As pressure builds on Congress to immediately impeach and remove Donald Trump from the presidency over Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, state Attorney General Letitia James called upon the federal Justice Department to launch a full investigation into the attempted coup.
James made clear in her letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen that Trump along with his family members, associates and colleagues in Congress had instigated the Jan. 6 putsch that temporarily disrupted proceedings to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — and left five people, including a Capitol police officer, dead.
“Each and every participant in this attempted coup must be identified, investigated and held accountable,” James wrote to Rosen.
She charged that the events of Jan. 6 “did not happen in a vacuum” and were the result of “months of lies and wild conspiracy theories by President Trump, his family and closest associates, and members of Congress who supported and legitimized his baseless allegations.”
“The moral culpability of the president and his enablers is beyond dispute,” James wrote in her Jan. 7 letter to Rosen. “There are also serious, fact-specific questions about the legal culpability of the president, his family and other officials for directly inciting yesterday’s attack.”
According to James, the participants in the Capitol siege violated 18 U.S.C. § 2384, described as “seditious conspiracy.” It is defined as two or more people conspiring “to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”
Those found guilty of committing seditious conspiracy face up to 20 years in federal prison.
Trump, himself, played a role in sparking the riot, according to James. She pointed to remarks he made at a rally just before the assault on the Capitol, in which he again repeated lies about the election being “stolen” from him.
“We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” Trump said during the Jan. 6 speech. “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.”
At one point, when the crowd chanted “Fight for Trump!,” the president thanked them.
“After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you,” Trump later said in the speech; in fact, he went back to the White House while the mob raided the Capitol. “We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Hours after the assault began, Trump released a video statement urging the mob to stop and go home. He conveyed sympathy to the mob, telling them that he loved them and thought they were special.
On Jan. 7, in a video address released by the White House, Trump claimed to have renounced the violence and conceded defeat, while pledging to ensure an “orderly and seamless transition of power.”
In addition to Trump’s Jan. 6 statements before the insurrection, James said, remarks by the president’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr., as well as personal attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, further inflamed the crowd prior to the mob’s attack.
James specifically pointed out that:
- Donald Trump Jr. told the crowd, “This gathering should send a message,” and warned members of Congress that “we’re coming for you” if they did not support Trump’s efforts to throw out the election results.
- Eric Trump had told the crowd, “And we need to march on the Capitol today. And we need to stand up for this country.”
- Giuliani called for participants at the rally to take part in what he called a “trial by combat.”
In addition toward calling for a thorough criminal investigation as well as prosecution for the insurrection, James also implored Rosen that Trump must be advised of the potential legal ramifications if he chooses to abuse the presidential power to pardon participants in the coup attempt, including himself.
“Throughout his tenure, this president has made a practice of using his pardon power to the benefit of his ideological and personal allies,” James wrote. “Many of yesterday’s (Jan. 6) potentially criminal acts fall under federal law, and are thus subject to the pardon power. However, the Office of Legal Counsel should advise the president that issuing a pardon under corrupt circumstances could render him vulnerable to prosecution when he leaves office in a few short weeks.”
The FBI is currently conducting an ongoing investigation into the coup attempt. Anyone with information about it can call 800-CALL-FBI or visit fbi.gov/USCapitol.