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The fateful question the January 6 committee left hanging over the United States

Con su final de caída de micrófono, la casa que investiga a los Estados Unidos dejó una pregunta fatídica sobre Washington, Donald Trump y la campaña presidencial de 2024: ¿se acusará al expresidente de un delito?

El nuestro no es un sistema de justicia donde los soldados de a pie van a la cárcel y los autores intelectuales y los cabecillas obtienen un pase libre”, dijo el representante de Maryland Jamie Raskin, miembro demócrata del comité que reveló dramáticamente sus referencias criminales.

Yet the panel, despite delivering what it called a “roadmap to justice,” has no power to try Trump and its decisions are not binding on the Justice Department. DOJ has its own investigation and faces prosecutorial decisions that require a higher bar than the committee’s political gambits. The potential charges concerned also have little case law precedent. And while both Attorney General Merrick Garland and the House committee have long argued that every American should be subject to equal justice, the gravity of indicting an ex-president and current White House candidate who has already used violence as a political tool means the department’s dilemma is among the most fateful in American history.

More broadly, the committee has now sketched the most urgent framing of a perennial question about Trump’s riotous careers in business and politics: Will he ever face accountability for his rule-breaking conduct? The question is especially acute given that the norm crushed this time almost toppled US democracy.

The issue of accountability gets to the core of Raskin’s comment about foot soldiers – since many of those who were in the mob that trashed the Capitol have been convicted and jailed already. And since winning the White House in 2016, Trump repeatedly avoided paying political and legal prices as the ultimate example of a “ringleader” who skips past judgment. Former special counsel Robert Mueller, for example, unearthed a trove of information apparently showing Trump obstructed the Russia investigation but decided not to make a finding that the then-president committed crimes. And Trump was the first president to be impeached twice, but both times most Republicans in the Senate found reasons not to convict him.

The committee laid the groundwork for its referrals over months of hearings in which it showed that Trump knew he lost to Joe Biden but pushed on with multiple vote-stealing conspiracies anyway, then stirred up a crowd that invaded the Capitol as lawmakers met to confirm Biden’s victory.

Specifically, the panel said Trump should be charged with giving aid or comfort to an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, defrauding the US and making false statements.

The committee’s televised hearings and the summary released Monday paint a devastating picture of Trump’s assault on the constitutional order and the previously unbroken peaceful transfers of power from one president to the next – the essence of American democracy.

The committee cites Section 1512 (c) (2) of Title 18 of the US code, which makes it a crime to “corruptly” obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding or attempt to do so. Based on what the panel presented, that seems exactly what Trump did, with a cocktail of schemes apparently aimed at thwarting the will of voters in the run-up to the mob attack on Congress.

Yet a successful prosecution of Trump will need more than the detailed evidence laid out by seven Democrats and two Republicans on the House panel.

The DOJ has its own investigation into the events surrounding the insurrection and will have to weigh whether the case stands up as well in a court of law as it seemed to in the Capitol Hill committee room on Monday afternoon.

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