Jan. 6 committee votes to refer Trump to DOJ on multiple criminal charges

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 2:48 AM ET, Tue December 20, 2022
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12:41 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

Lawyers for Proud Boys defendants raise concern over today's committee meeting

From CNN's Evan Perez

A possible complication from the final Jan. 6 committee’s public meeting and the release of transcripts could come at the federal courthouse across from the Capitol where five leaders of the Proud Boys are on trial beginning today on seditious conspiracy.

Lawyers for defendants including Enrique Tarrio, have argued that the committee’s public activity has made it impossible for them to receive a fair trial.

A federal judge delayed their trial this summer, agreeing with the defense’s concerns.

Defense attorneys have raised renewed concerns about the committee’s meeting today and the final report to be released this week.  

Judge Timothy Kelly has said the trial will continue. “We just have to take it as it comes and roll with it,” Kelly said. 

12:54 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

Trump's team braces for criminal referrals while he lashes out on social media, sources say

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

A video of former President Donald Trump is shown on a screen during a House select committee hearing on July 21.
A video of former President Donald Trump is shown on a screen during a House select committee hearing on July 21. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Former President Donald Trump’s team huddled together multiple times since they learned the committee would be issuing criminal referrals — attempting to prepare for what they believed going to happen —a criminal referral from the House Select Committee to the Department of Justice.

Sources close to Trump said much of his inner circle were not ignoring the committee’s actions, despite many around the former president brushing it off as political. 

“We know this is happening, and we need to be prepared to publicly deal with it,” one source close to the former president said. 

Many of his top advisers spent time on the phone with legal counsel, trying to get a deeper understanding of what exactly criminal referrals would mean and how to plan a response. 

While some aides said Trump was unbothered by the committee, the former president spent the weekend fixated on their actions.

In a flurry of social media posts on Truth Social, Trump called the committee names, accused them of “illegally leaking confidential info” and hitting individuals sitting on the committee. 

He also posted copies of tweets from the afternoon on Jan. 6, calling for protestors to be “peaceful.” During the Jan. 6 hearings, former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews testified that she was told Trump did not want to include any mention of “peace” in his tweets, but ultimately gave in to White House officials and advisers urged the former president to do more as the violent attack was unfolding. 

The criminal referrals are just the latest in a long line of legal battles Trump is facing as he ramps up his third presidential campaign.  

12:35 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

DOJ investigators await committee evidence — including thousands of hours of witness interviews

From CNN's Evan Perez

For Justice Department investigators, more important than the referrals from the Jan. 6 committee, is obtaining the evidence the committee gathered — notably the transcripts of thousands of hours of interviews with witnesses. 

Justice officials have pushed for access to interview transcripts for months, and the committee announced that it would turn over a limited number of witness interviews over the summer. 

But to the frustration of prosecutors and US Attorney General Merrick Garland, the committee largely has held on to most of its evidence. 

Investigators have closely monitored the committee’s public presentations, but much has changed in the Justice Department probes of Trump since the last hearing. 

In August, the FBI carried out an extraordinary search of the former president’s home to recover thousands of pages of government documents, including national security material classified at the highest levels. That action revealed the existence of a second Trump investigation, for alleged illegal retention of classified documents and obstruction. 

And now, special counsel Jack Smith overseeing both two Trump investigations.

1:02 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

Today's committee meeting is expected to have a "simple and sober" tone

From CNN's Sara Murray and Zachary Cohen

House select committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Adam Kinzinger walk in together for the start of the final public meeting on Monday.
House select committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Adam Kinzinger walk in together for the start of the final public meeting on Monday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection lays out its evidence and criminal referrals today, lawmakers are expected to hit a sober tone, sources say.

“The point of this meeting will be simple and sober,” one source told CNN. 

Today’s meeting is expected to be relatively brief with some multimedia presentations.

Unlike previous hearings that relied on compelling witness testimony and splashy video montages, today’s event is designed to drive home the key evidence the committee uncovered and the gravity of what transpired in the run up and on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Nobody’s spiking the football here,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat and Jan. 6 committee member, told CNN just ahead of the committee meeting. 

1:06 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

Jan. 6 committee treating release of executive summary and today's meeting as a roadmap for DOJ, sources say

From CNN's Sara Murray and Zachary Cohen

The House select committee will hold its final public session today.
The House select committee will hold its final public session today. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The Jan. 6 committee is treating today’s public meeting and the release of its executive summary as a “roadmap” for the Department of Justice, sources tell CNN. 

The committee intends to lay out its body of evidence and drive home its conclusion that former President Donald Trump was culpable for the events that transpired on Jan. 6, 2021 — the basis for its plans to refer Trump to DOJ on at least three criminal charges

Lawmakers are primarily focused on laying out their case for DOJ, but their wide-ranging investigation has uncovered information that congressional investigators believe could be relevant to various bodies — from state bars to the House ethics committee.

