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Explaining the criminal charges January 6 committee recommended for Trump

After 16 months of investigation, the January 6 committee recommended four separate charges for former president Donald Trump and his associates.

While these referrals do not carry legal weight, the justice department may consider the House panel’s recommendations as part of their own inquiry into Mr Trump’s actions after the 2020 election.

Here are the recommended charges, and what they mean:

Obstruction of an official proceeding

This statute makes it a crime to “corruptly” obstruct, influence, or impede, any official proceeding, or to attempt to do so.

The committee recommended this charge because they believe Mr Trump repeatedly attempted to stop or undermine Congress’ certification of the election in the weeks leading up to January 6. They also say Mr Trump deliberately attempted to stop the process by instigating a mob to storm the US Capitol on the day of the ceremony itself.

Conspiracy to defraud the United States

This crime entails “two or more persons conspiring either to commit any offence against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof”. 

The committee believes Mr Trump worked with others to impede the function of the US government and mislead the public about the results of the 2020 election. 

Conspiracy to make a false statement

This statue makes it a crime for a government official to cover up a scheme, make materially false statements, or issue false statements or documents with the knowledge the information isn’t true. 

The committee claims Mr Trump and his backers’ planned to submit a slate of false electors in key swing states who would have handed him the presidency in defiance of election results.

Insurrection

This crime relates to inciting, assisting, or engaging “in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States.” The committee argued that Mr Trump encouraged his supporters to come to Washington and cause havoc, and as the attack was going on, failed to take appropriate action to end the violence.

With the House of Representatives switching to Republican control in January, this is likely the culmination of the committee’s work. 

The committee cannot charge Mr Trump or his associates themselves, and the justice department is not obligated to follow the committee’s referrals.

As part of the justice department’s own inquiry, Attorney General Merrick Garland recently appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to handle the case. 

It is yet not clear if they will ultimately indict Mr Trump; doing so would be a historic move, made more consequential by the fact that Mr Trump is once again running for president.

Mr Trump continues to criticise these investigations as a “witch hunt” aimed at weakening him and his supporters.

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