Jan. 6 Panel Ponders Whether Trump Violated Obstruction Law
Members of the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 are mulling over a politically provocative question: Were former President Donald Trump’s actions around the Capitol riot tantamount to criminal obstruction of justice?
Noted Trump rival Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s vice-chair, repeatedly raised the possibility that Trump’s conduct could be considered obstruction of the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
“Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceeding to count electoral votes?” Cheney asked last week, urging colleagues to hold Meadows in contempt. “Mark Meadows’ testimony is necessary to inform our legislative judgments.”
POLITICO notes that “Cheney’s statement includes precise terminology from the criminal obstruction statute.”
According to the outlet, to convict someone of criminal obstruction, a jury must determine that the defendant took an obstructive action, impacted an “official proceeding,” and acted with “corrupt” intentions.
Some Jan. 6 defendants have challenged the Department of Justice’s claim that the session of Congress on that day meets the legal definition of an “official proceeding.” But Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich recently ruled against that claim.
According to POLITICO, “Friedrich called such scenarios ‘closer questions’ than the matter of whether those who broke into the Capitol could be charged with obstruction, suggesting Trump’s actions fall into more of a gray area.”
“I think that we’re trying to understand those 187 minutes that he didn’t say anything — what that means. And we’re trying to put some more light on that. I personally am not drawing any conclusions on where that takes us,” said panel member Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA).