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House January 6 committee considering criminal referrals for Trump, sources tell CNN

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By Sara Murray, Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen, CNN

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is weighing criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump and a number of his closest allies, multiple sources tell CNN.

The sources would not elaborate on who besides Trump is being considered.

Criminal referrals would largely be symbolic in nature. The committee lacks prosecutorial powers, and the Justice Department does not need a referral from Congress to investigate crimes as it has its own criminal investigations into the Capitol attack ongoing.

Committee members see criminal referrals as a critical part of their work, putting their views on the record in order to complete their investigation — not as a way to pressure DOJ, one of the sources told CNN.

“The committee wants to make sure nothing falls between the cracks and make an emphatic statement who it has identified as key organizers,” of the insurrection, a separate source said.

Committee members met Tuesday evening to further discuss criminal referrals, but sources say they don’t expect the panel to release the names of who would be subject to a criminal referral at this point.

Members still need to vote on the final list of criminal referrals, which sources say still is not finalized.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, told reporters earlier Tuesday that the panel has decided to make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice but had not narrowed down the universe of individuals who may be referred.

Asked whether Thompson believed any witnesses perjured themselves, he said, “that’s part of the discussion.”

When the panel makes referrals, Thompson said it will be a separate document from the panel’s final report that will be sent to DOJ.

The committee is aiming to release its final report and vote publicly on criminal referrals on December 21, Thompson told reporters Wednesday. “There will be some form of public presentation. We haven’t decided exactly what that would be,” he said.

A select committee spokesperson confirmed to CNN that criminal referrals will be “considered as a final part” of the panel’s work.

“The Committee has determined that referrals to outside entities should be considered as a final part of its work. The committee will make decisions about specifics in the days ahead,” the spokesperson said.

A source also told CNN on Tuesday that the criminal referrals the January 6 committee will ultimately be making “will be focused on the main organizers and leaders of the attacks.”

A subcommittee of members was tasked with providing options to the full committee about how to present evidence of possible obstruction, possible perjury and possible witness tampering as well as potential criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, according to multiple sources familiar with the committee’s work.

Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren, and GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the panel, all trained lawyers, comprise this subcommittee.

Raskin told CNN on Wednesday that everything is “still on track” but no decisions have been made following the Tuesday meeting as the committee works through where to “draw the line” when it comes to referrals because there is such a “broad universe” of potential offenses and offenders.

Committee members are on the same page, broadly speaking, Raskin told CNN, but a decision on who they ultimately refer to the Justice Department for prosecution — and for what offenses — is still a work in progress.

But Schiff told CNN there is a “consensus among the members” regarding the referrals and that members are taking a unified approach on that front.

The decision of whether to issue criminal referrals has loomed large over the committee. Members on the panel have been in wide agreement that Trump and some of his closest allies have committed a crime when he pushed a conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, as they’ve laid out in their hearings. But they have long been split over what to do about it, including whether to make a criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department.

In the past, the question has led to a vigorous, at times contentious, debate among committee members, sources have said. Those who previously said criminal referrals are not necessary to close out the panel’s investigation say the committee lacks prosecutorial powers, and that the Justice Department does not need Congress to investigate crimes as it has its own criminal investigations into the Capitol attack that are ongoing.

Still, the idea of a criminal referral of Trump, even if entirely symbolic in nature, has hung like a shadow over the panel since it was first formed, and many members felt it was a necessary measure in order to complete its work.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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CNN’s Jamie Gangel and Pamela Brown contributed to this report.

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