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Criminal referrals could be announced sooner than expected by the Jan. 6 panel

The first public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on June 9, 2022.
Aaron Schwartz/Xinhua via Getty Images
The first public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on June 9, 2022.

The House select panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol could hold what could be its final public meeting on Monday to announce and vote on its plans to issue criminal referralsand other recommendations.

While the panel was already eyeing a day later next week to release its final report and hold a hearing simultaneously, it could now hold that presentation earlier than expected.

"We looked at the schedule, and it appears we can complete our work a little bit before that. So why not get it to the public as quick as we can?" Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters on Tuesday from the Capitol steps.

Last week, Thompson had said the panel was looking to hold a hearing and release its final report on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Now, the panel could follow its public Monday meeting with the release of the report two days later on Dec. 21 instead, Thompson said.

The plans come as a subcommittee of the larger panel's four lawyers — Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Zoe Lofgren and Adam Schiff of California and Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming — met with the full panel several times this month to present their findings on referrals and other recommendations.

Their most recent meeting was held on Sunday.

"They let us know that they're done," Thompson said, declining to elaborate on who could be on the list.

Former President Donald Trump is likely to be one of the panel's top considerations for criminal referrals. Such a referral would come in the form of a letter from Thompson to the Justice Department making its case for the move.

Already, in a March court filing, the committee said Trump illegally obstructed an official proceeding — Congress' counting of the Electoral College votes. The committee added that Trump "engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States."

Trump was subpoenaed by the panel in October, but he filed a lawsuit against the panel to block the move and has not cooperated.

Ultimately, Thompson hinted the panel's various referrals could fall into five or six categories, including criminal, House Ethics Committee complaints and referrals for discipline of attorneys through legal bar associations. These referrals and recommendations could include evidence that would be new to the public.

For example, it's possible the panel could consider ethics complaints for the five House Republicans who defied their subpoenas — including GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. Thompson defended the possibility of issuing referrals for ethics complaints for members at the end of a congressional session.

"We just have gotten to this point. And the [House Ethics] committee will have time to either look at it or not," Thompson said, "Or ... if those members are still around, they can bring it back up."

Thompson has also said any attorney who was found to be connected to the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election could be disciplined for their actions.

"I think anytime an officer of the court disrespects the ethics of a proceeding, that has to be reviewed" as part of the committee's discussions, Thompson told NPR earlier this month. "But as a person who would consider a lawyer to have the highest possible ethical standards, I would have real issue with them not respecting those standards."

The committee's investigation has uncovered several attorneys connected to the 2020 presidential election plot, including lawyer John Eastman, who pushed for the results to be overturned. Thompson said he wasn't ready to rule anyone out.

"Every lawyer that's come before us is a potential," Thompson said.

Thompson has previously told NPR the final report could be about eight chapters long and 1,000 pages in length. By year end, the committee also plans to share transcripts from the more than 1,000 witnesses it interviewed.

Thompson also said on Tuesday that the report has to get to a publisher "this week" to get printed in time for its release.

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Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.