Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee, appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” yesterday, and George Stephanopoulos asked the congressman whether he’s reached the conclusion that Donald Trump should be prosecuted.
After making clear that the House select panel is not a prosecutorial body, the Illinois Republican said, “I think what we’re presenting before the American people certainly would rise to a level of criminal involvement by a president — and definitely failure of the oath.”
It’s difficult to say with any confidence whether prosecutors will reach a similar conclusion, but if they do, they can take some solace in the fact that most Americans agree. ABC News also reported over the weekend:
With the first full week of hearings for the House select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol now complete, nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe former President Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the incident, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds. Six in 10 Americans also believe the committee is conducting a fair and impartial investigation, according to the poll.
In early May, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that a 52 percent majority of Americans believed the former president should be criminally charged for his role in the insurrectionist riot.
It would appear that support for the idea inched higher in the weeks that followed.
That doesn’t mean it will happen, of course. As we’ve discussed, indictments are not the results of popularity contests. Prosecutorial decisions, at least in theory, shouldn’t be swayed by prevailing political winds.
That said, there’s no denying the significance of bringing charges against a former president — a step without precedent in the American tradition — and those in a decision-making role might very well be looking for some kind of political cover if/when it comes time to bring an indictment against Trump.
And with this in mind, polls like these aren’t mere trivia: Evidence of public support for charging the Republican might very well help stiffen spines.
Indeed, if the Justice Department is looking for political cover, the supply is not short. Not only is there survey data to consider, but it was just a few months ago when a federal judge released a ruling in a civil case that concluded Trump “likely attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress” on Jan. 6, which would be a crime.
Judge David Carter added, “The illegality of the plan was obvious…. Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
A Washington Post report added soon after, “[Judge Carter’s] ruling does not mean Trump will be charged with a crime, or even investigated. But the opinion will increase pressure on the Justice Department to intensify its probe of the Jan. 6 riot, and potentially examine the conduct of Trump himself.
Adding to the proverbial scales is the evidence released by the Jan. 6 committee, which has left little doubt that Trump knew the plot to overturn the election was illegal, but he pushed it anyway.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, I don’t doubt that Attorney General Merrick Garland fears a political backlash, but that’s why the multifaceted elements matter. A bipartisan House select committee, a respected federal jurist who’s carefully reviewed the evidence, and most Americans all agree: Trump should be charged.