overturn election

Dramatic statement comes one day before January 6 panel set to release outline of its investigative report on US Capitol attack

The California congressman Adam Schiff said on Sunday that he believed there was “sufficient evidence” to criminally charge Donald Trump in relation to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Schiff’s dramatic statement on CNN’s State of the Union came one day before the House January 6 select committee to which he belongs is poised to release an outline of its extensive investigative report on the US Capitol attack, which has been linked to nine deaths, including the suicides of traumatized law enforcement officers.

The committee is expected to use its last meeting on Monday to refer Trump, as well as others, to the US justice department in relation to the former president’s attempts to reverse his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden.

During this final meeting, the panel is expected to outline an executive summary of its findings, propose legislative recommendations, vote to adopt the report – and then vote on possible criminal and civil referrals. Schiff is one of nine members, seven of whom are Democrats like him, serving on the January 6 committee.

The potential referrals involving Trump are expected to involve obstruction of an official congressional proceeding as well as conspiracy to defraud the United States. The Guardian first reported the nature of these referrals.

Schiff told CNN host Jake Tapper that he “can’t comment” on specifics of any possible referrals. The predicted criminal referrals are effectively symbolic because Congress cannot force prosecutors to pursue charges.

“I think that the evidence is there that Trump committed criminal offenses in connection with his efforts to overturn the election,” said Schiff, who chairs the House intelligence committee. “And viewing it as a former prosecutor, I think there’s sufficient evidence to charge the [former] president.”

Tapper asked Schiff whether this was enough to secure a conviction.

“Well, I don’t know what the justice department has. I do know what’s in the public record. The evidence seems pretty plain to me, but I would want to see the full body of evidence, if I were in the prosecutor’s shoes, to make a decision,” Schiff responded. “But this is someone, who in multiple ways, tried to pressure state officials to find votes that didn’t exist. This is someone who tried to interfere with a joint session, even inciting a mob to attack the Capitol.

“If that’s not criminal, then – then I don’t know what it is.”

Asked whether he thought Trump would face criminal charges, Schiff said: “The short answer is, I don’t know. I think that he should. I think he should face the same remedy, force of law that anyone else would.”

Schiff said he was worried, however, that “it may take until he is no longer politically relevant for justice to be served. That’s not the way it should be in this country, but there seems to be an added evidentiary burden with someone who has a large enough following.

“That simply should not be the case, but I find it hard, otherwise, to explain why, almost two years from the events of January 6, and with the evidence that’s already in the public domain, why the justice department hasn’t moved more quickly than it has,” Schiff also said.

The Guardian previously reported that the Trump allies who might face criminal referrals include former high-ranking White House staffers. The panel is also expected to make civil referrals to the House ethics committee involving Republican Congress members – as well as suggest disbarment for some of Trump’s attorneys.

The January 6 committee has largely concluded that the insurrection was rooted in a conspiracy, sources previously told the Guardian. The panel found that Trump oversaw a “political” plan for his vice-president, Mike Pence, to refuse to certify election results in a joint session on January 6 as well as a “coup” plot to force Congress’s hand if he refused.

Committee investigators think that Trump’s alleged desire to illegally thwart the certification of the election he lost was obvious months before January 6. They believe it extended from the time he agreed with a fake elector plot so states would swap Biden’s electoral college votes for him until he refused for hours to call off Capitol attackers, sources had told the Guardian.

Trump did not leave documentary evidence of his alleged involvement, but his staffers left a paper trail. During Trump’s presidency, he used his power to stifle inquiries, the committee is expected to say. One of Trump’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Victoria Bekiempis

The GuardianTramp

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