The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has come to a “general agreement” to forward some criminal referrals to the Justice Department, its chair told reporters Tuesday.
It was a confusing morning at the Capitol, with Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) walking back statements he made earlier in the day when he told reporters “we will” be making criminal referrals.
“We’re not there yet,” Thompson said later, adding that the earlier “gaggle [with reporters] was wrong.”
The panel will meet later on Tuesday to discuss the issue, following a Friday presentation from a subcommittee of the committee’s four lawyers, who were tasked with tying up unfinished business, including how to address any recommendations to the Justice Department.
“The Committee has determined that referrals to outside entities should be considered as a final part of its work. The committee will make decisions about specifics in the days ahead,” a committee spokesperson said in a statement.
The chairman of that subcommittee, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters they were still making progress on the topic, while Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another member of that panel, said a formal announcement on referrals could come as soon as this week.
“We’re nearing the end of our work,” she said.
Referrals to the Justice Department would hardly be surprising from a committee that has made clear it believes numerous crimes were committed in the effort to block the transfer of power that culminated in the lawless attack on the Capitol.
The committee also previously made four referrals for those it argued defied its congressional subpoenas.
But the breadth of the referrals — as well as the specific crimes they list — could be illuminating, particularly as the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation appears to be accelerating.
It remains unclear who would be included or how large a group that could be.
While criminal referrals could target former President Trump, a number of people aided his efforts to stay in power, including various attorneys. Some have already been caught up in the Justice Department’s own Jan. 6 investigation, like campaign attorney John Eastman and former Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark, who Trump weighed installing at attorney general to investigate his faulty election fraud claims.
Thompson also said the committee was still weighing whether to make referrals to those who perjured themselves before the panel’s investigators. During their hearings, they also warned that some individuals appeared to be engaging in witness intimidation, another potential crime.
Another outstanding issue for the panel is how to deal with five GOP lawmakers who flouted committee subpoenas, a list that includes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).
Mike Lillis and Mychael Schnell contributed.