January 6 committee to discuss potential criminal referrals at Friday meeting

(CNN) — As the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack stares down a fast-approaching deadline to complete its work, members are scheduled to have a key meeting on Friday to discuss its final report as well as the possibility of making criminal referrals, multiple sources tell CNN.

A subcommittee of members is also expected to provide options to the full committee about a number of pressing issues including how to present evidence of possible obstruction, possible perjury and possible witness tampering as well as potential criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, according to multiple sources familiar with the committee’s work.

Also under discussion in the Friday meeting will be how to handle the five Republican lawmakers who refused to cooperate with their subpoenas, which includes House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

“We will be discussing whether to make referrals, and if so on whom and for what,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a committee member and member of the subcommittee that is expected to be providing options. “We are considering any offenses for which we have uncovered relevant evidence and think there is a basis for a referral,” he said, adding that could extend beyond former President Donald Trump.

“If someone is not referred, it is not an indication that we don’t think there is evidence,” Schiff added.

No decisions have been made the sources say, and discussions are expected to continue past the Friday meeting. A committee spokesman had no comment.

Along with Schiff on the subcommittee assigned with the task are GOP Rep. Liz Cheney who serves as vice chair of the committee, and Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin and Zoe Lofgren, all trained lawyers.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the committee, told CNN if the panel decides to issue criminal referrals, which he says is “still under consideration,” it will be “done separately” from the final report but will be considered “an official action of the committee.”

On the final report, Thompson said the panel is “close to putting pens down,” expects it to be eight chapters and will include hundreds of transcripts of interviews. The committee is aiming to get the report out by the week of December 12, sources say, which is currently the last week Congress is scheduled to be in session for the year, but they acknowledge it could slip to the week of December 19.

Thompson also said that the panel does not expect any more witness testimony after Wednesday, bringing to a close more than 1,000 interviews conducted by House investigators.

The committee on Wednesday is speaking with Wisconsin assembly speaker Robin Vos but, Thompson noted, would make a special exception for former President Donald Trump should he decide he wants to cooperate.

“If former President Trump said he’d come, we’d make the accommodation,” Thompson said.

The congressman also confirmed CNN’s reporting that the full panel is expected to meet Friday and hear from a subcommittee of members about options for potentially issuing criminal referrals.

“We will look at the subcommittee report and some of the other outstanding issues,” he said, referring to Friday’s meeting.

The decision of whether to issue criminal referrals has loomed large over the committee. Members on the panel have been in wide agreement that Trump and some of his closest allies have committed a crime when he pushed a conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, as they’ve laid out in their hearings. But they have long been split over what to do about it, including whether to make a criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department.

The question has led to a vigorous, at times contentious, debate among committee members, sources have said. Those who have said a criminal referral is not necessary to close out the panel’s investigation say the committee lacks prosecutorial powers and DOJ does not need Congress to investigate crimes as it has its own criminal investigations into the Capitol attack that are ongoing.

Still, the idea of a criminal referral of Trump, even if entirely symbolic in nature, has hung like a shadow over the panel since it was first formed, and many members have felt it is a necessary measure in order to complete its work.