The indictment against former President Donald Trump for crimes related to his efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election largely followed a course charted last year by the House select panel that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
The congressional and Justice Department probes bear surface similarities, even to the point that the House select committee recommended the same number of criminal charges against Trump — four — that were included in the indictment.
Both investigations’ findings placed Trump at the center of a broad effort to overturn his loss in the 2020 election that sought to enlist Justice Department appointees, state officials and his supporters.
The indictment and select committee both said Trump launched dozens of frivolous lawsuits to attempt to overturn the election in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona despite knowing they had no evidence of fraud.
And both probes said Trump and his allies put pressure on officials in states like Georgia to stop counting votes or even toss those for President Joe Biden.
They even quoted parts of the same conversations, such as Trump exhorting DOJ officials to “just say the election was corrupt,” which Trump said would allow Republicans in Congress to try to overturn the result.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chaired the select committee, voiced his support for the indictment Tuesday night, framing it as a continuation of the committee’s work.
“January 6th was a test of American democracy, but the fair trials of those responsible will further demonstrate this Nation’s commitment to the rule of law and hold accountable those who attempted to undermine it,” Thompson posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
But there are differences between the approaches from the panel and the grand jury indictment unveiled by special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith.
When the House Jan. 6 select committee wrapped its probe last year, it recommended the DOJ charge Trump with inciting or assisting an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy, false statements and defrauding the United States.
The 45-page indictment unveiled Tuesday does not include charges of insurrection or false statements. The indictment alleges Trump obstructed an official proceeding, the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6; engaged in a conspiracy for that obstruction; defrauded the United States; and engaged in a “conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.”
That right-to-vote charge dates to the Enforcement Act of 1870, which was passed following the surge of the Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction-era South. It comes with some of the stiffest penalties among the crimes Trump faces.
The obstruction charges, present in both the recommendations and the indictment, are shared by many of the more than 1,000 people who already face federal charges connected to the attack on the Capitol.
The committee’s report, over the course of more than 800 pages, also went into greater detail on the attack which was the first disruption of the transfer of power in the nation’s history.
The committee also had a much closer eye on the role members of Congress played in the effort, even to the point of making rare referrals to the House Ethics Committee for those who did not cooperate with subpoenas.