3 mins read

Former US attorney says a criminal referral from Jan. 6 panels is ‘largely symbolic’

Former US Attorney Preet Bharara said a potential criminal referral from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol would be a “largely symbolic” move.

Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, Bharara noted the Department of Justice (DOJ) is already investigating the case, has issued subpoenas and is likely “far along” in the probe.

“It’s largely symbolic because at the time we first started having this debate about a referral, it wasn’t clear how far along the Justice Department was,” he explained. “Since then, the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel, as we mentioned, and they have a lot of staff they’ve added to the matter.”

The House panels announced last week it would release a list of criminal referrals along with a final report on the Capitol riots.

Lawmakers are meeting on Sunday to hash out what referrals it could send to the DOJ, which ultimately has the power to pursue charges.

The DOJ appointed a special counsel last month to probe two cases against Trump, including his role in the Jan. 6 attack, and investigators have already subpoenaed election officials in Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House panel, told ABC’s “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan the committee is carefully examining each case before sending it to the DOJ — so a referral would indicate a suggestion of criminal charges based on collected evidence.

“We’re all certainly in agreement that there is evidence of criminality here and we want to make sure that the Justice Department is aware of that,” he said.

The Jan. 6 panel is tightlipped so far about who might be included in the referrals. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Sunday would not tell ABC’s “This Week,” hosted Martha Raddatz if former President Trump is included in the referral list.

But Kinzinger said he doesn’t think the “criminal referrals are pointless” and that they would be “more than symbolic.”

“The criminal referrals themselves aren’t necessarily something that is going to wake the DOJ up to something they didn’t know before,” he said, but it will make clear that Congress believes “a crime has been committed here or the DOJ should investigate it.”

Bharara questioned on Sunday if the panel was more interested in sending a referral to the DOJ for another reason. The former New York US Attorney said he doesn’t “know why they feel the need to do it.”

“I think they want to make a statement for themselves. I think it has no impact on the Justice Department whatsoever,” he said. “I actually don’t think that’s anything for the Justice Department. I don’t think it prompts them to do anything more quickly or more aggressively.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.

Related Posts