With it all but guaranteed that enough senators will be too weak to vote to convict twice-impeached former president Donald Trump, Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine’s office is working to determine if it’s legally viable to charge Trump under District statutes for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Racine originally floated the idea of charging Trump shortly after the deadly domestic terrorist insurrection attempt, but new details and evidence presented this week by the House impeachment prosecutors during the Senate trial have caused his office to redouble its efforts.
One of the potential obstacles is that Racine’s office only can enforce legal codes in the city of Washington, D.C. Technically, when Trump made his incendiary remarks he was on federal ground – the Ellipse – which puts him out of Racine’s jurisdiction. The Department of Justice has the power to prosecute crimes on federal property, which would include the Ellipse and the Capitol building.
But the attorney general’s office is working to determine how to move forward on another front. It is focused on a Washington statute that was amended in 2011 that makes it a misdemeanor crime for people to encourage others to commit violence. The law notes “it is unlawful for a person to incite or provoke violence where there is a likelihood that such violence will ensue.” A conviction of such a crime carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
One of the other hurdles that Racine’s office may face is getting Trump back into the District to face the charges. D.C. typically does not extradite for misdemeanor offenses, which means that Trump – who has shown no interest leaving his Mar-a-Lago retirement home – could never be formally charged under the local statute. Federal prosecutors, however, would be able to pursue such a case into Trump’s new home state of Florida.
Trump already is facing criminal investigations in Georgia and New York.