Rep. Liz Cheney made it clear that the January 6th committee has enough evidence for a criminal referral for Trump. What's not clear is whether it's needed or not. CNN's Jake Tapper asked Cheney about recent reporting from The New York Times her committee concluded that there is "enough evidence to make a criminal referral for president Trump to the Justice Department for obstructing an official proceeding and for conspiracy to defraud the United States."
CHENEY: Well, we have not made a decision about referrals on the committee. I think it is absolutely the case, it's absolutely clear that what president Trump was doing, what a number of people around him were doing, that they knew it was unlawful. They did it anyway. I think you certainly saw that in the decision issued by Judge Carter a few weeks ago where he concluded that it was more likely than not that the president of the United States was engaged in criminal activity.
I think what we have seen is a massive and well organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election. You've seen just in the last few days a plea agreement from one of the leaders of the Proud Boys which lays out in really chilling detail the extent to which violence was planned, the extent to which the message that went out on December 19th about the planning -- about the rally in Washington -- and don't forget Donald Trump tweeted out that message, be there, be wild, that the day after that message the organization and the planning started, and that they understood, that they knew they were going to attempt to use violence to try to stop the transfer of power. That is the definition of an insurrection and it is absolutely chilling.
TAPPER: And just to be clear, you've seen this evidence and you believe president Trump committed these two crimes?
CHENEY: What I've just quoted to you is a public document. It is the plea agreement in the Donohoe case. Everybody can look at it. I would highly recommend everybody does look at it. It's the statement of offense in that plea agreement.
The committee has obviously been focused very much, has gotten a tremendous amount of testimony and documents that I think very, very clearly demonstrate the extent of the planning and the organization and the objective. And the objective was absolutely to try to stop the count of electoral votes, to try to interfere with that official proceeding. And it's absolutely clear that they knew what they were doing was wrong, they knew that it was unlawful and they did it anyway.
Tapper then asked Cheney about a potential dispute on the committee about whether "a referral which actually has no legal weight, would only taint the process under which attorney general Merrick Garland might act." Cheney downplayed the notion that there's a "dispute" and told Tapper she was confident they'd come to an agreement soon.
Here's more on why the committee may be holding off... for now:
However, the Times' Michael Schmidt and Luke Broadwater report, the leadership of the committee is split on whether to submit their findings to the DOJ over fears it may interfere with their expanding Trump investigation."The leaders of the House committee investigating the Capitol attack have grown divided over whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department of former President Donald J. Trump, even though they have concluded that they have enough evidence to do so, people involved in the discussions said," the report states adding that there are worries it might "backfire."
"The panel plans to issue a detailed report on its findings, but in recent months it has regularly signaled that it was also weighing a criminal referral that would pressure Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to open a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump," the Times report continued before adding, "But now, with the Justice Department appearing to ramp up a wide-ranging investigation, some Democrats are questioning whether there is any need to make a referral — and whether doing so would saddle a criminal case with further partisan baggage at a time when Mr. Trump is openly flirting with running again in 2024."
According to the report, a ruling by Judge David O. Carter of the Federal District Court for Central California two weeks ago changed the game, and now the committee is hesitant to make their referral in the belief that the DOJ under Attorney General Merrick Garland will be bringing its own charges against the former president.
Whether Garland intends to bring charges remains to be seen. Cheney also told Tapper that Ivanka's testimony was "helpful" and went after Kevin McCarthy for appearing to be more concerned about democracy in Ukraine than defending democracy here in the United States, and for failing "to put his oath to the constitution ahead of his own personal political gains."