The House of Representatives committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters began a public meeting on Monday to decide whether to ask prosecutors to criminally charge the former president.
The Democratic-led panel has spent 18 months probing the unprecedented attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power by thousands of Trump backers, inspired by the Republican's false claims that his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud.
Criminal referrals to the Justice Department could be on charges including obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and insurrection.
"If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again," said Representative Bennie Thompson, the select committee's chairperson, in remarks as the meeting began.
Slamming Trump for summoning the mob to the Capitol nearly two years ago, Thompson also criticized the former president for undermining faith in the democratic system.
"If the faith is broken, so is our democracy. Donald Trump broke that faith," Thompson said.
While potentially damaging to Trump's reputation as he starts a bid for the White House in 2024, any recommendations would be non-binding and the Justice Department itself will decide whether to pursue prosecutions.
The committee was expected on Monday to consider referrals and vote on its final report, which it expects to release in full on Wednesday. It is likely to be the panel's last meeting.
The select committee's work is one of a series of investigations into the riot. Five people, including a police officer, died during or shortly after the incident and more than 140 police officers were injured. The Capitol suffered millions of dollars in damage.
Trump has dismissed the many investigations he faces as politically motivated. He says the Jan.6 committee, dominated by Democrats, is biased against him.
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