by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Editors at National Review Online pan the final outcome of Congress’ Jan. 6 committee process.
The House Select January 6 Committee is ending this week as it began 18 months ago — subordinating a critical congressional-oversight function to partisan politics. In yet another instance of the committee’s signature grandstanding, it capped its public presentation on Monday by making criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump to the Justice Department.
It was at best an empty political gesture. The referrals, carrying no force of law, are nonbinding. The Justice Department, which has already appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to investigate Trump in connection with the Capitol riot (as well as his retention of classified intelligence at Mar-a-Lago), will make its own assessment of whether a prosecution is warranted. In the unlikely event that the committee has uncovered evidence or witnesses unknown to prosecutors, communicating that information would, of course, be helpful. Clearly, the committee did valuable work in shoring up the proof that Trump was fully and convincingly informed that he had lost the election even as he pretended otherwise, and that his surrogates lacked evidence of material election fraud even as they peddled the “stolen election” storyline. That these facts were already generally known does not undercut the committee’s important supplementary evidence. Nevertheless, with his superior criminal-law experience, institutional competence, and investigative resources, Smith did not need a recommendation on whether an indictment should be sought from an anti-Trump congressional panel. By making the referrals, the committee has enabled Trump, if he is ultimately charged, to argue that the decision was driven by politics, not evidence.
From its inception, the January 6 committee has been a missed opportunity. The Capitol riot is a blight. It deserved a credible, bipartisan investigation that would end in a comprehensive report, exploring all aspects of the riot — from Trump’s role in stoking the mayhem to the security failures that allowed a raucous political gathering to breach the Capitol.