MELBOURNE, 26 Dec (Dialogue) After 18 months, more than 1,200 interviews and 10 public hearings, offering testimony from 70 witnesses, the House select committee investigating the 6 Jan attack was released on the evening of 22 Dec published its 845-page final report, 2022.
The report recommends that the Justice Department indict former President Donald Trump on four criminal counts, including conspiracy and sedition.
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It also contains several legislative proposals, including reforming the process of counting electoral votes in presidential elections. The committee also specifically recommends that Congress bar Trump and other officials involved in the insurrection from running for office again under the 14th Amendment.
The committee’s recommendation to indict a former president is unprecedented. But its inquiry into the events of Jan. 6, 2021, falls squarely within the purview of Congress and opens a new chapter in Congress’ centuries-long history of investigating government scandals and missteps.
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Congress has broad investigative powers. Its standing committees and special committees, known as special committees, conduct regular pre-emptive oversight and retrospective investigations. Their goal: to identify specific cases of wrongdoing both inside and outside the government.
Commission investigative reports issued at the conclusion of key investigations often serve as valuable historical documents. They provide a detailed chronicle of the events that inspired the investigation.
For example, on the night of September 11, 2012, the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by terrorists, and the final report released by the House Select Committee on Benghazi provides a detailed account of the events.
These reports typically restate the issues that prompted the investigation, explain how the committee conducted its work and describe the relevant evidence and events. Finally, a report will provide recommendations for addressing the issues identified by the investigation.
These recommendations can be grouped into three distinct types: legal, legislative and institutional. Among the 11 different recommendations the committee made in its final report on Jan. 6 are legal recommendations focused on accountability, nine proposed new policies and actions, and one proposal to strengthen oversight in Congress itself.
The Commission may recommend legal action, such as civil or criminal action, or both. But Congress itself cannot bring civil or criminal charges against those under investigation.
Instead, the committee may recommend that the Justice Department consider prosecution based on the evidence presented in the committee’s final report. Federal prosecutors often conduct their own parallel investigations within the same time frame as congressional investigations, but take congressional evidence and referrals seriously. The Jan. 6 committee vote to Dec. 19, 2022 was the first time Congress had referred a former president for criminal prosecution.
In the 1920s, the Senate Public Lands Committee uncovered evidence of corruption by Interior Secretary Albert Farr, among others, during its investigation into the Teapot Dome bribery scandal. Committee chairman Thomas Walsh recommended charging Farr with “contempt of the law.” Fall was also investigated by a special prosecutor appointed by President Calvin Coolidge, and was charged with bribery and served time in prison.
In the 1970s, congressional investigations into the Nixon administration’s Watergate cover-up led to the conviction of three Nixon aides for obstruction of justice.
In the 1980s, Senate investigations into Iran-Contra and the independent Thar Commission’s report on the Reagan administration’s secret and illegal arms sales to Iran led to the conviction of three Reagan administration advisers on charges including conspiracy and obstruction of Congress.
In a highly politicized investigation, Congress may not recommend specific criminal charges. But it could encourage federal prosecutors to review the committee’s findings as part of their own investigations.
For example, in 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed an independent prosecutor to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton’s allegations against the Whitewater Development Corporation as governor and first lady of Arkansas. (Whitewater Development Corp.) real estate investment.
A year later, the Senate created a select committee to conduct its own whitewater investigation. In its final report from the Republican majority, the committee accused the Clinton administration of “gross misconduct.” But it did not recommend criminal prosecution.
In a follow-up letter to independent counsel Kenneth Starr, the committee recommended that he “take whatever action you deem appropriate” after reviewing the committee’s evidence against the three Clinton aides. Starr later sued one of the aides with fraud.
Committee reports typically include guidance on policy reforms for the executive and legislative branches to address lapses that sparked investigations.
Perhaps the most far-reaching set of legislative proposals comes after the Church committee investigated the CIA’s role in the assassination of foreign leaders and its potentially unconstitutional domestic surveillance. In 1976, the committee made 96 recommendations for reforming the US intelligence community in its final six-volume report.
Two years after the report was released, Congress passed it. It passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, commonly known as “FISA.” The law requires intelligence agencies to obtain search warrants before conducting surveillance on U.S. citizens.
Given the commission’s revelations that the FBI was spying on activists like Martin Luther King Jr. — with the approval of long-serving agency chief J. Edgar Hoover — Congress also instituted a single 10-year term for the FBI director.
While Congress did not enact the Church Commission’s proposal to ban foreign assassinations, President Gerald Ford did so by executive order in 1976. Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton revised the order, but it still stands. But it was undercut by the US policy of the war on terror that began in 2001.
The committee can make recommendations to improve the ease and effectiveness of future oversight both within and outside Congress. Such a move could be sold to other lawmakers as a nonpartisan enforcement check on executive power.
For example, after the conclusion of the Truman Commission’s WWII-era investigation, which was accused of “exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in war, and war profiteering,” Congress made the committee a permanent committee, creating a permanent Senate subcommittee on the investigation.
The subcommittee currently has the broadest investigative jurisdiction of any Senate committee, with authority to investigate all government agencies and “all aspects of criminal and illegal conduct in the United States affecting the health, welfare and security of the nation.”
In response to the Church Commission’s recommendation in 1976, Congress created permanent select committees on intelligence in the House and Senate. Both have access to classified information and are subject to oversight by the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA and NSA.
Congress can also pass laws to facilitate or strengthen oversight within government agencies. For example, the Inspector General Act of 1978 created centralized, independent oversight offices at key government agencies. It was inspired by the House Committee’s final report on waste and mismanagement by the Ministry of Health, Education and Welfare.
Committee reports can also have important political ramifications, although these aren’t necessarily planned or expected.
For example, in its 2014-2016 investigation, the House Benghazi Committee found that Hillary Clinton had improperly used a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
The committee did not recommend criminal charges against Clinton. But it condemned the State Department’s delay in turning over Clinton’s emails to the committee, arguing that “[T]The way these records were kept during and after her tenure…made it impossible to assure the families of those killed in Benghazi that the records were complete. “
The email controversy will plague Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. FBI Director James Comey’s decision in October 2016 to inform Congress of new information about Clinton’s emails could have contributed to her loss to Donald Trump in November 2016. (dialogue)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)