Congressional investigators have already provided what they believe is evidence of criminal activity to an Atlanta-area district attorney leading a criminal investigation into Trump and his allies, according to someone familiar with the investigation. 

12:21 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

Lawmakers to push through first legislative response to Jan. 6 by week’s end

From CNN's Manu Raju

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill reached an agreement to include legislation in a must-pass spending bill to make it harder to overturn a certified presidential election when a joint session of Congress meets to approve the results, according to Hill sources.

The legislation — to overhaul the 1887 Electoral Count Act — would be the first that is expected to be signed into law as a direct response to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack.

The bill would ensure the vice president's role is completely ceremonial, raise the threshold in Congress for forcing votes to overturn a certified result and try to prevent efforts to pass along fake electors to Congress.

The Jan. 6 committee is expected to call for the bill’s passage, according to another source.

The bill is a result of intense negotiations that won over the support of top Republicans, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, but has drawn pushback from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. 

12:27 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

Trump legal team mired in disagreements as he faces criminal referral

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Kristen Holmes

Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president during a speech at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 15.
Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president during a speech at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 15. (Andrew Harnick/AP)

As the Jan. 6 committee is expected to issue a criminal referral for former President Donald Trump, his legal team has continued to be bogged down in internal disagreements about the many probes facing him. 

Trump’s team has met to talk about what to expect from the committee today, but they are much more focused and concerned with the other investigations facing him, including the federal grand jury on Jan. 6, the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation and the special grand jury in Georgia, multiple people familiar with the workings of the team say.

Despite the many probes facing Trump, his team is not acting as a unified front, but has often been locked in serious disagreement over how to proceed on several of the investigations, mainly when it comes to the documents one. 

One thing Trump’s advisers will watch for today is how deep the referrals from the committee go and whether it mentions obstruction of the investigation when it pertains to Trump.

Trump advisers and aides will be watching the meeting today closely, however sources close to Trump said the former President has told them he does not plan on watching. 

However, he will be updated by people around him, as he has been for all of the public hearings thus far. 

As of now, Trump’s legal team will not be engaging in the response to the committee today, however sources stress that this could change as the public meeting unfolds.

12:06 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

GOP prepares its response to Jan. 6 committee

From CNN's Manu Raju

Republicans in the House are preparing their counteroffensive to the exhaustive investigation by the Jan. 6 committee, finalizing a report focusing on security failures at the Capitol complex and steering clear of former President Donald Trump.

A senior GOP aide said Republicans will wait for the Jan. 6 committee to put out its report first but are prepared to release theirs soon after. It’s unclear if it will come out today.

The aide said the focus will be on: “Why was the Capitol so unprepared and how do we make sure that won’t happen again?”

More on this: For much of the past two years, Republicans have tried to pin the blame on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even though she is not in charge of day-to-day security decisions at the Capitol. Republicans expect Pelosi to factor into their final report as well.

In the new GOP majority, Republicans are not expected to make investigating the Jan. 6 investigators a heavy focus of their oversight efforts, despite previous suggestions that they would. But they may look into how the Jan. 6 committee spent its money, including by hiring a former TV executive to help produce the hearings, aides said.

11:42 a.m. ET, December 19, 2022

These are the crimes the Jan. 6 committee is said to be considering for a Trump referral

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Then-President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021.
Then-President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The Jan. 6 committee is eyeing multiple alleged crimes for a referral of former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department, CNN reported last week.

According to a source familiar with the matter, they include:

  • Insurrection
  • Obstruction of an official proceeding
  • Conspiracy to defraud the federal government

For the latter two, the lawmakers can rely on an opinion from a federal judge in California, who wrote earlier this year that there was evidence that Trump and his allies were plotting to defraud the US government and to obstruct an official proceeding. The opinion was handed down by US District Judge David O. Carter in a dispute over whether the House could access certain emails sent to and from former Trump attorney John Eastman.

The judge cited emails discussing Trump’s awareness that certain voter fraud claims being made in court were inaccurate as evidence of a plot to defraud the federal government. To explain his finding of evidence of obstruction, the judge pointed to emails that showed that the Trump team was contemplating filing lawsuits not to obtain legitimate legal relief, but to meddle in congressional proceedings.

A House referral for an insurrection charge would be a more aggressive move. It’s a crime to assist or engage in “in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws.” Judges have used the term “insurrection” to describe the January 6 attack on Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election.

But the Justice Department has not opted to bring the charge in its hundreds of US Capitol riot cases. Instead, prosecutors have relied on criminal statutes related to violence, obstruction of an official proceeding, and, in some limited cases, seditious conspiracy.

Who else could be referred? The panel has also weighed criminal referrals for a number of Trump’s closest allies including, Eastman, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, multiple sources told CNN earlier this month.

Another source cautioned at the time that while names were being considered, there was still discussion to be had before they were finalized.

CNN's Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz contributed reporting to this post.