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Schiff says any criminal referral for Trump by the January 6 committee should be decided unanimously

<i>CNN</i><br/>Rep. Adam Schiff
CNN
Rep. Adam Schiff

By Daniella Diaz and Devan Cole, CNN

US Rep. Adam Schiff, who serves on the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection, says that if the panel makes a criminal referral for former President Donald Trump related to the riot at the US Capitol, it should be made unanimously.

“We operate with a high degree of consensus and unanimity,” the California Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday. “It will be certainly, I think, my recommendation, my feeling, that we should make referrals, but we will get to a decision as a committee, and we will all abide by that decision, and I will join our committee members if they feel differently.”

CNN reported earlier this year that although the bipartisan committee was in wide agreement that Trump committed a crime when he pushed a conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election, panelists were split over what to do about it, including whether to make a criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department, according to four sources connected to the committee.

The internal debate spilled into plain view in June when the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, repeatedly told a group of reporters at the Capitol that the panel would not be issuing any criminal referrals, a declaration that several of his fellow committee members were quick to push back on.

Schiff said Sunday he wouldn’t disclose information about the focus of the select committee’s public hearing Wednesday, which will likely be its last until the panel releases its final report.

“I think it’ll be potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings, but it too will be in a very thematic — it will tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the election,” he said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, another January 6 panelist, said Sunday that the upcoming public hearing would share “details” learned by the committee since its last hearing in August.

The Maryland Democrat told NBC News that he expects Wednesday’s hearing to be the last presentation of its investigation, but he’s “hopeful” the committee will hold a hearing presenting recommendations to Congress. Raskin added that the goal of Wednesday’s hearing is for panelists to reveal the newest findings in the investigation to supplement the broader narrative they presented in earlier hearings.

Discussing the 1:00 p.m. ET start time on Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California on Sunday noted, “In the past, Fox News does play our hearings if the hearing is in the daytime.”

“So that’s a factor in reaching an audience that is not watching CNN,” Lofgren, a member of the panel, told CNN’s Alex Marquardt.

Asked about when the final report might be available, Lofgren said, “I think we’ve gotten a lot of information out, but I think it’s highly unlikely that the final report could be done before early November.”

“It’s a huge amount of information,” she continued. “We’re working hard to put it together. It may be possible to provide discrete pieces of evidence that have not yet been in the public arena, we’re not sure yet.”

Logren also said that former Vice President Mike Pence’s advisers have walked back his previous suggestion that he would give “due consideration” to an invitation to testify before the panel. She cautioned that the committee didn’t have time for a “subpoena fight” with Pence or Trump before the select committee winds down at the end of the year.

“Given that select committees of this Congress — not just this select committee but all the select committees — exist only for the life of the Congress, if we were trying to get into a subpoena fight with either the former vice president or the former President, that litigation could not be concluded during the life of this Congress,” she said.

Schiff, when asked by Tapper about the committee obtaining Secret Service communications related to the riot, said the panel was still going through them.

“We are still going through them because they are very voluminous. I will say they’re not a substitute for having the text messages that were apparently erased from those devices, and we are still investigating how that came about and why that came about. And I hope and believe the Justice Department on that issue is also looking at whether laws were broken and the destruction of that evidence,” Schiff said. “But we do have a mountain of information that we need to go through.”

Thompson said earlier this month that the communications turned over to the January 6 committee included “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic, that kind of thing. Just thousands of exhibits.” He added that the texts that were handed over were “primarily” from the day before and during the riot.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, another member of the committee, reemphasized the panel’s desire to obtain further testimony from former US Secret Service Assistant Director Tony Ornato, who retired last month.

“We remain deeply wanting to hear from him,” he said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

Ornato has met with the committee twice but has not agreed to a meeting since former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the committee Ornato had told her Trump was irate upon learning his security detail wouldn’t take him to the US Capitol the day of the insurrection.

Lawmakers push back on Trump

Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, added his voice Sunday to a growing group of lawmakers pushing back on Trump’s claim that he could simply declassify classified documents by “thinking about it.”

“No, that’s not how it works. Those comments don’t demonstrate much intelligence of any kind,” he told Tapper. “If you could simply declassify by thinking about it, then frankly, if that’s his view, he’s even more dangerous than we may have thought.”

He continued: “With that view, he could simply spout off on anything he read in a Presidential Daily Brief or anything he was briefed on by the CIA director to a visiting Russian delegation or any other delegation and simply say, ‘Well, I thought about it and therefore, when the words came out of my mouth, they were declassified.'”

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 Republican in the chamber, also rejected Trump’s claim on Sunday, telling ABC News that he doesn’t “think a president can declassify documents by saying so.”

This story has been updated with additional reaction.

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CNN’s Aaron Pellish, Paul LeBlanc, and Sonnet Swire contributed to this report.

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