Law professor’s Jan. 6 takeaway: the 'threat of political violence' is 'far from over'
On Monday, December 19, the January 6 Select Committee held its final hearing and recommended four federal criminal charges for former President Donald Trump. What the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) does or doesn’t do with the Committee’s recommendations remains to be seen.
In an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on December 19, University of Baltimore law professor and former federal prosecutor Kimberly Wehle offers some legal analysis of the January 6 Committee’s recommendations. And one of her big takeaways is that the “threat of political violence” and the “threat of domestic terrorism” from MAGA extremists are “far from over” in the United States.
“It is difficult to overstate the constitutional significance of today’s final public hearing of the House January 6th Committee,” Wehle writes. “Its referral to the Department of Justice of four potential crimes committed by Donald J. Trump and his close associates — assisting an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to make a false statement, and conspiracy to defraud the United States — is unprecedented in American history. But more hangs in the balance than the fate of just one man.”
Wehle continues, “To be sure, much of America wants to see accountability for the seemingly incessant lawlessness of the former president — and for many, that means jail time. But that is far from guaranteed. The Committee cannot bring indictments, of course, and Special Counsel Jack Smith is under no legal obligation to pay heed to a single word in the Committee’s report, the introduction to which was published today in advance of the expected release of the complete eight volumes on Wednesday, (December 21).”
Smith and the DOJ are conducting two separate federal investigations of Trump: one on the events of January 6, 2021, the other on White House documents that Trump was storing at his Mar-a-Lago compound in Palm Beach, Florida.
“Even if a grand jury charges Trump with one or more crimes — either related to January 6th or to his theft of classified and other presidential records discovered at Mar-a-Lago — criminal juries must be unanimous to convict,” Wehle notes. “If a single MAGA juror manages to get through voir dire, the process for weeding out jury bias, one ‘nay’ vote could override the evidence and thwart the entire endeavor. Nonetheless, the January 6th Committee report is important as a definitive narrative of what happened before, during, and after that day. If Trump is indicted, the report will operate as an advance ‘warm up’ of the public to the idea of what has been unthinkable thus far in U.S. history — a criminal prosecution of a former president of the United States.”
Wehle stresses that the January 6 Committee’s report underscores the type of violence that some of Trump’s supporters are still quite capable of.
“A tip from an informant relayed to the Secret Service eleven days before January 6 warned that the far-right Proud Boys planned ‘to literally kill people,’” Wehle explains. “In the days that followed, the Secret Service and FBI, among other agencies, received warnings about weapons that would be brought to the Capitol and about schemes to occupy federal buildings. Still, Trump never once called for the crowds that he summoned to Washington to act peaceably.”
Wehle continues, “One big question implicitly raised by the January 6th Committee’s report, then, is whether ‘we the people’ are ready to accept politics in America devolving more readily into violence. For some, the answer is yes…. The threat of political violence, and fears of political violence, remain.… The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a troubling report on the threat of domestic terrorism…. The threat of another January 6th is far from over.”
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