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

Insurrection referral may be the toughest for the DOJ 

From CNN's Evan Perez

The Jan. 6 committee’s expected referrals to the Justice Department alleging Donald Trump committed at least three crimes includes one for insurrection, sources have told CNN. 

The Civil War-era law has rarely been used, and it's one prosecutors have viewed as problematic in their Jan. 6 investigations.

The 2383 statute reads: Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Justice Department prosecutors have weighed using the statute in their investigations of hundreds of people so far charged in the US Capitol attack. 

But no one has been charged with insurrection. 

An official involved in some of the internal decisions on Jan. 6 says officials viewed the insurrection law as challenging because there’s very little case law, raising the likelihood that prosecution could fail.

Prosecutors have instead chosen another rarely used law: seditious conspiracy.

A Washington jury convicted members of the Oath Keepers of seditious conspiracy last month.

The other possible referrals against Trump, obstruction of a congressional proceeding and defrauding the US government are more commonly prosecuted.

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

Here are the key witnesses linked to Trump that have testified before the Jan. 6 committee

From CNN's Pamela Brown

The House Jan. 6 select committee has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, including several within former President Donald Trump's orbit, CNN's Pamela Brown reports.

In this Magic Wall segment, Brown highlights the key witnesses linked to the former president including Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump and Pat Cipollone.


12:43 p.m. ET, December 19, 2022

The Jan. 6 committee’s final public session is starting soon. Here are key things to watch for. 

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen

The US Capitol is seen on Monday, December 19.
The US Capitol is seen on Monday, December 19. (Matt Rourke/AP)

The House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, will soon hold its last public meeting, marking the end of an expansive investigation that has spanned more than 17 months, encompassed more than 1,000 interviews and culminated in accusations that former President Donald Trump and his closest allies sought to overthrow the 2020 presidential election and stop the peaceful transfer of power.

Through blockbuster hearings, interviews with some of the former president’s closest allies and court battles to free up documents, the committee sought to tell the definitive narrative of what happened in the lead up to and on Jan. 6.

On Monday, members are expected to vote on its final report – spanning hundreds of pages and encapsulating its key findings, which will be released to the public on Wednesday – as well as present criminal referrals it plans to make to the Justice Department. This meeting will be the panel’s last message to the public, and members are seeking to end on a powerful note.

The charges the panel is considering asking DOJ to pursue include multiple against Trump, such as obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the federal government, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.

The recommendations match the allegations the House select committee made against Trump and his elections attorney John Eastman in a previous court proceeding seeking Eastman’s emails.

The final House report could include additional charges proposed for Trump, according to the source. It will provide justification from the committee investigation for recommending the charges.

The panel is considering criminal referrals for at least four individuals in addition to Trump, CNN has reported: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Eastman, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Rep. Jamie Raskin listens during a House select committee hearing on October 13 in Washington, DC.
Rep. Jamie Raskin listens during a House select committee hearing on October 13 in Washington, DC. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who leads the Jan. 6 subcommittee tasked with presenting recommendations on criminal referrals to the full panel, recently said that “the gravest offense in constitutional terms is the attempt to overthrow a presidential election and bypass the constitutional order. Subsidiary to all of that are a whole host of statutory offenses, which support the gravity and magnitude of that violent assault on America.”

Raskin, along with Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, and the panel’s vice chair, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, comprised the subcommittee tasked with providing the full panel with referral recommendations that will be adopted on Monday.

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.