Rep. Bennie Thompson refused Sunday to rule out the possibility of criminal referral against former President Donald Trump stemming from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“If there’s any confidence on the part of our committee that something criminal has occurred, we’ll make the referral,” Mr. Thompson, who heads the House committee investigating the riot, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
At the same time, Mr. Thompson cautioned that the panel has not determined whether a lack of action on Mr. Trump’s part would constitute a criminal offense.
“The only thing I can say is it’s highly unusual for anyone in charge of anything to watch what’s going on and do nothing,” the Mississippi Democrat said.
Asked by host Dana Bash if such inaction would be considered “criminal,” he said: “Well, we don’t know. We’re in the process of trying to get all the information.
“But I can say if there’s anything that we come upon as a committee that we think would warrant a referral to the Department of Justice, we’ll do that. And that’s our oath as members of Congress,” Mr. Thompson said.
Asked if the committee had learned more about what Mr. Trump “was or wasn’t doing” as the attack played out, Mr. Thompson said, “Yes, we have.”
“We have significant testimony that leads us to believe that the White House had been told to do something,” he said. “We want to verify all of it so that when we produce our report and when we have the hearings, the public will have an opportunity to see for themselves.”
Mr. Thompson added that “what occurred on Jan. 6 played out in full view of the American public and the world and we want to make sure that that never ever happens again. We need to get it right.”
Mr. Trump’s legal team accused the House committee in a Dec. 29 of pursuing criminal charges against the former president after Mr. Thompson discussed the possibility of such a referral in an interview with the Washington Post.
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“The Committee cannot make a mockery of Congress’s constitutional mandate that its requests and investigation be supported by a ‘valid legislative purpose,’” Mr. Trump‘s lawyers said. “It cannot embark on what is essentially a law enforcement investigation with the excuse that it might legislate based on information it turns up in the course of the exploration.”