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(Reuters) -The congressional panel investigating last year's attack on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump's supporters could make multiple referrals to the Justice Department seeking criminal charges against the former president, its vice chair Liz Cheney said.
Cheney, in an interview aired on Sunday on ABC's This Week program, also said the department does not need to wait for the House of Representatives select committee to make a formal recommendation of charges to take action against Trump.
Asked whether the committee's hearings have demonstrated that Trump needs to be prosecuted, Cheney said, "Ultimately, the Justice Department will decide that."
Cheney, one of two Republicans on the Democratic-led panel, said that "we'll make a decision as a committee" about whether to make a formal criminal referral to the Justice Department recommending charges against Trump.
"The Justice Department doesn't have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral. There could be more than one criminal referral," Cheney said.
Criminal charges have never been brought against a sitting or former U.S. president. Asked what it would mean for the country if President Joe Biden's Justice Department brings charges against his predecessor, Cheney said, "I have greater concern about what it would mean if people weren't held accountable for what's happened here."
Cheney has criticized Trump's conduct before, during and after the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by his supporters in their failed bid to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's 2020 election victory, including an incendiary speech immediately preceding the riot.
"I think it's a much graver constitutional threat if a president can engage in these kinds of activities and, you know, 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 obligations seriously," Cheney said.
"And if you just think about it from the perspective of 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 added.
Cheney, whose father Dick Cheney served as vice president from 2001 to 2009, also said she has not yet decided on a possible run for the presidency in 2024 even as she faces a Republican primary challenge in her re-election bid this year for her House seat representing Wyoming.
Trump has not yet announced whether he will seek the presidency again in 2024.
"A man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again," Cheney said.
A representative for Trump did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.
Trump has denied responsibility for the Capitol attack but has said he would pardon those involved if he again becomes president.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump's then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, delivered bombshell testimony to the panel last week about Trump's conduct on the day of the riot.
Hutchinson testified that Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of his presidential limousine when his security detail declined to take him to the Capitol to join his supporters. She also said Trump dismissed concerns that some supporters gathered for his speech before the riot carried AR-15-style rifles, instead asking security to stop screening attendees with metal-detecting magnetometers so the crowd would look larger.
Additional witnesses have come forward since Hutchinson's testimony, Representative Adam Kinzinger, the other Republican on the committee, said on Sunday.
"Every day, we get new people that come forward," Kinzinger told CNN's "State of the Union" program, adding: "There will be way more information, and stay tuned."
(Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York; editing by Will Dunham)
Just who deserves protection in America?
If you observe the folks this country chooses to protect and chooses to ignore, you may get an answer that doesn’t exactly line up with America’s ideals.
When Wandrea “Shaye” Moss bravely testified before members of the House Select Committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, I was enraged, though I know my rage slips me into the stereotypical category of “angry Black woman.” I refuse to give up a full palette of emotions because of fear of judgment.
When I heard her mother, Ruby Freeman, speak of the horrors she has had to endure, I was sad for her and for America. “Lady Ruby” was the moniker she proudly used to display on her shirt until racist political operatives dragged that earned good name through the mud.
At an age when she should be comfortably enjoying life, lauded for her community service, Lady Ruby’s life has been forever changed. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?” she asked. “The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American.”
She’s right, of course.
But Donald Trump never pretended to be the president of every American. And he has displayed particular animus toward African Americans, from famous athletes to those he stomps on just to get his way. In a call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger before the attack at the Capitol, Trump called Freeman, in reality a small business owner and mother, a “professional vote scammer and hustler,” dredging up hoary labels that apparently still infect his lizard brain and strike a similar chord with his followers.
I can’t help but remember and protect my own mother, the most honest and gentle person you would ever want to meet.
When she was alive and as long as she was able, she worked on Election Day at the polls. In fact, she held a position of authority over several polling places, making sure everything was correct — with Democratic and Republican representation — and making sure everyone knew how to make the voting experience positive.
She happened to be a Republican, back when the party had a “moderate” lane, with folks such as onetime Sen. Charles Mathias Jr. from our home state of Maryland easily driving in it.
I recall how seriously she took her duties, which is one reason I vote in every election and why I know how important it is to exercise the right that was so hard fought for African Americans.
The thought that she would be a ready-made target for a Rudy Giuliani — whose sleazy, bigoted delusions transformed the ginger mint handed between daughter and mom into a thumb drive of votes, passed “like they were vials of heroin or cocaine” — sickens me.
When, at last week’s hearing, Moss spoke of her joy at aiding elderly Americans and the sick to fulfill their right as citizens, she sounded exactly like my mom did.
Americans should be thanking them every day.
Instead, mother and daughter were crushed by lies, and deliberately hunted down by craven folks in “MAGA” world who knew there would be little punishment for cruelty to Black women.
The worst of it is, Moss blamed herself for the attacks on her son, mother and grandmother, who experienced thugs showing up at her home, eager to make a “citizen’s arrest.” That was Klan stuff. And her grandmother was old enough to know how it could have ended. One threat shared by Moss read, “Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”
I wondered, has anyone been arrested? That kind of thing is still a crime, right? If the grandmother had been armed, could she not have used the "Castle Doctrine" to blow unwanted intruders away? Somehow, I doubt she would have been considered the “good guy with a gun.”
Though the government they served seemed to desert them when they most needed its protection, it was quite a different story when Congress sprang into action with special protections for the families of Supreme Court justices. Do they deserve it? Yes. But shouldn’t the election workers who keep the wheels of democracy grinding also expect more than FBI advice to move out of their own homes?
Just this week, in the wake of the court’s controversial decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Sen. Thom Tillis took the lead on a letter, also signed by Sen. Richard Burr and GOP House members from North Carolina Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson, Patrick T. McHenry, Greg Murphy and David Rouzer. It asked the Department of Justice to “forcefully condemn the ongoing violence against pro-life and religious groups and prosecute the criminals engaging in these attacks to the fullest extent of the law.” I could admire their outrage, if only it weren’t so selective. The letter didn’t mention the violence visited upon clinics and doctors that perform abortions.
Just last week, during protests of the court decision, off-duty Providence, R.I., Police Officer Jeann Lugo, a Republican running for state office in Rhode Island, reportedly punched his Democratic opponent in the face. “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up,” tweeted his opponent, Jennifer Rourke.
After a video surfaced, Lugo dropped out of the race. But I haven’t heard Tillis and company advising their fellow Republicans to cool it. And, as far as I can tell, the North Carolina GOP congressional delegation has not acted as one to express concern for the well-being of folks like Moss and Freeman.
Republicans, for the most part, are ignoring the revelations about an assault on America and the efforts of Trump and his lackeys to set up permanent and unlawful shop in the White House.
Though they can’t have missed the message that fellow Americans risked their lives to shore up institutions that proved more vulnerable to corruption than anyone could have imagined, many in the GOP won’t even admit to peeking at the televised hearings. In this week’s installment, Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Trump was not concerned that some in the crowd could be armed. “They're not here to hurt me,” was his reaction, according to the onetime aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
It’s the apotheosis of a philosophy that seems to have taken hold — protect the tribe and leave the rest to fend for themselves.
If you’re looking for inspiration, you’d best forget so-called leaders and turn to Moss, who, despite everything, was hopeful and grateful in her message when recently honored by the JFK Library Foundation Profile in Courage Award.
“I want to give a special thank you to all the anonymous election workers out there. The ones that are doing the heavy lifting our democracy depends on,” she said, as reported by CBS. “Tonight, I represent all of them. All of those hard-working people with incredible courage to do the job and do it right.”
Now, that’s a proper message for the Fourth of July.
Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.