The U.S. Department of Justice did not rule out the possibility yesterday of criminally charging President Donald Trump for allegedly inciting a riot in the nation’s capital this week.
“We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, said on Thursday.
The New York Times reported that Sherwin was also asked whether targets in the investigation would include the president.
“We are looking at all actors here,” Sherwin said. “Was there a command and control? Were there others that maybe assisted or facilitated or obviously played some ancillary role in this? Anyone that had a role, and the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”
Sherwin later added that the DOJ “will bring the maximum charges we can based upon the conduct.”
“Sherwin also said no charges are off the table,” USA Today reported. “Charges such as seditious conspiracy, rioting and insurrection will be considered if warranted. Last year, following weeks of unrest in several cities after the death of George Floyd, Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen wrote a memo telling federal prosecutors to consider a sedition charge against protesters who conspired to ‘take a federal courthouse or other federal property by force.'”
The Times noted that the DOJ typically protects sitting presidents by asserting that they cannot be criminally charged, but that protection will end for Trump in less than two weeks.
Trump held a rally with supporters on January 6 as Congress was in the process of certifying the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden. After the rally was over, thousands of those who attended the rally stormed the U.S. Capitol Building, causing property damage and attacking law enforcement officers. At least five people died amid or as a result of the riot, including one Trump supporter who was shot as she was trying to breach a sealed off area and a police officer who was smashed in the head with a fire extinguisher.
Following Sherwin’s remarks yesterday, Trump released a video on Twitter after being suspended from the platform for 12 hours. In the video, Trump acknowledged that the election was over, that there would be a new administration in a couple of weeks, and that there needed to be a peaceful transition of power. Trump also did not push his previously unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud being the reason that he lost the election.
“I’d like to begin by addressing the heinous attack on the United States Capitol,” Trump began. “Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem. I immediately deployed the national guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is and must always be a nation of law and order. The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country, and to those who broke the law, you will pay.”
“We have just been through an intense election, and emotions are high,” he said. “But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored. We must get on with the business of America. My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results. My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote. In so doing, I was fighting to defend American democracy. I continue to strongly believe that we must reform our election laws to verify the identity and eligibility of all voters and to ensure faith and confidence in all future elections. Now, Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20; my focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
“2020 has been a challenging time for our people,” he concluded. “A menacing pandemic has upended the lives of our citizens, isolated millions in their homes, damaged our economy, and claimed countless lives. Defeating this pandemic and rebuilding the greatest economy on earth will require all of us working together. It will require a renewed emphasis on the civic values of patriotism, faith, charity, community, and family. We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family. To the citizens of our country, serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime, and to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.”