Trump phone call to Jan. 6 witness prompts DOJ referral

WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - Donald Trump called a witness who has yet to appear before a congressional committee investigating the 2021 U.S. Capitol attack, Representative Liz Cheney said on Tuesday, raising concerns the former president might be illegally trying to influence witness testimony.

Speaking at the end of a three-hour hearing, Cheney, one of two members from Trump's Republican Party on the nine-member panel, announced that it had referred the matter to the U.S. Justice Department.

The witness did not pick up Trump's call but did tell their lawyer, said Cheney, vice chair of the House of Representatives Jan. 6 committee.

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"Their lawyer alerted us. And this committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice," Cheney said in her closing remarks. "Let me say one more time: We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously."

The call occurred after the committee's last hearing on June 28.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether Trump may have tried to intimidate a witness.

A representative for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cheney said in a television interview broadcast last Thursday that the panel may make a criminal referral to the Justice Department recommending that anybody who tried to influence testimony be prosecuted.

The witness-tampering issue emerged at the committee's hearing a week ago, when Cheney disclosed that some witnesses reported receiving veiled threats from Trump allies to do "the right thing."

Democrat Jamie Raskin, another committee member, told CNN after the hearing: "Witness tampering is a crime in the District of Columbia. It's a crime in federal law, and it's a form of obstruction of justice."

"We want it to stop ... I'll leave it to the Department of Justice to decide where to take it from there."

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Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Rose Horowitch, Sarah N. Lynch and Katharine Jackson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Howard Goller

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