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US Capitol riot probe planned as Trump's legal woes mount

  • Published at 12:39 pm February 16th, 2021
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington
File photo: Supporters of US president Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building, in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 Reuters

Nancy Pelosi called on Monday for the creation of a 9/11-style Commission to look into the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by Trump's supporters

Most Republicans in the US Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump in last week's impeachment trial, but the former president's woes are far from over.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, called on Monday for the creation of a 9/11-style Commission to look into the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by Trump's supporters, AFP reported.

Veteran Republican elections lawyer Ben Ginsberg on Monday told CNN that Trump faces a daunting slate of legal challenges in both criminal and civil cases that are going to make his post-presidency miserable to deal with.

Ginsberg in particular said that Trump should fear prosecutors who now have broad powers to investigate his finances and business practices now that he is a private citizen again.

Ginsberg said that the president and his allies can no longer rely on executive privilege arguments, and will be forced to cooperate in criminal and civil probes.

Here is a look at the likely impacts of such an investigation and Trump's other potential legal woes:

‘9/11-type Commission’

Pelosi said she would move to establish an "outside, independent 9/11-type Commission" to probe the US Capitol assault that left five people dead.

The Commission would "investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex," she said in a statement.

It would also look into "the interference with the peaceful transfer of power" and the preparedness and response of the Capitol Police and branches of law enforcement.

An exhaustive probe was launched following the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks that killed about 3,000 people in the United States.

Bipartisan push

Several Republicans have also said they want an independent probe into the Capitol assault by Trump loyalists who were seeking to halt the final certification of President Joe Biden's election victory.

"We need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened to make sure it never happens again," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump's fiercest defenders, told Fox News Sunday.

Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told ABC News there should be a "complete investigation" and Trump "should be held accountable."

Trump was acquitted in a 57-43 Senate vote that fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction of inciting the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

Cassidy was one of the seven Republicans who joined Democrats voting in favor of Trump's conviction.

Trump's actions

Senator Mitch McConnell, the powerful Republican Senate minority leader, voted to acquit the former president on constitutional grounds but squarely blamed him for the Capitol riots and hinted that he could still face criminal charges.

"There's no question - none - that president Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day," McConnell told the chamber after the vote.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office," McConnell added. "He didn't get away with anything yet."

Democrats say Trump, who held a rally urging supporters to "fight like hell," was to blame for inciting the crowd that smashed its way into Congress.

Trump's defense lawyers drew attention to the fact that he said at one point that protesters should demonstrate "peacefully and patriotically."

45% of the 1,056 Americans surveyed in a poll published by Quinnipiac University on Monday said they believe Trump is responsible and should face criminal charges.

43% said Trump is not responsible for inciting violence while six percent said they believe he is responsible but should not face criminal charges.

Legal experts have said securing a conviction against Trump for his role in the insurrection is unlikely, given that his statements would be subject to First Amendment freedom of expression protections.

Other legal woes

A 9/11-style investigation is only one item on a growing list of legal headaches Trump faces now that he is a private citizen without presidential legal protections.

The 74-year-old former president is already the target of at least one criminal investigation, led by Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance, who has been fighting for months to obtain eight years of his tax returns.

Initially focused on payments before the 2016 presidential election to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump, the state-level probe is also now examining possible allegations of tax evasion, as well as insurance and bank fraud.

Last week, a prosecutor in Georgia revealed she was investigating Trump's efforts to subvert the state's results in the November 3 election by pressuring local officials to alter the vote count.

He is additionally fending off civil lawsuits, including from two women who have alleged he sexually assaulted them and are suing him for defamation.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in all of these cases.

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