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Senate Republicans are stepping out of the way of the House Jan. 6 committee’s recommendation that the Justice Department prosecute former President Trump for crimes related to the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

GOP senators, especially those allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), say the Jan. 6 committee interviewed “credible” witnesses and added to the historical record in a substantial way, even though they have qualms about how Democrats have tried to use the panel’s findings to score political points.  

Now they say it’s up to Attorney General Merrick Garland or Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith to investigate or indict Trump, but they’re not waving federal prosecutors off from prosecuting the former president.  

“The entire nation knows who is responsible for that day,” McConnell said in a statement, pointing the finger squarely at Trump in response to the House Jan. 6 committee referring four criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department.  

It was McConnell’s strongest statement blaming Trump for inciting a crowd to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, since he denounced him on the Senate floor in February of that year.  

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” he said in February 2021 after voting on technical grounds to acquit Trump during his second impeachment trial.  

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said, “It’s up to Justice now.”  

Asked if he thought the committee had conducted a credible investigation of Trump, Thune replied, “They interviewed some credible witnesses.” 

Thune said the makeup of the panel was partisan because it comprised seven Democrats and only two anti-Trump Republicans, but he acknowledged, “They did interview a lot of folks that had a lot of knowledge of what happened and they were people who I think were very credible.”

Retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said the Jan. 6 committee’s final report, which will be made public Wednesday, is “important.” 

“I think the referrals are not as important as the report. The report’s important, even though it came out of a partisan process,” he said. 

“But the testimony is the testimony, and they were able to get the testimony from most of the people they wanted — not everybody but most — and I think most of the significant figures. That is the historical record,” Portman explained. “That’s very important.”  

The Jan. 6 panel on Monday made four criminal referrals alleging Trump incited insurrection, obstructed an official proceeding of Congress, conspired to defraud the United States and conspired to make a false statement.  

The referrals don’t require the Department of Justice to bring criminal charges against the former president, but they put more pressure on federal prosecutors to act.  

The panel also recommended the House Ethics Committee investigate House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and several allies — Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — and what they did in the lead-up to and on the day of the attack on the Capitol.  

House Republicans are expected to dismantle the Jan. 6 panel after they take control of the chamber in January.  

Trump shrugged off the criminal referrals in a statement posted to Truth Social, his social media platform.  

“These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” he posted.  

Trump has announced a new bid for the White House, but it’s been clear for weeks amid a series of controversies surrounding Trump and a disappointing midterm election outcome for the GOP that a number of Republican senators would rather move on from the former president.

Only one Republican senator, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), has publicly endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential bid.  

Others have raised concerns about Trump’s viability in the 2024 general election or blamed him for derailing their chances of winning key Senate races in Pennsylvania and Georgia this year.  

Republican senators speaking to the media on Monday did not entirely embrace the Jan. 6 panel, by any means, but most did not embrace Trump.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), another member of the Senate Republican leadership team, said she thought the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation “was a political process” and that she had “never seen” Congress recommend the Justice Department prosecute someone before.  

But she added that Trump “bears some responsibility” for the attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

“I don’t see that this changes anything. Let’s get the Electoral Count Act passed. That will clear up some of the ambiguity that came about that day,” she said, referring to legislation the Senate will take up this week to clarify that the vice president has a solely ministerial role when Congress convenes in joint session to certify the results of a presidential election.  

The bill is intended to eliminate the possibility that a future president tries to get the vice president to throw out slates of electors when presiding over a joint session of Congress, as Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to do on Jan. 6.   

McConnell, Thune, Portman and Capito all voted to acquit Trump after his second impeachment trial when he was charged with inciting insurrection. 

Many Senate Republicans, however, voted that way on technical grounds because Trump at the time of the trial was no longer in office.  

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials, said, “There’s no question that President Trump deserves culpability for inciting the riot on Jan. 6 and for failure to act to protect the vice president and the Capitol of the United States.”

“Whether there are criminal charges associated with that would have to be determined by experienced prosecutors, and that’s what the Justice Department will determine,” he said.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who also voted to impeach Trump, said he would leave it up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do. 

“I am not a lawyer and certainly not a prosecutor,” he said, adding he wasn’t surprised about the recommendation to prosecute.

“I don’t know the legal basis of it, but you know what I think of what the president did that day,” he said.  

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, said she was not surprised by the criminal referral by the House committee.  

“Obviously they spent considerable time and [went into] great detail over many months they have investigated this,” she said. “It’s really up to [the Department of Justice] where they go next.” 

“I think it’s going to be important for us to read this report that will be coming out Wednesday,” she said.  

Asked about McConnell’s statement that the entire nation knows Trump is responsible for the Jan. 6 attack, Murkowski replied, “I agree. I voted to impeach him.”   

Source: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/3781457-many-senate-republicans-arent-protecting-trump-after-jan-6-panels-nod-to-criminal-charges/

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