The committee formed by the House of Representatives to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol on Thursday released its final report, an 845-page set of documents supporting the committee’s claim that the attack was directly caused by former President Donald Trump and represented the final act in a “multipart conspiracy to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 Presidential election.”
The product of more than 17 months of investigation, the report is the distillation of evidence gathered from thousands of witness interviews, documents and subpoenaed electronic communications. According to the committee, “That evidence has led to an overriding and straight-forward conclusion: The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”
Trump himself has consistently denounced the committee and its work, and has continued to insist, falsely, that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
In addition to examining the attack itself, the report describes Trump’s pressure on U.S. officials, states, legislators and then-Vice President Mike Pence to manipulate the system or violate the law.
The release of the report follows a final hearing by the committee, held on Monday, in which members accused the former president of committing multiple crimes and referred him to the Department of Justice for prosecution. The charges include insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement.
The referral carries no legal weight, but the voluminous records produced by the committee will supplement evidence gathered by the Justice Department in its own investigation and could influence the final decision on whether to prosecute the former president.
The report issued Thursday builds a case that former President Trump was at the center of a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, using multiple strategies, all of which ultimately failed.
It documents efforts to pressure state and local officials to challenge or throw out election results that showed a Biden victory, even after dozens of lawsuits challenging the results were dismissed in court challenges.
After other attempts were thwarted, Trump latched on to a theory proposed by attorney John Eastman, which claimed that Pence had the authority to refuse to count the votes of specific states when Congress convened on January 6, a strategy meant to buy time to persuade state legislatures to take action to overturn state-level results. Pence ultimately refused to go along with the plan, and evidence uncovered by the committee indicates that even as he proposed it, Eastman was aware that the scheme was illegal.
Effort to corrupt DOJ
The committee report also lays out in detail what it describes as an effort by the former president to “corrupt the Department of Justice.”
In the aftermath of the election, former Attorney General William Barr informed Trump that all of the investigations into election irregularities undertaken by the Department of Justice had failed to find evidence of fraud sufficiently large to overturn the results of the balloting. In the face of Trump’s continued claims of fraud, Barr announced his resignation in December 2020.
The report documents that, in the weeks that followed, Trump took a number of steps to try to persuade senior officials in the department to issue statements expressing doubt about the results of the election.
Trump found an ally in DOJ attorney Jeffrey Clark, an official in the department’s Civil Division, who drafted a document for the department to send to election officials in Georgia, falsely claiming that the department had “significant concerns” about possible fraud that might have affected the election outcome there and in other states. The document, which was never transmitted, also urged the state legislature to consider overturning the election result in that state.
The report chronicles a dramatic showdown in the Oval Office, in which Trump proposed installing Clark as acting attorney general. The most senior officials in the department all told the president that if he took that step, they would immediately resign.
Trump knew claims were false
A crucial finding in the report, and one that was hammered home in public hearings, was that Trump knew that he had lost a fair election, having been told so unequivocally by a number of his top advisers.
The point is important, because demonstrating that the former president was not acting in good faith when he claimed that the election had been stolen and sought to have state officials produce alternative results is a key component of the fraud charges.
Trump pushed back against that claim in particular on his social media network, Truth Social, writing, “This is a total LIE. I never thought, for even a moment, that the Presidential Election of 2020 was not Rigged & Stolen, and my conviction became even stronger as time went by.”
The investigative committee, formally the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, was originally conceived of as a bipartisan effort with support from leaders of both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the House.
It was formed to gather facts and conclusions about the events of that day, when a thousands-strong crowd of Trump supporters attended a rally near the White House, at which Trump told them to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” The mob descended on the Capitol, where lawmakers had gathered to certify now-President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
The crowd quickly became violent, and despite the presence of more than 1,000 law enforcement officers, was able to force entry into the building and force members of Congress and Pence to flee. Members of the crowd were angry at the vice president for his refusal to illegally declare Trump the victor, and many were chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”
The report establishes that, during the hourslong attack, President Trump was aware of what was taking place, and nevertheless sent out a tweet attacking Pence, further inflaming the crowd. Witnesses produced by the committee said that Trump declined requests by aides and members of his family to ask the rioters to leave.
Trump was eventually persuaded to ask the mob to disperse, which he did in a video address that described the rioters as “very special.” Order was eventually restored late in the day, with the help of National Guard troops, and Congress formally certified Biden’s victory.
Born in controversy
In the immediate aftermath of the assault, condemnation of the attack was bipartisan, and a proposal to fully investigate its causes received strong support from leaders on both sides. However, in the weeks that followed the assault, Republican lawmakers, taking cues from Trump, tried to minimize the seriousness of the event.
When the committee was formed in the early summer of 2021, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy nominated five Republicans, including Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks. Because Jordan, a close Trump ally, was likely to be a target of the investigation, and because Banks had publicly stated his unwillingness to cooperate with an investigation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected their appointments and requested that McCarthy name replacements. Instead, the Republican leader withdrew all five nominees and declined to offer new ones.
Pelosi replied by designating two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both of whom had continued to denounce the attack and Trump’s role in inciting it.
Beginning in the summer of 2022, the committee held a series of nine public hearings in which it laid out a comprehensive timeline of the assault itself and of the efforts to overturn the election that preceded it.
House Republican report
A competing report issued by the five House Republicans who were originally nominated to serve on the Jan. 6 committee was released Wednesday.
The report focused primarily on the security failures that led the Capitol Police and Washington Metropolitan Police Department to be underprepared for the violence at the Capitol. The report lays much of the blame for the results of the riot on Pelosi, claiming that she decided not to bring on additional security, including the National Guard, in advance of the riot.
The Republican report does not address the root causes of the riot, the actions of former President Trump on Jan. 6 and before, or the broader effort to overturn the results of the election.