Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Thursday that former President Donald Trump and his allies could be prosecuted for a number of crimes over the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, including seditious conspiracy and obstruction of Congress.
“He knew the crowd was dangerous. He encouraged the crowd to go to the Capitol. And he knew the crowd was armed. And he knew the purpose of what was going on in Congress, which is to certify the Electoral College count,” Gonzales told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I think one might make the argument that there’s certainly the beginnings of a case for seditious conspiracy, obstruction of Congress.”
Gonzales, who served during George W. Bush’s administration, said current Attorney General Merrick Garland could consider prosecuting a number of crimes.
“So there are some things here that I think certainly Merrick Garland is going to look at in addition to witness tampering, that’s something that’s also a crime. So there’s there is a lot there, Jake,” he said.
Gonzales said it wasn’t yet clear how this case would play out in court, but that “I have to believe that folks in the Trump world are very concerned and very nervous right now.”
The House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol attack has presented damning evidence against the former president, including testimony on Tuesday from a top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, who said that Trump and her former boss, then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, were aware that Jan. 6 could turn violent but pushed ahead anyway.
She said Trump knew on Jan. 6 that his rally attendees were heavily armed but encouraged security to take down metal detectors meant for the crowd, saying, “They’re not here to hurt me.”
Other documents and testimony suggest that Trump and his legal team knew they did not have the evidence to support their false claims of electoral fraud but continued to tell the public that the election was rigged and attempted to pressure Justice Department officials to support their lies.
The Justice Department has not yet announced if it is investigating Trump or if it will pursue charges. Multiple former top prosecutors spanning multiple administrations have weighed in on the matter.
Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney general during the Obama administration, said last week that testimony from Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general in the last weeks of the Trump administration, was the “smoking gun” to criminally prosecute Trump because Donoghue shed light on Trump’s corrupt intent and state of mind.
Donoghue testified that during a Dec. 27, 2020, conversation, Trump directed him to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
Any prosecution of Trump would need to convince a jury that Trump acted with criminal intent to overturn the results of the election, knowing that he had legitimately lost.
Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, told The Guardian earlier this month that “the committee hearings have bolstered the need to seriously consider filing criminal charges against Trump.”