Last week, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney hinted at potential criminal charges for former president Donald Trump stemming from a congressional investigation into the Capitol insurrection.
Specifically, Cheney questioned whether Trump "through action or inaction corruptly sought to obstruct or impede Congress' official proceeding to count electoral votes" on Jan. 6.
Appearing on MSNBC on Tuesday night, former acting U.S. solicitor general Neal Katyal explained that Cheney was referring to a federal statute that makes it a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to obstruct an official proceeding.
Katyal noted that three judges, including two nominated by Trump, have recently found that Capitol rioters potentially violated the statute, regardless of whether they intended violence, merely by endeavoring to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.
"The other thing she's saying is, it's not just Trump's action, but his inaction," Katyal added. "Trump is saying, I guess his defense is, 'Look, I didn't light the match.' But what Cheney is saying is, 'Look, at least you sat in front of the fire truck toasting marshmallows if you didn't light the match.'"
"He wasn't exactly advocating the crowd to march to the Capitol and, like, count the votes," Katyal said. "He was urging them to stop that count, and so that runs you squarely into a federal crime. That's why Cheney's remarks are so important, and why Donald Trump this week has been, even by his own standards, more off the rails than usual."
Katyal went on to say that he believes it's likely the Jan. 6 committee will determine that Trump violated the statute, at which point it will be their duty to make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.
"I know that's a very serious thing," he said. "I don't say that lightly. But that's because what happened on Jan. 6 was deadly serious."
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