Jan. 6 committee could make multiple criminal referrals of Donald Trump to Justice Department, Rep. Liz Cheney says

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The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising may make multiple criminal dismissals of former President Donald Trump for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Vice -chair of the committee, said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral,” Cheney said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And there could be more than one criminal reference.”

Cheney stressed that the committee’s goals were not political, but also that the Justice Department should not refrain from prosecuting Trump for the sake of political optics if the evidence warrants a criminal prosecution.

In an interview with ABC on July 3, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) stressed that the House committee’s goals investigating Jan. 6, 2021, are not political. (Video: The Washington Post)

“I think it’s a much bigger constitutional threat if a president can engage in this kind of activity, and the majority of the president’s party looks the other way, or we as a country decide we don’t. ‘re not really going to take our constitutional obligations seriously,” Cheney said.

Cheney then expressed serious concerns about the idea of ​​Trump running for the third time as the GOP presidential nominee.

“I think there’s no doubt, I mean, a man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office again,” Cheney said.

The Republican Party, she said, could not survive if Trump were its 2024 presidential nominee.

“Millions of people, millions of Republicans have been betrayed by Donald Trump. And it’s a really painful thing to recognize and admit, but it absolutely is,” Cheney said. “And they’ve been betrayed by him, by ‘the big lie’ and by what he continues to do and say to tear our country apart and tear our party apart.”

The interview was Cheney’s first since the Jan. 6 committee began holding public hearings, and it was recorded days after Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, gave explosive testimony about Trump’s actions – and inaction – on the day of the attack on the Capitol.

Hutchinson said last week that Trump knew some of his supporters were armed but urged them to march on Capitol Hill anyway, and that he would have been indifferent to threats from the mob to hang Vice President Mike Pence.

“What kind of man knows a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is threatened? When Congress is threatened? Cheney said. “It’s very chilling.”

Trump and his allies have since sought to discredit Hutchinson, but Cheney said she was “absolutely confident” in the former White House aide’s testimony. Hutchinson also testified last week that Trump was “angry” when he was told he couldn’t go to Capitol Hill with his supporters after his Ellipse speech, and was told Trump was was thrown angrily at his security as he was inside. the presidential limo.

When asked if the committee had additional evidence to corroborate Hutchinson’s testimony, Cheney said the committee had “significant evidence on a range of issues, including the president’s intense anger” inside. of the presidential limo. Cheney ostensibly suggested that anyone who denied Hutchinson’s version of events also testify before the committee under oath.

“What Cassidy Hutchinson did was an incredible example of bravery, courage and patriotism in the face of real pressure,” Cheney said. “The committee is not going to sit idly by and watch his character be murdered by anonymous sources and by men claiming executive privilege.”

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified June 28 about President Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), the only other GOP member on the Jan. 6 committee, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that more witnesses have come forward since the hearings began, including since Hutchinson’s testimony.

“I don’t want to get into that or any details,” Kinzinger said. Every day we get new people who show up and say, “Hey, I didn’t think that piece of history I knew was important.” ”

The Jan. 6 committee had previously interviewed two people who were inside the presidential limo at the time of the explosion reported by Trump: Robert Engel, Trump’s former Secret Service chief, and Anthony Ornato, who was coordinating security. physics at the White House.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California), a Jan. 6 committee member, said Ornato’s memory “doesn’t seem as accurate” as Hutchinson’s, but hesitated when was asked if Ornato gave his testimony to the committee under oath.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-California), another Jan. 6 committee member, said Sunday he couldn’t go into detail about what Engel and Ornato had previously shared with the committee, but that committee members are reportedly interested in bringing the two men back to “shed some light” on what happened inside the presidential limo.

The committee, he added, was also “in discussions” with attorneys for Pat Cipollone, a former White House attorney, whom the committee has previously interviewed but would like to bring back for additional testimony. Hutchinson testified last week that Cipollone warned of legal risks for Trump if he were to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“But the most important thing is this: There doesn’t seem to be any dispute that the president was furious that he couldn’t accompany this armed crowd to the Capitol,” Schiff said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” . “It doesn’t seem to be disputed by anyone except Donald Trump, who has, as we’ve seen in the past, no credibility.”

Schiff said he agreed with Cheney that there could be multiple criminal referrals from Trump to the Justice Department and that it would do a lot more damage to the country if Trump was not targeted. an investigation for the sake of further political division.

Schiff warned that if the Justice Department were to take the position that it could not investigate or indict a former president, it would elevate Trump to someone who is above the law.

“It’s a very dangerous idea that the founders would never have bought into – even more dangerous, I think, in the case of Donald Trump,” Schiff said. “Donald Trump is someone who has shown, when not held accountable, that he increasingly abuses power.”

The Jan. 6 committee continues to explore any links between the Trump White House and far-right white nationalist groups that participated in the attack on the Capitol, he said.

“Our next hearing will focus on efforts to bring this crowd together on the [National] Mall: Who was involved, who was funding it, how it was organized, including the involvement of these white nationalist groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters and others,” Schiff said. “I think we got some answers, but there’s still a lot we don’t know that we’re going to find out.”

Nick Miroff contributed to this report.

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