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Democrats who investigated Trump say they expect arrests and retaliation if he wins the presidency

Democrats who investigated Trump say they expect arrests and retaliation if he wins the presidency


Some members of Congress who led the investigation into former President Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol acknowledge talking to their families about their safety — and the risk of arrest — if Trump won a second term in November.

In a series of interviews with CBS News, House Democrats who helped lead the House select committee on Jan. 6 and some of the police witnesses who testified before it predicted they would be the target of retaliation by a future Trump administration.

Trump raised the prospect of future arrests of some of the January 6 committee participants in a social media post on March 18. Referring to the committee's vice chair, former Rep. Liz Cheney, Trump wrote: “She should go to jail with the rest of the deselection committee!” »

“My wife and I have had conversations about what life would be like if the worst happened,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who was one of seven Democrats on the Jan. 6 select committee. Speaking to CBS News near the House chamber between votes last week, Schiff said, “You can't avoid conversations about 'What if?' And I have to think about my own personal safety. »

Rep. Pete Aguilar, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus and was a member of the Jan. 6 committee, told reporters last week that he takes Trump's jail threat seriously. But Aguilar, noting the Washington, D.C., prison's proximity to the U.S. Capitol, smiled and noted wryly, “My family told me they would come to D.C. one way or another.” another – and that they would visit me, regardless. where I am.”

“One of the things I observed during our committee work on January 6 is that when Trump says something, he intends to do it,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, another California Democrat who helped lead the panel.

“I take that lesson to heart,” she told CBS News. “When he says various things, I think that’s what he means he will do.”

She admitted to being harassed by some Trump supporters.

“He's going to weaponize the Justice Department…and use it to go after people like me,” Michael Fanone, a former Washington, DC police officer, told CBS News. Fanone testified at a public committee hearing in 2021 and was an outspoken critic of Trump, accusing him of employing authoritarian rhetoric.

“He tells us exactly what he plans to do,” Fanone said.

Harry Dunn, a former US Capitol Police officer who also testified before the select committee, told CBS News: “Trump means what he says. Anyone who has testified against him, or spoken publicly, should be worried.” Dunn, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland, said the threat of arrest “is a little scary to imagine, but you have to continue to do what you 'it's necessary”.

The Trump campaign did not directly respond to questions about whether Trump plans to pursue the arrests of the Jan. 6 committee members.

“Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Liz Cheney, and the corrupt Democrats on the January 6th Committee have lied to the American public for years, refused key witnesses to testify to the truth, and covered up evidence proving that President Trump, nor none of his supporters, still engaged in a so-called 'insurrection,' their entire narrative is a lie and America knows that Joe Biden is the real threat to democracy,” a Trump spokeswoman said in a statement. CBS News.

Trump's March 18 social media post drew criticism from academics who study the rhetoric and practices of authoritarian regimes.

“This kind of position is not what you expect from your political leaders in a healthy democracy,” said Erica Frantz, a political science professor at Michigan State University. Frantz, who specializes in authoritarian politics, told CBS News that calls from political leaders “to imprison their political opponents are red flags in terms of potential slides toward authoritarianism.”

Frantz said that when political figures talk about jailing some critics, it can have a chilling effect on others.

“This is intended to instill fear among them and dissuade them from speaking out against Trump,” she said. “The more critics are silenced, the more leaders with authoritarian ambitions manage to escape their takeover.”

The select committee conducted a high-profile investigation into Trump that included a series of nationally televised public hearings. The committee spoke with hundreds of witnesses, including Trump's top White House aides, as it examined his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The committee voted to dismiss the criminal charges against Trump at the Justice Department and accused him of threatening the future of democracy and inciting the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

The committee was disbanded in late 2022, after Republicans took control of the House. Two of its members lost their re-election campaigns, including Cheney. Two others retired from the House.

Some committee members said they were targets of threats and harassment from Trump supporters. A senior U.S. House official said a presidential candidate's threats to jail lawmakers for public speeches and legislative work also run afoul of the Speech and Debate Clause , which protects the independence of Congress.

In remarks to reporters last week, Aguilar said Trump's current rhetoric increases the risk of continued harassment, threats and danger to public officials. Aguilar said: “Trump wants to act like the dictators he welcomes at Mar-a-Lago. That's tough rhetoric, and it's not something that any of us, any of the members of this Dome, don't take it lightly.”

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