Two former U.S. Attorneys have differing views on whether or not former President Trump should face charges

Both say that January 6th evidence against Donald Trump is significant, but disagree on Justice Department's role
January 6th Committee Hearing
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol hold a prime-time hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on July 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo credit (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

After the latest hearing held by the January 6th Committee Thursday, there has been significant reaction as to what comes next for the former president who has been the primary focus of those hearings.

Should Donald Trump face criminal charges from the Justice Department? That’s the biggest coming out of Thursday night's hearings and there are differing opinions on that point.

More hearings are on deck for September according to the committee’s vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), and there is still evidence that will come forward.

Tom Heffelfinger was the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota from 1991 to 1993 and from 2001 to 2006 and was appointed by two Republican presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Speaking to WCCO’s Chad Hartman Friday, he said former President Donald Trump should absolutely face charges.

“I do not think he cannot be charged with a crime, and that’s a double-negative and I know that,” Heffelfinger told Hartman. “The facts are so compelling, that failing to hold him accountable for his criminal behavior would hurt the country more than anything else. As to the kinds of crimes, there is so much evidence out there. There’s almost too much evidence, it’s very hard to pick what’s the best. But I think it’s obvious that this was a conspiracy at the very least. Conspiracy is an agreement by multiple people to do something, and it was a conspiracy led by Trump. It’s also a seditious conspiracy in that it involved elements of domestic terrorism. That’s what happened on the sixth, it was a domestic attack.”

Heffelfinger adds that he thinks current Attorney General Merrick Garland is doing the right thing by sitting back and waiting at this point. He also believes Garland will eventually charge the former president.

“He’s doing exactly what I would do which is behaving slowly, cautiously and expeditiously in that he’s looking at the evidence and he has a lot of resources looking at it,” Heffelfinger says. “The worst thing he could do is rush this.”

As to Donald Trump’s potential announcement he’s running for president in 2024, Heffelfinger says that has no bearing at all in what he believes will be a criminal conspiracy investigation by the Justice Department.

Another former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, also appointed by George W. Bush, and current St. Thomas Law Professor Rachel Paulos talked to Adam and Jordana on WCCO Radio. She said that despite how ugly this seemingly been for Donald Trump, she doesn’t think there will be charges filed. Paulose cites the hesitation of getting involved in any politics by the Attorney General’s office.

“I actually think the attorney general is headed in a different direction,” says Paulos. “The memo that Attorney General Garland issued some time ago cited well-known department precedent for refusing to intervene in politically sensitive issues, leaving that to the political process. Which we’ve already seen unfold in two ways. One, during the Election, at which point the American people chose Joe Biden to be their president. And second, during the second charges against the president (impeachment) which also failed.”

Paulose says that so far, there has not been a line drawn between President Trump’s actions, and the actions of the rioters on January 6th.

“Is his silence, is his inaction during the three hours the committee keeps pointing to, can that be construed as a criminal act, and that would be highly unusual under the law,” Paulose explains. “Could it be a basis for impeachment, could it be a basis for political consequences, yes. But no one has made the case yet that there is a federal criminal law for the president’s inaction on that day.”

Paulose adds that the president’s anger and lack of action when pushed by both former Attorney General White House counsel Pat Cipollone to do something about the rioters was “chilling.”

CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett points out how close this came to damaging American democracy. Speaking to Hartman Friday, Garrett says down to the last second, the president was trying to get Congress to go along with his efforts to decertify state’s electoral votes and that effort cannot be overlooked.

“He and his attorney Rudy Giuliani were in the moment and thereafter, still calling senators,” Garrett said. “Hey, can you keep this delayed? Can you keep this delayed? And even when he was threatened and it was sort of implied that the threat was kind of in the ether. I've never talked to anyone who was a cabinet secretary at the time who said anything, either written or verbal, that there was an actual concerted conversation to initiate the 25th amendment, which would move president Trump out of power and put the vice president into it. But, because that was in the ether, and the sense that it was possible, led the former president to tape that video the next day about orderly transition. Because of course his staff had to remind him, ‘sir, we can't say peaceful transition, that ship's already sailed. Nothing peaceful has just happened. Hello. Do you get that?’”

Garrett says to this day, former President Trump is still reluctant to admit to any of this, and that is harmful to the country’s national security interests.

“He's still reluctant to do any of those things, still in this fevered mindset that this was somehow okay,” Garrett says. “As I've described it before, it’s a premeditated attack by the executive branch on the legislative branch was somehow a way to advance American interests. And as Matt Pottinger (former Deputy National Security Advisor of the United States), a Trump true believer by the way, said this was a national security episode for the country because the entire world, especially our adversaries, we're prepared, and have been prepared, and have been pouncing on this window into a newly formed, fragile space of American democracy. Our allies were deeply troubled and remain deeply troubled. All of the implications of this are still with us. I've said on this show before, this story never gets better. Never.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)