Jan. 6 committee chair Benny Thompson offers a stunning take on potential Trump criminal actions

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The chairman of the Democrat-run House Select Committee on January 6 made an admission during a CNN interview on Sunday that critics will likely seize upon as evidence that the panel’s probe is largely a partisan exercise.

CNN’s Dana Bash asked Rep. Bennie Thompson whether former President Donald Trump broke any laws on that day nearly a year ago when rioters assailed the U.S. Capitol Building as he was still giving a speech during a “Stop The Steal” event.

But the Mississippi Democrat told Bash he couldn’t answer that question.

During the interview, Bash asked if Trump’s alleged “lack of action on Jan. 6 may actually warrant a criminal referral.”

“The only thing I can say is highly unusual for any in charge of anything to watch what’s going on and do nothing,” Thompson responded.

Maybe so, but Bash countered with a question: “Is it criminal?”

“We don’t know,” was Thompson’s bizarre response. “We are in the process of trying to get all the information.”

He added: “But I can say if there’s anything that we come upon as a committee that we think would warrant a referral to the Department of Justice, we’ll do that. That’s our oath as members of Congress. So it’s not just that. It’s any of the other things we’re looking at, if there’s any confidence on the part of our committee that something criminal we believe has occurred, we’ll make the referral.”

The panel contends that Trump waited 187 minutes to take action on the day the Capitol was breached by protesters, however various timelines show that within 30 minutes of that breach, the former president tweeted: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

Just over 30 minutes later, as rioters reached the Senate floor, Trump appealed for peace a second time, tweeting: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

Bash followed up by asking if the Democrat-controlled panel has “learned from witness testimony more about what [Trump] was or wasn’t doing?”

“Yes, we have. We have significant testimony that leads us to believe that the White House had been told to do something,” Thompson said. “We want to verify all of it so that when we produce our report and when we have the hearings, the public will have an opportunity to see for themselves.

“But Dana,” he continued, “to be honest with you, what occurred Jan. 6 played out in full view of the American public and the world and we want to make sure that that never ever happens again, so we need to get it right, get all the facts and circumstances and that’s what the committee’s body of work is about, doing it at this point.”

“Did or has the former president obstructed an official proceeding of Congress?” Bash asked.

Thompson, however, completely avoided the question.

“Well, what he’s doing is the typical Donald Trump modus operandi. He sues. He goes to court. He tries to delay. If he continues to be successful at delaying, obviously it inhibits the committee’s work. We’re doing a lot, but we have to have access to the records,” the Mississippi Democrat said.

“President Biden has said executive privilege does not apply. So we think that we will have a lot of access to the records necessary for us to have complete access to the work,” he said, none of which has anything to do with Bash’s question.

“If we have access to the records, then former President Trump’s wishes on delaying will have no bearing our work,” he added.

Last month, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee vice-chair and frequent Trump critic, erroneously claimed that the then-president did not act for a full 187 minutes, a claim that wasn’t supported by timelines published by mainstream media outlets.

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Jon Dougherty

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