A member of the January 6 committee said on Sunday that the information uncovered so far by the panel paints a damning picture of former President Donald Trump, while detailing what information he most wants to learn as the committee resumes its work on Capitol Hill.
Rep Adam Kinzinger told NBC’s Meet the Press that he believes the committee has already pieced together a “significant” portion of the narrative leading up to and during the events of the riot itself, and explained that if the committee were forced to shutter operations “today” could still produce a “powerful” and “substantive” report.
The panel is set to continue interviewing witnesses and obtaining information throughout 2022 as it aims to produce a report detailing its findings in the summer. The former president is seeking to block the panel’s access to documents from the National Archives detailing communications made by his staff during and before the riot, and the case is now before the Supreme Court after Mr Trump suffered several legal defeats.
“If everything shut down today, we’d be able to put out a powerful and substantive narrative,” said Mr Kinzinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois.
He went on to say that he hoped the committee would uncover more about exactly how much Mr Trump knew before January 6 that thousands of his supporters were planning to attend the demonstrations in the Capitol, including groups that had been plotting ahead of time to storm the Capitol and battle with police or counter-protesters.
Members of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group, stated publicly in the days leading up to the riot that they hoped Mr Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, a piece of legislation that allows the president to authorise a military response to an insurrection or mass civil disturbance, and direct the military to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory before Congress.
“You know, I think the one thing that, if I could wave a magic wand and have more information on, it would certainly be what did the president know about January 6 leading up to January 6,” Mr Kinzinger said. “Was the president absolutely incompetent or a coward during the 6th when he didn’t do anything? Or did he know it was coming?”
“I think that’s the difference between incompetence with your oath, and possibly criminal [activity],” said the congressman.
The committee’s chairman, Rep Bennie Thompson, has stated recently that the panel would have no qualms about referring any evidence of criminal activity, including crimes potentially committed by the former president, to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
“If, in the course of our review, we find something that we think warrants review or recommendation to the Department of Justice, to be honest with you, we will do it,” said Mr Thompson last week.
“We are not looking for it,” he added in the interview with ABC News. “But if we find it, we will absolutely make the referral.”
Some legal experts have suggested that Mr Trump could be referred for prosecution for inciting the riot itself, or for refusing to call off his supporters when it became clear how bad the situation on Capitol Hill was.
“I think that there is a plausible set of possible criminal violations…such as obstruction of a congressional proceeding,” Norm Eisen, a former ambassador and special counsel to the first House impeachment of Mr Trump, told The Independent in a recent interview of potential charges for the ex-president.
“I think there’s a substantial chance of getting a referral chance against him or others,” added Mr Eisen.