After more than a thousand interviews and hours of televised hearings, one of the highest-profile Congressional investigations since Watergate, the January 6th Committee, will soon release a sweeping report. The looming question: will the report urge the Justice Department to prosecute former President Donald Trump?
For now, the committee is coy. But Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, one of its leading members, has reached his own, personal conclusion on whether Trump committed a crime. "Well, absolutely," he said. "I mean, for one thing, there's this mega-offense of coup and insurrection against the constitutional democracy. But then that mega-offense includes hundreds of statutory criminal offenses. And I think – speaking personally – that Donald Trump could be prosecuted for several of them."
CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa asked, "But this report could be the basis, in your view, for prosecution?"
"Yeah, I think that it could be," Raskin replied. "It was Donald Trump who sent out the tweet heard 'round the alt-right underworld to gather on January 6th. He wanted to ride in like Mussolini on the shoulders of the mob so that he could seize the presidency."
Raskin and David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine, sat down to discuss the potential impact of the Committee's report. Remnick will publish the report as a book, which will include an essay from Raskin (who received no payment).
Costa asked, "Are you confident people will sit down and read this report?"
Remnick said, "I think about that all the time when we publish a 25,000-word piece in The New Yorker that's deeply detailed and fact-checked. And I've come to the conclusion over time that it's absorbed in different ways. Yes, there are the people that immediately read it, they hungrily read it. Then two weeks later it's, 'By the way, did you look at that piece in The New Yorker?' And it has an effect."
Having an effect has been the Committee's mission. But its work has been challenged by many in Washington who declared the hearings would change few minds, even when the revelations were startling, such as reports of attempts to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully.
The results of the midterm elections, where Trump allies took a beating, cracked open that conventional wisdom.
Raskin said, "Had we lost those elections by 40 or 50 votes, as various pundits and strategists and historians were predicting, undoubtedly everybody would've been saying, 'The Democrats should not have focused on the Constitution and democracy. The Democrats should've not focused on reproductive freedom, and the rights and liberties of the people.'"
Coast asked, "Perhaps, looking back, was the alarm loud enough?"
"Well, we certainly sounded the alarm as vociferously as we could," Raskin said. "I think that the American public grasped the essential elements of the story: Donald Trump was a guy who just would not take no for an answer from the American people, and set about to overthrow an election."
This past week,for a plot to keep Trump in power. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The former president who has declared his candidacy for 2024 has denied any wrongdoing, and has refused to testify before the House Committee. But Trump still faces multiple state and federal investigations.
Coast asked Remnick, "What would it mean for the country if there is, at the end of the day, no consequence for Trump?"
"I keep thinking if there's no consequence for Trump, even if he loses, even if he kind of burns out the way a lot of commentators are suggesting that he's in the process of doing, I think that's a sad day, that there's no consequence," he replied.
Raskin said, "People are hungering for justice and for accountability and consequences here. Injustice runs free for a long time before the mechanisms of justice and the rule of law can operate. That's what it means to live in a free society. We don't just sweep people off of the street, even a tyrant like Donald Trump, and just declare them guilty and throw them in solitary confinement."
"So, people should have patience? Even though these trials are taking a long time, the grand juries are taking years?"
"Yes," said Raskin. "There have been more than 950 prosecutions, I think it is now. We've had dozens and dozens of people convicted. But I know that people feel that we need to make sure that accountability runs all the way to the top. Just because you're elected president, or used to be president, does not give you the right to engage in crimes freely."
This Tuesday, a ceremony will be held in the Capitol Rotunda honoring the U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan Police who defended the center of our democracy.
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Story produced by Ed Forgotson. Editor: Joseph Frandino.