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Senate Democrats raise concerns about prosecuting Trump

"I think it’s OK to have a high bar when it comes to bringing charges against former chief executives," Sen. Murphy said.

Published: December 21, 2022 12:13pm

Updated: December 21, 2022 2:00pm

Democratic senators are not asking the Justice Department to charge former President Donald Trump for his actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, despite a recommendation from the Democrat-led House committee investigating the incident. 

"I think you should be careful about prosecuting former presidents. I think it’s OK to have a high bar when it comes to bringing charges against former chief executives," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, The Hill reported Wednesday. "If there’s clear and convincing evidence then the Justice Department should proceed, but they should be pretty careful about doing so."

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who ran as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 running mate, said it is "a very realistic concern" that prosecuting Trump could lead to backlash and create chaos in the Justice Department. 

Kaine still stressed the importance of prosecution after the Jan. 6 committee made four criminal referrals against Trump on Monday. 

"When there’s bad behavior and there’s no consequence it tends to encourage more bad behavior," he said. "In addition to just looking at the evidence, you have to weigh both of those."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the Jan. 6 committee's recommendation "doesn’t dictate what the Department of Justice can do."

"There’s a totally different standard for a referral and a prosecution," Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, said. "I think the referral is based on compelling, powerful evidence of culpability, but the Department of Justice will have to make its own decision."

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