Jul 18, 2023 - Politics & Policy

For Democrats, a Trump Jan. 6 indictment is personal

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

Democratic lawmakers largely avoided weighing in on the first two indictments of former President Trump, but the possibility of a third one over the Jan. 6 attack is resulting in a departure from that strategy.

Why it matters: These members of Congress were on the receiving end of the Capitol riot, and many feel Trump evaded accountability when the Senate voted to acquit him at his impeachment trial.

  • "People feel it when you're the victim," Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) told Axios.
  • "Our government wasn't just the victim, but the people in the room were the victims as well."

The latest: Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social that he received a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith "stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury investigation."

  • He added that the letter gave him "a very short 4 days to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an Arrest and Indictment."

Driving the news: "A mob of insurrectionists violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6th in order to halt the peaceful transfer of power," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) tweeted.

  • "The American people deserve to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," he added.
  • It's a shift in tone for Jeffries, who reacted to the first two indictments with brief statements focused on the impartiality of the justice system.
  • House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), asked about the target letter, said, "It's about time. It's been obvious for a long time."
  • Nadler said the potential charges "are perhaps the most serious charges" the former president is facing. "The one difference [is] ... if he's convicted of insurrection, he's ineligible to ever hold any office," he said.

What we're hearing: House Democrats feel strongly that Trump was culpable for the violence directed toward members of Congress on Jan. 6.

  • "Donald Trump is not just a sociopath, but he's a sociopath that abused power and committed a lot of legal violations," said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), one of the members trapped in the House gallery during the attack.
  • Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), another gallery group member, told Axios he is digesting the news “with a heavy heart — and equally heavy belief in justice,” adding that Trump “inspired the Jan. 6 insurrection.”
  • "I believe that Trump committed high crimes against our country," said Gomez. "He'll have his day in court, but I'll always believe that he incited that mob."

The other side: "President Trump will defeat this latest witch-hunt, defeat Joe Biden, and will be sworn in as President of the United States of America in January 2025," House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said in a statement.

The bottom line: All House and Senate Democrats in the last Congress — along with 17 Republicans — voted to impeach or convict Trump for "incitement of insurrection" in the aftermath of the attack.

  • The Jan. 6 select committee later released a report laying the blame for the attack firmly on the former president’s shoulders.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Hakeem Jeffries represents New York (not California) and that Jerrold Nadler is the House Judiciary Committee ranking member (not chair).

Go deeper