WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack may make a criminal referral to the Justice Department recommending that anybody who tried to influence testimony be prosecuted, Representative Liz Cheney said in an interview broadcast on Thursday.
The witness-tampering issue emerged during the Jan. 6 select committee's sixth hearing on Tuesday, when Cheney revealed that some witnesses reported receiving veiled threats from allies of former President Donald Trump to do "the right thing."
"It gives us a real insight into how people around the former president are operating and to the extent to which they believe that they can affect the testimony of witnesses before the committee," Cheney, a committee vice chair and one of two Republicans on the panel of nine, told ABC News.
"It's something we take very seriously. And it's something that people should be aware of. It's a very serious issue, and I would imagine the Department Justice would be very interested in and we'll take that very seriously as well," she said.
The panel is investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. seat of government last year as lawmakers convened to certify Democrat Joe Biden's victory over Trump, a Republican, in the November 2020 election.
Evidence gathered by the committee could be crucial in the Justice Department's criminal investigation of the riot and any plan to subvert the outcome of the election.
Jan. 6 committee member Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat, echoed Cheney's concerns, noting that Trump has raised hundreds of millions of dollars.
"Some of that money is being used to pay for lawyers for witnesses, and it's not clear that that arrangement is one that is without coercion potential for some of those witnesses," Lofgren said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday night.
"So let's just say this: It's a concern, and anyone who is trying to dissuade or tamper with witnesses should be on notice that that's a crime and we are perfectly prepared to provide any evidence we have to the proper authorities."
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Mark Porter and Alistair Bell)