Jul 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Cheney, Schiff: Possibility of multiple criminal referrals from Jan. 6 committee

Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) departs after hearing Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testify at a hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that there is a possibility the Jan. 6 committee may make multiple criminal referrals.

The big picture: The committee's sixth and latest public hearing provided the most damning evidence to date of former President Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Driving the news: While the Justice Department will ultimately decide whether or not to prosecute the former president, Cheney told ABC's "This Week" that the committee could make a criminal referral — or multiple criminal referrals.

  • Cheney, who serves as the vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, also noted that the Justice Department does not have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral to take action.
  • Schiff, a fellow Jan. 6 committee member, told CBS's "Face the Nation" that he agrees that there could be multiple criminal referrals.

What they're saying: "I think there's evidence the former president engaged in multiple violations of the law and that should be investigated," Schiff said.

  • "For four years the Justice Department took the position that you can't indict a sitting president," he added. "If the department were now to take the position that you can't investigate or indict a former president, then a president becomes above the law. That's a very dangerous idea that the Founders would have never subscribed to."
  • "What kind of man knows that a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is under threat, when the Congress is under threat?" Cheney said.

More details: While both said they understood the political optics of criminal referrals against a former president, Cheney and Schiff said it was more important to hold people accountable for the Jan. 6 riot.

  • "I have greater concern about what it would mean if people weren't held accountable for what's happened here," Cheney said. "I think it's a much graver constitutional threat if a president can engage in these kinds of activities and the majority of the president's party looks away or we as a country decide, you know, we're not actually going to take our constitutional obligation seriously."
  • "It's certainly not a step to be taken lightly at all," Schiff said of criminal referrals. "At the same time, immunizing a former president who has engaged in wrongdoing, I would agree with our vice chair I think is more dangerous than anything else." 
  • He added: "The decision not to move forward with an investigation or not to move forward with the prosecution because of someone's political status or political influence or because they have a following, to me, that is a far more dangerous thing to our Constitution than following the evidence wherever it leads, including when it leads to a former president."
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