Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), vice chair of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, has suggested that the commission could be looking at charging former President Donald Trump with potential crimes related to that day’s events.
On Tuesday, Cheney read aloud text exchanges between Mark Meadows, then-Chief Staff, and conservative lawmakers. These exchanges took place as the Capitol building was under attack. To demonstrate why his testimony was necessary, Cheney shared the communication records. ahead of a committee vote to hold Meadows in contempt of CongressMeadows has declined to appear at closed-door depositions in order to discuss the messages and other evidence related to the January 6 investigation.
Following the commission’s unanimous decision to hold Meadows in contempt, the matter now goes to a full vote within the House of Representatives. If the House affirms, the matter is referred to Department of Justice (DOJ), who will decide if a criminal case against Meadows should proceed.
The text messages Meadows exchanged during the attack were with Republican lawmakers, conservative media personalities, and even Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. These images show how well-aware Trump and his allies were about the attack and their willingness to admit that Trump Sr. could have prevented it.
“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump Jr. texted Meadows, urging him to advise Trump Sr. to respond to the attack on Congress by a mob of the former president’s own loyalists.
“I’m pushing it hard. I agree,” Meadows responded.
Trump Jr. wrote back, saying his father “has to lead now.”
“It has gone too far and gotten out of hand,” Trump Jr. said.
These and other texts were read by Cheney after Meadows was closed. she explained their significance: “These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway.”
“These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes,” Cheney added. “And Mr. Meadows’s testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s proceedings?”
This comment caught the attention of many legal experts who suggested that Cheney may have implied the possibility that the commission might seek to indict the former President.
Harvard Law School professor emeritus Laurence Tribe, quoting Cheney’s question, noted that impeding Congress in the way that she described “is a serious federal crime,” citing federal statute 18 USC 1505. That law states that a person that “obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration” of a federal proceeding — such as the congressional certification of the Electoral College — can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years.
Other legal experts also commented on Cheney’s question during the proceedings.
“Interesting thing about tweets [Rep. Liz Cheney]Tonight’s reading is that GOP legislators/media people took as gospel that Trump could only call off the mob. They were his to command. Cheney raising the notion that by failing to stop them, Trump impeded Congress (could be a crime),” wrote former federal prosecutor Joyce Alene.
“The White House failing to heed the pleas of even close allies during a deadly attack on the Capitol is so much worse than Watergate,” said Kimberly AtkinsAttorney and current senior opinion writer at The Boston Globe.