Jan. 6 panel forms subcommittee on criminal referrals, unresolved subpoenas

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has established a subcommittee to craft possible criminal referrals and examine “all outstanding issues” facing the panel as it races a deadline to complete its work.

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the panel formed the subcommittee about a month ago, grouping a number of the committee’s lawyers to examine how to move forward on unresolved subpoenas — a group that includes fellow lawmakers and former President Trump — as well as investigative loose ends and any recommendations to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“We need to have a decision as to what we do with the members who did not recognize the subpoenas. It’s cleaning up every unfinished piece of work for the committee. And that part of it just fit better in some subcommittee. Let them come back and report, and we’ll make a decision,” Thompson said.

The unfinished business facing the committee is substantial, as it strives to publish its final report in early December before the panel itself sunsets at the start of the next Congress.

It must determine how to deal with the remaining flouted subpoenas — one for Trump, as well as those handed to five GOP lawmakers, including likely next Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) is leading the subcommittee, serving alongside Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

“We’re looking at potential referrals or criminal offenses and for civil offenses and for general lawlessness where it might not otherwise be obvious,” Raskin said.

“We’re looking at criminal and civil referrals for people who have broken the law and may have escaped scrutiny,” he added, declining to answer questions seeking greater specificity.

The committee said Monday that it would be forced to consider “next steps” after Trump failed to show up for a deposition the panel scheduled for that day. Trump’s absence followed a Saturday suit in Florida challenging the committee’s subpoena.

“Even though the former President initially suggested that he would testify before the committee, he has since filed a lawsuit asking the courts to protect him from giving testimony. His attorneys have made no attempt to negotiate an appearance of any sort, and his lawsuit parades out many of the same arguments that courts have rejected repeatedly over the last year,” Thompson and Cheney said in a statement.

GOP Reps. McCarthy, Scott Perry (Pa.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), and Mo Brooks (Ala.) have also all failed to respond to subpoenas issued in May.

The panel has yet to suggest a contempt of Congress referral for any of the six men, a move that would send a formal referral to DOJ if approved by the full House.

But broader criminal referrals for those involved in the insurrection, which could span those both inside and outside the Trump White House, would come as the department’s investigation into Jan. 6, has, at least publicly, taken a back seat to its investigation into the mishandling of White House documents at Mar-a-Lago.

The Department of Justice has interviewed a number of former White House staff in connection with its Jan. 6 investigation, but any recommendations from the panel will put renewed pressure on a DOJ that has remained quiet about any progress.

“We will give them the benefit of the work of the committee staff,” Thompson said.

“And they can determine from that work, how much is useful and that which is not.”

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