Rep. Liz Cheney’s disclosures of intriguing Jan. 6 text messages between Mark Meadows and both Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News personalities are the big news in the committee’s investigation right now. But don’t lose sight of what Cheney said immediately after she read those texts aloud.
In summing up the texts, Cheney (R-Wyo.) said, “Mr. Meadows’s testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?”
A casual observer might have missed it, but what Cheney was doing here was pointing to a specific criminal statute — a felony, 18 U.S. Code § 1512 — that she suggests President Donald Trump might have violated. And both its inclusion in her comments and the timing of it shouldn’t be lost on anyone. This was a Republican member of the committee floating a specific potential Trump crime that the committee apparently wants to drill down on; it also came shortly after a federal judge upheld the use of the statute in a key Jan. 6 case.
Cheney, on Tuesday morning at another hearing, cited the statute again — pretty much erasing any doubt about how deliberate this was.
Cheney’s comment matches the language of the statute. It states, “Whoever corruptly … obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.” That law defines an “official proceeding” as including “a proceeding before the Congress.”
It also comes after a notable development last week: A federal judge ruled that the law could be used to charge a Jan. 6 case — involving Capitol rioters, at least. The ruling was a win for the Justice Department, which has used the statute in more than 200 Jan. 6 cases, although defendants have been fighting it.
The judge, Dabney L. Friedrich, ruled that Congress’s counting of electoral votes — the business it was engaged in when Trump supporters overran the Capitol — qualifies as an “official proceeding” under the statute….