Former Obama Deputy AG: Jan. 6 Pursuit of Trump Might 'Backfire' Ronald Weich, former assistant attorney general. (AP/Steve Ruark)
By Eric Mack | Monday, 04 April 2022 03:27 PM
While the Jan. 6 Select Committee is continuing to search for a criminal offense to prosecute former President Donald Trump on, even Democrat legal experts are warning the effort might be futile and even "backfire."
"A formal criminal referral from Congress in this situation could backfire," University of Baltimore law professor Ronald Weich, former assistant attorney general in Barack Obama's Justice Department, told Politico. "The Justice Department’s charging decisions should not be influenced by political pressure, and that's how this might look.
"A referral could make it harder for the Department to prosecute."
Even Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., admitted to Politico, "a referral doesn’t mean anything" and "has no legal weight whatsoever."
Still, Jan. 6 Select Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., is not going to rule out pursing Trump for criminal prosecution for his actions, or inactions, as president on Jan. 6, 2021.
"Our job is," Thompson told Politico, "to look at the facts and circumstances around what occurred.
"So we'll make a decision at some point as a committee."
Judge David Carter's 44-page filing last Monday issued an opinion – from a Bill Clinton-appointed judge – that Trump's call to challenge the Electoral College certification on Jan. 6 might have violated laws. A referral from the committee pales in comparison to evidence the DOJ has.
"It would have no legal effect, just political ones," George Washington University criminal law professor Randall Eliason told Politico. "And Congress wouldn't be telling the DOJ anything it doesn't already know, or that it couldn't tell the DOJ without a referral. So I still feel like the costs outweigh any benefits."
Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed Judge Carter's unsolicited opinion and vowed he would not face political pressure in any investigation of the former president.
"The only pressure I feel and the only pressure that our line prosecutors feel is to do the right thing," Garland told reporters at a Friday news conference.