“The House Jan. 6 Panel Has Set a High Bar: Showing Criminality”


In the final moments of what will most likely be the last hearing for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, its vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney, returned to a theme that has run through the committee’s work: criminality.

Without naming names or providing any specifics, Ms. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, asserted that the committee now has “sufficient information to consider criminal referrals for multiple individuals” to the Justice Department for prosecution.

It is not clear whether the committee will follow through and take the largely symbolic step of issuing a criminal referral for former President Donald J. Trump or anyone who worked with him to overturn the election and encourage the mob of his supporters who entered the Capitol seeking to block or delay certification of his defeat.

But throughout its investigation and hearings, the committee has operated with a prosecutorial styleusing the possibility of criminality like a cudgel in extraordinary ways. It has penetrated Mr. Trump’s inner circle, surfaced considerable new evidence and laid out a detailed narrative that could be useful to the Justice Department in deciding whether to bring charges.

The panel is expected to issue a subpoena as soon as Tuesday seeking to compel Mr. Trump to testify before it wraps up its investigation and issues a final report.

The committee’s effects on related criminal investigations are clear to see. Federal prosecutors and authorities conducting a local investigation in Georgia have found themselves interviewing some of the same witnesses already interviewed by the committee and issuing subpoenas for some of the same evidence already obtained by Congress.

But in suggesting that its goal is to spur criminal charges, the committee is setting a standard for success that is beyond its power to carry out — and one that could risk overshadowing the work it has done in documenting Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in power and marshal his supporters to help him.

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