The prospect of criminal dismissals has taken on increased prominence in the final days of the select committee, and it’s a marked change for members who once seemed skeptical and even outright opposed to doing any at all.
“I think the more we looked at all of the evidence that we gathered, we just felt that even though it’s not our job to investigate people for criminal activity, we just couldn’t ignore it. some,” Thompson said.
Thompson had suggested over the summer that a criminal removal of Trump was unlikely, and other committee members, like Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), have also suggested they saw no need, or even a role, for the panel to take an unusual step.
Congress does not have the power to bring criminal charges against its investigative targets, a power that rests exclusively with the Justice Department. Department attorneys have made it clear for months that they want to review the select committee’s evidence and may use it as the basis for possible criminal charges, regardless of any referrals the committee sends.
But members of the select committee slowly coalesced around the idea that he should make criminal recommendations anyway. Raskin said he started “to wonder why we were even talking about dismissals,” but he was “educated” and the members “all moved into our positions.”
“I think the rationale for doing them is when the scale and severity of the offenses compel Congress to speak out about what it’s found,” Raskin said. “Obviously it comes from the legislature, so you take it for what it’s worth in the separate powers system. Ultimately, prosecution decisions are executive branch decisions, but we certainly have a voice.
Raskin leads a four-member subcommittee that will present recommendations to the full select committee during Sunday’s virtual meeting. Thompson said the discussion will inform the panel’s final public meeting, currently scheduled for Dec. 21, when members will vote on whether to release their report and any associated references.
Thompson stressed that the dismissals won’t just be criminal. Panel members are also likely to make referrals to the ethics committee regarding Republican lawmakers who have refused to comply with certain subpoenas — including new GOP leader Kevin McCarthy — as well as referrals for bar discipline. against lawyers who helped Trump grab a second term.
The committee also faces a slew of other unfinished business, including how much of its work product — including more than 1,000 witness transcripts — needs to be made public.
Thompson has repeatedly pointed out that the committee plans to release nearly all of the transcripts, with some limitations related to witnesses who spoke to the committee on condition of anonymity. On Thursday, Thompson also confirmed that certain categories of testimony would be redacted — including sensitive law enforcement information and details that involve privacy. He also said the detailed call records that the panel used to map contacts between Trump and others in his orbit were unlikely to become public.
Asked about the hundreds of hours of video depositions collected by the committee — excerpts from which were played during the panel’s series of summer hearings — Thompson said the panel is still considering making them public. Otherwise, they will be stored in the National Archives along with other committee documents, he noted.
Additionally, Thompson said the panel is unlikely to make any recommendations on whether any members of Congress violated the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment, which bars any violator from holding public office. . He said that prospect was not discussed internally by the committee, though he added that he was aware it had been raised by others in Congress.