DOJ needs to quit being 'timid' and charge Trump for inciting Jan. 6: conservative
President Donald Trump leaves the White House briefing room (screengrab)

Members of the House select committee seem to agree that Donald Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy in a bid to remain in power, but they're split over referring the former president to the Justice Department.

Congressional investigators recently argued in federal court that the committee believes in Trump and some members of his campaign conspired to defraud the U.S., and a judge agreed, but some members believe the largely symbolic referral could backfire -- but MSNBC columnist Charlie Sykes said they're wrong.

"You may have seen this movie before," Sykes wrote. "Again and again — during Trump’s campaign, his presidency and now his post-presidency — we’ve seen responsible figures determine that something must be done about Trump’s behavior. And then, inevitably, they decide to let someone else do it."

"They’ve rationalized their timidity as political prudence," he added, "but the result has been a pandemic of buck-passing."

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Special counsel Robert Mueller's probe found evidence that the former president attempted to obstructed justice multiple times but investigators ultimately declined to recommend impeachment or a criminal indictment, hoping someone else would take action.

"But that never happened," Sykes wrote. "Like other establishment figures who were rolled over by Trump, Mueller was held hostage by his excessive faith in guardrails, institutional integrity and the virtues of staying in one’s lane."

One of Mueller's investigators later wrote that the special counsel was overly concerned with overstepping his authority, but Sykes wrote that his inaction only emboldened Trump -- whose supporters ransacked the Capitol in his name, and Senate Republicans once again let him off the hook and the Justice Department appears too indecisive to hold him accountable.

"Whatever [DOJ] does, Trump will let loose the dogs of disinformation, deceit and obstruction," Sykes wrote. "Knowing it can’t control the reaction, maybe the select committee should just do the right thing — and finally, finally end the cycle of timidity, self-deterrence and buck-passing."