Donald Trump wants the U.S. Supreme Court to help him dodge the Congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection, and he’s trying to use the words of the investigation’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, to help his case.
Trump’s lawyers filed a supplemental brief to the court on Wednesday calling the justices’ attention to a recent Thompson interview with the Washington Post. In the interview, Thompson said his committee wants to focus on why Trump, who was still President of the United States at the time his supporters staged a deadly attack on the US Capitol, took 187 minutes to call them off.
From the Washington Post
He said the president’s delayed response to the Capitol attack could be a factor in deciding whether to make a criminal referral, which is when Congress informs the Justice Department it believes a crime has been committed. It would be up to federal prosecutors to decide whether to pursue a charge.
“That dereliction of duty causes us real concern,” Thompson said. “And one of those concerns is that whether or not it was intentional, and whether or not that lack of attention for that longer period of time, would warrant a referral.”
A criminal referral against a former president would be historic and would ratchet up the political tensions that continue to swirl over the congressional inquiry into the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 as Trump considers running again for president.
Thompson makes sense. Congress investigates all kinds of things, it has an obligation to get to the bottom of an insurrection and if it finds potential criminal activity, it’s supposed to forward that info to law enforcement. All of which, of course, means Trump’s lawyers see it differently. They argue that Thompson’s committee is hunting for criminal activity and that that’s beyond the scope of their power.
From the Dec. 29 Trump filing
“Now the Washington Post has confirmed what was already apparent—the Committee is indeed seeking any excuse to refer a political rival for criminal charges, and they are using this investigation to do so. The Committee cannot make a mockery of Congress’s constitutional mandate that its requests and investigation be supported by a “valid legislative purpose.” It cannot embark on what is essentially a law enforcement investigation with the excuse that it might legislate based on information it turns up in the course of the exploration.”
As CNN points out, Trump’s legal team already made the same argument to the DC US Circuit Court of Appeals, which didn’t buy it. “The mere prospect that misconduct might be exposed does not make the Committee’s request prosecutorial. Missteps and misbehavior are common fodder for legislation,” the court wrote.
No word on whether SCOTUS, which currently has three Trump appointees, will take up Trump’s case or how they might rule.