Democrats in Congress on Monday praised the House January 6 select committee for referring former president Donald Trump to the justice department for violating at least four criminal statutes, while Republicans called the committee’s work a “political stunt”.
In its last public meeting, the committee chose to refer Trump for charges on obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and assisting, aiding or comforting an insurrection. Though the unprecedented criminal referrals are largely symbolic as the justice department will decide whether to prosecute Trump, they will give the justice department a road map should it choose to proceed.
The committee also referred four House Republicans – understood to be Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Scott Perry and Andy Biggs – to the House ethics committee for failure to comply with subpoenas. And John Eastman, Trump’s attorney, was also referred for prosecution.
Republicans called the investigation a “witch-hunt” and played down the criminal allegations concerning the riots that led to at least five deaths.
Russell Dye, a spokesperson for Jordan, a Trump ally from Ohio, called the referrals “just another partisan and political stunt”, in a statement to the Guardian, adding that the committee “failed to respond to Mr Jordan’s numerous letters and concerns surrounding the politicization and legitimacy of the committee’s work”.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican and far-right conspiracy theorist, shared screenshots of polling of Republican primary voters, claiming the “real reason” for the criminal referrals is because committee members think Trump will be unbeatable in his run for president in 2024. She likened the United States to a communist country where people steal elections and then “weaponize the government against their political enemies and the people who support them”.
Representative Troy Nehls, a Republican from Texas, retweeted a Fox News contributor who said that the committee is illegitimate. He also called it a “partisan witch hunt”, and said that “the American people are sick of it”.
Others said it was a way to deflect from Joe Biden’s problems. The Illinois congresswoman Mary Miller shared a video of migrants crossing the border, saying the committee distracted from “the fentanyl & crime crisis Joe Biden created by opening our southern border to an INVASION of 5 MILLION foreign nationals led by drug cartels and human traffickers.”
Outside Congress, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, shared a tweet saying that the January 6 committee was making “bogus criminal accusations while the #TwitterFiles are producing real evidence of an effort to interfere with a democratic election,” referring to Elon Musk’s series of Twitter threads attempting to show that the social network favored Democrats.
On the left, Democrats Cori Bush, a congresswoman from Missouri, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, shared screenshots of the committee’s presentation. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that “Trump’s actions are crimes against the American people and against our very democracy.”
Many Democrats responded to the referrals by saying that “no one is above the law”, making the case that a former or current president can face criminal charges.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” said Representative Dianna DeGette of Colorado. “Trump incited a deadly insurrection to overturn the election. He must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
Representative Troy Carter, a Democrat from Louisiana, kept his reaction simple. “No one is above the law,” he said. “Especially, and importantly, the President.”
A large number of Democrats also said that Trump “must be held accountable”.
“Donald Trump’s actions were a direct attack against our democracy & he must be held accountable,” said Representative Brian Higgins of New York.
Representative Lori Trahan of Massachusetts tweeted a thread outlining the findings of the committee and saying that “we must act on their recommendations to ensure nothing like January 6th ever happens again”.
Others just thanked the committee for its 18-month investigation and all of the work it did to get to its final report, including over 1,000 witness interviews and nine public hearings.
“I applaud the committee for its work to protect our democracy and hold those who encouraged or participated in undemocratic violence accountable,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.