With the January 6 House committee public hearings well underway, the nation is finding more questions than answers for the time being.
The panel is systematically laying out a case for how former President Donald Trump obstructed the democratic process of certifying electors and attempted to overturn the election results. But will all of their proof lead anywhere, or is it a big nothing burger as Trump cohorts have suggested all along?
One professor from the University of Harvard who helped teach current US Attorney General Merrick Garland has no hesitation about an answer to that question. Knowing his pupil and knowing the law, he says - "without any doubt."
Harvard Professor Has Zero Doubt
It's the question on everyone's mind: will Trump face criminal charges for the role he played in the January 6 riots at the Capitol? For now, discussion around it remains academic - but those with expertise in the field know which way they'd place their bets.
Laurence Tribe, Professor Emeritus of Harvard University, has been teaching the Constitution for over 52 years now. His students include some of the nation's most powerful people, such as January 6 select committee members Jaime Raskin (D-MD) and Adam Schiff (D-CA); and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Also included among his students and relevant to the situation - United States Attorney General Merrick Garland, in whose hands the fate of Trump's future rests.
Tribe was interviewed by CNN's Erin Burnett this week, and he had some insights to offer about the likelihood of criminal charges for the former president.
RawStory reports, "'With the hearing today that focused so much on Trump causing violence against Pence, do you believe the committee has proven that Trump himself knowingly committed crimes?' Burnett asked.
'Without any doubt,' Tribe said. 'Beyond a reasonable doubt, beyond any doubt, and the crimes are obvious. The most obvious was that he was ordering his vice-president to do what everyone in the room knew would be illegal, namely, exercise power to pick the next president. It would be very convenient if Al Gore could have picked himself as the next president in 2000, very convenient if Richard Nixon could have done it in 1960.'"
Tribe added, "Ordering your vice-president to violate the law in order to stay in power is a very serious federal crime, but there are other crimes as well. One that occurred to several people today is attempted murder. You know, under the criminal code of the United States, the attempted murder of the vice-president is punishable by life imprisonment."
Burnett expressed surprise that he would go so far as to mention attempted murder and asked if Garland would charge Trump, to which Tribe responded, "I think he will. I don't think he will charge attempted murder, I was making that point to show, really, how extreme this was, that we can even talk about that shows how far from normal this all is. But I do believe, though he's doing it meticulously and not as quickly as some would like, that Merrick Garland will approve criminal charges ..."
Will the House Panel Recommend Criminal Charges to the DOJ?
Of course the question remains - will the House panel even recommend charges to the Department of Justice? House panel leaders seem divided, with Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) saying the DOJ can draw their own conclusions but Committee Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) saying they have not made that decision yet. Committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA) believes that the Department of Justice is investigating the evidence already before making a decision.
Ultimately, it may not matter whether they choose to recommend or not. Merrick Garland himself has said he and his team are watching the hearings closely.
The Washington Post reports as Garland himself commented on it last month during a Harvard commencement speech, "'We are undertaking one of the largest investigations in our history to hold accountable everyone who was criminally responsible for the January 6 assault on our democracy,' he said. 'We will follow the facts wherever they lead.'
'Together,' he said later, 'we must ensure that the magnitude of an event like January 6th is not downplayed or understated. The commitment to the peaceful transfer of power must be respected by every American.' It is safe to assume that the words “every American” were carefully chosen.
To Schiff’s point, we should consider another quote from Garland. He told reporters this week that he would watch the hearings, though perhaps not in real time. What’s more, he said: 'I can assure you that the January 6 prosecutors are watching all of the hearings as well.' In other words, the Justice Department is paying attention to the evidence that the committee has gathered even without a referral."
From the House committee's point of view, it may benefit them not to make the recommendation to as avoid the appearance of political motives, regardless of how indisputable the evidence may seem.
What Could Trump be Charged With?
If Garland does choose to bring charges against Trump, what could the former president be facing?
Forbes writes, "The president could face charges for conspiracy to defraud the United States or obstruct an official proceeding for his efforts to overturn the election and block Congress’ counting of the electoral votes, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told the New Yorker. Trump and his allies could also be subject to fraud charges after lawmakers detailed how the Trump campaign asked supporters to donate to an 'Official Election Defense Fund' that allegedly wasn’t actually used on post-election efforts, but rather funneled to other Trump-related political groups."
Ironically, the least of those charges - fraud - could be the hardest to prove, because it requires proving intent.
However, what charges Trump could face - if any - will depend entirely on what the Department of Justice finds during the course of its investigation.