Former president Trump’s behaviour during the January 6 US Capitol riots has been branded an “utter moral failure and a clear dereliction of duty” by an investigating committee, who say he is “unfit for any office”.
The committee investigating the January 6 storming of the US Capitol is recommending criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.
They include conspiracy to defraud the United States; obstructing an official proceeding (the certification of Joe Biden‘s election victory); conspiracy to make a false statement and inciting or assisting an insurrection.
The recommendation is mainly symbolic – with the US Justice Department responsible for deciding whether or not to prosecute Mr Trump.
But committee chair, Democrat Bennie Thompson, said: “We have every confidence that the work of this committee will help provide the road map to justice.”
A number of recommendations are made in the final report, which accuses Mr Trump of engaging in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the election.
Mr Thompson added: “We will also show that evidence we’ve gathered points to further action beyond the power of this committee or the congress to help ensure accountability in the law,” he said.
“Accountability that can only be found in the criminal justice system.”
‘This can never happen again’
Mr Thompson also criticised Mr Trump for “breaking” faith in the democratic system: “If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again.”
Describing Mr Trump’s behaviour on the day of the riots, committee vice chair, Republican Liz Cheney said: “In addition to being unlawful… this was an utter moral failure and a clear dereliction of duty.
“Evidence of this can be seen in the testimony of President Trump’s own White House counsel and several other White House witnesses.
“No man who would behave that way, at that moment in time, can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again.
“He is unfit for any office.”
Ms Cheney said the committee’s work is only at the beginning, describing it as an “initial step” in addressing Mr Trump’s “efforts to remain in office illegally”.
Prosecutors are now considering the implications of the conduct described in the committee’s report, Ms Cheney added.
In a statement Mr Trump said “these folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
After the committee’s report was made public, protesters gathered outside the Trump Tower in New York City, waving placards calling for him to be arrested.
Mr Trump posted on social media site, Truth Social: “But Liz (Cheney) lost by a record 40 points!”
Speaking on the radio, he described the committee as a “kangaroo court” which failed to recognise the reason why such a huge crowd assembled on January 6th – maintaining his claims about election fraud.
He insisted he asked for 10,000 troops to be ready on the day in case of protests – but the committee said it had found no evidence of this.
It also referred to the testimony of Mr Trump’s then acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller, who said under oath that there was “no direct order” from the President to put 10,000 troops on standby.
Mr Trump’s lawyer, John Eastman, said in a statement: “A criminal ‘referral’ from a congressional committee is not binding on the Department of Justice and carries no more legal weight than a ‘referral’ from any American citizen.
“In fact, a ‘referral’ from the January 6th committee should carry a great deal less weight due to the absurdly partisan nature of the process that produced it.”
\He also accused the committee of “concocting a pretend ‘criminal case’…designed to create political advantage for the Democratic Party and stigmatise disfavoured political groups”.
Trump’s daughter ‘not forthcoming’
Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, a White House advisor during her father’s tenure, apparently knew more than she was prepared to divulge, the committee believes.
The report said she was “not as forthcoming” as other aides about the former president’s conduct and showed a “lack of full recollection of certain issues”.
Parts of former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s testimony “seemed evasive” and did not seem as forthright as other press office staff, the committee said.
Ex-Trump advisor, Hope Hicks, was also accused of not being forthcoming over whether she told the president he needed to encourage supporters to be peaceful.
‘A big scam’
Mr Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had previously claimed voting machines had flipped votes to President Biden.
However, the committee report alleges that Mr Giuliani admitted during his deposition: “I do not think the machines stole the election”.
Other Trump lawyers and supporters invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when asked to show proof they found the election was stolen.
The committee panel said: “Not one of them provided evidence raising genuine questions about the election outcome.
“In short, it was a big scam”.
Mr Giuliani’s legal representative, Robert Costello, pointed out he had not been referred for prosecution, telling NBC News that the committee’s referral means “absolutely nothing to the Department of Justice” and comparing the committee’s work to “political theatre”.
Trump ‘tried to contact witnesses’
The committee said it was aware of “multiple efforts” by Mr Trump to contact unnamed witnesses during the probe, with the Department of Justice made aware of at least one incident.
Some witnesses were also described as “unnecessarily combative” while testifying, with some failing to be credible when pleading ignorance of certain circumstances – in particular those whose jobs or income were linked to Trump-affiliated organisations.
Mr Trump has already launched a campaign to seek the Republican nomination for a second run in the White House in 2024.
He announced his leadership bid in November despite facing a number of investigations into the riot, which claimed the lives of five people including a police officer.
Mr Trump is said to have watched the violence unfolding on television in the White House dining room instead of intervening as supporters stormed Congress.
More than 140 police officers were injured during the disorder, which caused millions of dollars to the Capitol.