The U.S. House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol released an 800-page document on Dec. 22, 2022, investigating Donald Trump’s role in the attack. The report includes criminal recommendations to the Department of Justice for former President Donald Trump and other members of his administration.
Congress established the committee on June 30, 2021, with bipartisan support. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House at the time, appointed Rep. Bennie Thompson as committee chair and Rep. Liz Cheney, a prominent Republican, as vice chair.
“Our Committee’s work was a first step: It was our obligation to expose the truth, and to recommend legislative action,” Thompson and Cheney said in Jan. 2 press release.
The report weaves a narrative of Donald Trump seeking to overturn the 2020 election and block the peaceful transition of power through a campaign of misinformation and disinformation, ignoring pleadings from campaign advisors, senior-level staff, the vice president and even his own daughter.
“The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed,” the report said. “None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”
The report uncovered the following actions from Donald Trump to overturn the election:
— Refused to accept the results of the 2020 elections publicly and intentionally spread false claims of widespread voter fraud.
— Pressured various state officials to change results in their states and/or refuse to count electoral votes.
— Pressured DOJ department officials to make purposely false statements.
— Created false electoral slates.
— Rejected instructing his violent supporters to disperse and leave the Capitol for over three hours.
President Trump made private statements to White House staff and others indicating he understood he lost the election, this was in direct contradiction to statements from public speeches and rallies. Cassidy Hutchinson, special assistant to the president, recalled one such statement to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.
“The President [was] just raging about the decision and how it’s wrong, and why didn’t we make more calls, and just this typical anger outburst at this decision,” Hutchinson said. “And the President said I think — so he had said something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost.'”
Donald Trump did what no presidential candidate did before. He didn’t concede.
Crafting a plan
Vice President Mike Pence was critical to Donald Trump’s plan. While the vice president oversaw the counting of electoral votes on Jan 6., the role was procedural/ministerial: He couldn’t decide to not count votes from certain states on a whim. Donald Trump and John Eastman, one of Trump’s lawyers, wanted to change that, even though they knew the plan was illegal.
According to testimony obtained from the committee, Trump wanted Pence to declare that electoral votes from states like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could not be counted when congress verified results from each state.
In weeks preceding Jan 6., Trump pressured Pence privately and publicly, calling him a wimp and telling him that certifying the electoral votes for President Biden would be a political career killer, according to testimony from White House aides.
Trump and his team used false electoral states to reject the electoral votes and replace the legitimate electoral slates in states such as Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania. An electoral slate is a list of candidates who have been nominated in a state for the position of presidential elector.
Multiple Republicans were persuaded to sign the fake certificates and become fake electors. According to the report, many later testified that they would not have done so had they known the fake votes would be used on Jan. 6 without a ruling from the court.
In addition to creating fake electoral slates, Donald Trump and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani pressured state election officials and state legislatures to alter results including Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Rep. Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the house for the Arizona House of Representatives. Both Raffensperger and Bowers stood up to Trump.
“You are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath,” Bowers said.
Trump also attempted to persuade Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and Acting Deputy Richard Donoghue to find facts supporting claims of a stolen election.
The two warned of the potential ramification of the justice department agreeing to make statements like this.
“You should understand that your entire department leadership will resign,” Donoghue recalled saying. “This included every Assistant Attorney General. Mr. President, these aren’t bureaucratic leftovers from another administration. You picked them. This is your leadership team. And what happens if, within 48 hours, we have hundreds of resignations from your Justice Department because of your actions? What does that say about your leadership?”
Following the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack, several members of the Trump administration resigned.
The leadup to Jan. 6
The secret service received information indicating Jan. 6 would be violent and that the Capitol was a target, including intelligence regarding the direct involvement of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers extremist groups.
“Their plan is to literally kill people,” an informant stated in a tip to the Secret Service on Dec. 26. “Please, please take this tip seriously.”
One popular website for making plans for Jan. 6 was TheDonald.win. In addition to being used to make plans, it also spread violent rhetoric.
“Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood being spilled,” said an online thread from the website. “Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
The secret service confiscated the following items from attendants to Trump’s speech on the morning of Jan. 6:
— 242 canisters of pepper spray
— 269 knives or blades
— 18 brass knuckles
— 18 tasers
— 6 pieces of body armor
— 3 gas masks
— 30 batons or blunt instruments
— 17 miscellaneous items like scissors, needles or screwdrivers
According to testimony received by the committee, Trump intended to go to the capitol with his supporters. After his speech, he commanded the presidential motorcade be driven to the capitol, a wish that was not granted. Witnesses to this interaction, such as Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony Ornato, described President Trump’s behavior as “irate,” “furious,” “insistent,” “profane” and “heated.”
“To be completely honest, we were all in a state of shock,” said a White House security official. “I think the actual physical feasibility of doing it, and then also we all knew what that implicated and what that meant, that this was no longer a rally, that this was going to move to something else if he physically walked to the Capitol. I don’t know if you want to use the word “insurrection,” “coup,” or whatever. We all knew that this would move from a normal, democratic, you know, public event into something else.”
Several people including senior-level staff, elected officials, family members and Fox News commentators vainly attempted to get him to call his supporters to leave the capitol for just over three hours.
The report said there is no indication that this affected the president’s state of mind that day.
“[H]e told the people who we had just watched storm our nation’s Capitol with the intent on overthrowing our democracy, violently attack police officers, and chant heinous things like, ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ ‘We love you. You’re very special,'” Matthews said. “As a spokesperson for him, I knew that I would be asked to defend that. And to me, his refusal to act and call off the mob that day and his refusal to condemn the violence were indefensible.”
The report found no evidence of remorse from the president, other than saying “let down” by Pence.
The committee suggested four charges for President Trump to the Department of justice.
— Corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding, or attempt to do so
— Conspiracy to defraud the United States
— Conspiracy to make a false statement
— Incite, assist or aid and comfort an insurrection
Impact of Jan. 6
Not only has Jan 6. impacted the United States domestically, but it has also affected its image internationally. Even two years later, the impacts of Jan. 6 can still be felt.
“January 6 has had a terrible impact on our country,” said Trent Rose, a political science professor. “Our system only works when we play by the rules. That includes the peaceful transfer of power to the duly elected President of the United States. The violent actions of those at the Capitol not only cost lives, but it severely damaged our democratic process.”
Now that the committee has recommended charges, it is up to the Department of Justice whether it will pursue these recommendations.