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Cheney: Jan. 6 panel could make multiple criminal referrals of Trump

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Then-US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as president on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP photo)

The congressional panel investigating last year's attack on the US Capitol by angry protesters could make multiple referrals to the Justice Department seeking criminal charges against Donald Trump, says Liz Cheney, who serves as the vice chairwoman of the committee.

In an interview aired on Sunday on ABC's "This Week" program, Cheney also said the Justice Department does not need to wait for the House of Representatives select committee to make a formal recommendation of charges to take action against Trump regarding the January 6, 2021 protest when thousands of people marched against the certification of the 2020 election which placed Joe Biden in office as the current US president.

Asked whether the panel’s hearings have demonstrated that the former president should be prosecuted, Cheney said, "Ultimately, the Justice Department will decide that."

“I think we may well as a committee have a view on that. And if you just think about it from the perspective of, what kind of man knows that a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is under threat, when the Congress is under threat?”

“It’s just very chilling. And I think certainly we will continue to present to the American people what we’ve found,” she added.

"The Justice Department doesn't have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral. There could be more than one criminal referral," Cheney said, despite the fact that criminal charges have never been brought against a sitting or former US president.

Asked what it would mean for the US if Biden's Justice Department brings charges against Trump, Cheney said, "I have greater concern about what it would mean if people weren't held accountable for what's happened here."

The nine-member Democratic-led House of Representatives select committee’s public hearings, launched last month, intend to put up a case against Trump that he was responsible for the January 6 violence, starting with knowingly spreading lies around the election, seeking to overturn the results, assembling the mob in the Capitol and failing to act to stop the violence.

The committee is trying to build a case that Trump's efforts to overturn his defeat amounted to illegal conduct, far beyond normal politics.

Cheney has condemned Trump's conduct before, during and after the January 6, 2021 incident when some people also died.

"I think it's a much graver constitutional threat if a president can engage in these kinds of activities and, you know, the majority of the president's party looks away - or we as a country decide, you know, we're not actually going to take our constitutional obligations seriously," Cheney said.

"And if you just think about it from the perspective of what kind of man knows that a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is under threat, when the Congress is under threat," added Cheney, whose father Dick Cheney served as vice president from 2001 to 2009.

Trump has maintained that he lost the election only because of widespread fraud that benefited Biden. Trump and his supporters denounce the January 6 panel as a political witch hunt.

Trump claimed that he won the 2020 presidential election and that there was "massive" voter fraud. The former president claimed that he ordered 10,000 National Guard troops to protect the Capitol.

Meanwhile, Trump has increased his efforts to confirm an unusually early bid for the White House to counter the ruining impact of revelations unveiled by the January 6 investigation panel scrutinizing him.

Republicans close to Trump said he believes a formal announcement of his bid for presidency would boost his chances for re-election in 2024, as well as bolster his claims that the January 6 investigations were politically motivated, The New York Times reported on Friday.

"A man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again," Cheney said.

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