Jan. 6 report blames Trump, aims to prevent return to power
A massive final report released by the House Jan. 6 committee late Thursday places the blame for the 2021 Capitol insurrection on one person: Former President Donald Trump.
A massive final report released by the House Jan. 6 committee late Thursday places the blame for the 2021 Capitol insurrection on one person: former President Donald Trump.
The dense, 814-page document details the findings of the panel’s 18-month investigation, drawing on more than 1,000 witness interviews and more than a million pages of source material. The committee found a “multi-part conspiracy” orchestrated by Trump and his closest allies, all with the aim of overturning his 2020 election defeat.
By laying out the extraordinary details — his pressure on states, federal officials and Vice President Mike Pence — the committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans says it is trying to prevent anything similar from ever happening again.
The panel is also aiming to prevent Trump, who is running again for the presidency, from ever returning to power. Among other recommendations, the panel suggests that Congress consider barring him and others who helped him from federal office for his role in the insurrection, in which a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
“Our country has come too far to allow a defeated President to turn himself into a successful tyrant by upending our democratic institutions, fomenting violence, and, as I saw it, opening the door to those in our country whose hatred and bigotry threaten equality and justice for all Americans,” wrote the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, in a foreword to the report.
A look at the findings and what’s next:
‘One man’ to blame
The report traces Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud to conversations with some of his allies ahead of Election Day, evidence that his plan was “premeditated,” the committee says. After he carried out that plan by questioning the legitimate results on election night — “Frankly, we did win this election,” he told the TV cameras — he purposely disseminated false allegations of fraud.
Many of Trump’s White House advisers told him the lies were not true, according to multiple committee interviews, and his campaign lost a series of lawsuits challenging the results. But the former president did not waver.
“Donald Trump was no passive consumer of these lies,” the committee wrote. “He actively propagated them.”
The false claims “provoked his supporters to violence on January 6th,” the committee wrote. Trump summoned them to Washington and instructed them in a fiery speech to march to the Capitol even though some “were angry and some were armed.”
And after the violence started, Trump waited hours to tell them to stop. That was a “dereliction of duty,” the committee said.
Pressure on the states
As he lost in the courts, Trump “zeroed in” on key battleground states Biden had won and leaned on GOP state officials to overrule the will of their voters. The plan was wide-ranging, the committee shows, from pressuring state legislatures and election officials to creating false slates of electors. The panel obtained emails and documents showing talks within the White House and with outside advisers about how such a scheme could work.
Perhaps the most stunning attempt to pressure a state official was Trumps’ remarkable Jan. 2, 2021, phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in which he asked him to “find” votes. Raffensperger did not comply.
After speaking with election officials from several states, the committee said that Georgia call was “one element of a larger and more comprehensive effort — much of it unseen by and unknown to the general public — to overturn the votes cast by millions of American citizens across several states.”
The panel assessed that Trump and his inner circle engaged in “in at least 200 apparent acts of public or private outreach” to state officials between the election and the insurrection. At the same time, the president was trying to get Justice Department officials to go along with his plan.
“Had enough state officials gone along with President Trump’s plot, his attempt to stay in power might have worked,” the committee wrote. “It is fortunate that a critical mass of honorable officials withstood President Trump’s pressure to participate in this scheme.”
Pence’s life at risk
As Trump aggressively pushed Mike Pence to illegally object to the congressional certification of Biden’s victory as he presided over the joint session of Congress, the vice president’s life was increasingly in danger, the committee found.
At 8:17 a.m. on Jan. 6, Trump tweeted, “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
By the start of the joint session at 1 p.m., Pence had announced that he would not. By then, there were hundreds of Trump’s supporters outside the Capitol, some chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” Pence eventually fled the Senate chamber and narrowly escaped the rioters.
According to Secret Service documents provided to the panel, agents were aware of growing threats against Pence. In one instance, an agent in the intelligence division “was alerted to online chatter ‘regarding the VP being a dead man walking if he doesn’t do the right thing,'” the report says.
“It was an unprecedented scene in American history,” the committee wrote. “The President of the United States had riled up a mob that hunted his own Vice President.”
A thwarted trip to the Capitol
Trump was determined to go to the Capitol with his supporters, the investigation found, but nearly everyone thought that was a bad idea — most of all his security detail.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified over the summer about a conversation she had with former Trump security official Tony Ornato, where he recalled Trump lashing out at his security after his speech and even grabbing the wheel of the presidential SUV.
In the report, the committee writes that Ornato denied Hutchinson’s story in a deposition last month, saying he was not aware of a genuine push by Trump to join his supporters at the Capitol. The committee said it continues to have “significant concerns about the credibility” of his testimony.
The driver of the presidential SUV testified that he didn’t see Trump and could not recall if Trump had lunged toward him. The driver, who is not named in the report, did recall Trump asking within 30 seconds of getting inside the vehicle whether he could go to the Capitol. One Secret Service employee testified to the committee that Trump’s determination to go to the Capitol put agents on high alert.
“(We) all knew … that this was going to move to something else if he physically walked to the Capitol,” a unidentified employee said. “I don’t know if you want to use the word ‘insurrection,’ ‘coup,’ whatever.”
Trump stayed at the White House, watching the violence on television for hours while refusing to ask his supporters to leave.
The report includes an appendix on the role of foreign influence in the 2020 presidential campaign, saying that while adversaries including Russia, Iran and China sought to sway American voter opinion, there was no evidence to support Trump’s repeated claims that foreign actors had interfered in the voting process or did anything to manipulate the outcome.
“President Trump’s relentless propagation of the Big Lie damaged American democracy from within and made it more vulnerable to attack from abroad. His actions did not go unnoticed by America’s adversaries, who seized on the opportunity to damage the United States,” the report states.
The report suggests that even Trump himself did not believe some of his allies’ claims about foreign actors.
According to testimony from longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks, Trump appeared somewhat incredulous when he was talking on the phone to lawyer Sidney Powell, who had pushed theories of hacked voting machines and thermostats.
The report says that while Powell was speaking, Trump muted his speakerphone and laughed, “telling the others in the room, ‘This does sound crazy, doesn’t it?’”
The committee is dissolving over the next week as the new Republican-led House will be sworn in on Jan. 3.
But the panel ensured that its work will live on, officially recommending that the Justice Department investigate and prosecute Trump on four crimes.
While a so-called criminal referral has no real legal standing, it is a forceful statement by the committee and adds to political pressure already on Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel Jack Smith, who is already conducting an investigation into Jan. 6 and Trump’s actions.
The panel recommended the department investigate charges of aiding an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement, all for various parts of his scheme.
The committee is also making its work, including transcripts, public for the Justice Department and the public to see.
“We have every confidence that the work of this committee will help provide a roadmap to justice,” Thompson said.
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