Explained | The U.S. House Select Committee report on the January 6 Capitol attack

The U.S. House Select Committee ruled that the events of January 6th would not have happened without Donald Trump. 
| Photo Credit: Reuters

The story so far:

“The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump…None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him,” concluded the U.S. House Select Committee in its final report released on Thursday, December 22, after an 18-month-long probe in which it conducted over 1,000 interviews, 10 public hearings, and collected millions of documents as part of the evidence.

What are the findings of the panel?

The nine-member Select Committee was launched in July 2021 by the U.S. Congress for the purpose of investigating the armed attack on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, by far-right groups such as Proud Boys and Oathkeepers, and former President Donald Trump’s supporters, which resulted in the death of five persons, injuries to 140 police personnel, and large scale destruction of property.

Lawmakers in a Joint Session of Congress on January 6 were set to certify the electoral college vote and Joe Biden’s presidency; the session was to be presided over then Vice President Mike Pence. The 814-page final report describes through eight chapters, the “multi-part conspiracy” by Mr. Trump and his aides to “overturn the lawful results of the 2020 Presidential election”.

The report enlists 17 key findings. It notes that from the night of the election in November 2020 to the day of the attack next year, Mr. Trump, despite no evidential proof, “purposely disseminated false allegations of fraud related to the 2020 presidential election”, alleging the race was “stolen” from him. “These false claims provoked his supporters to violence on January 6.”

The report says the former President addressed multiple public gatherings making false claims of voter fraud and raised funds amounting to a quarter of a billion dollars between the election and January 6.

By the time the electoral college met to cast and certify the votes of each State on December 14, 2020, the Justice Department (DoJ) and Homeland Security had concluded that there was no fraud, and White House officials and his own family members urged Mr. Trump to concede.

He instead hired a new legal team headed by his lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, which then lost dozens of lawsuits alleging voter fraud in various States and federal courts.

After the lawsuits failed, Mr. Trump began to pressure his deputy Mike Pence to refuse the counting of electoral college votes of some States. He also pressured States to prepare and submit fake electoral slates to Congress.

In the chapters related to the day of the violence itself, the report notes that in a tweet on in December 2020, Mr. Trump “summoned tens of thousands of supporters to Washington for January 6th”, and instructed them to “take back” their country”. In a segment titled “187 minutes of dereliction”, it describes how Mr. Trump, despite being informed that the rioters had started their attack, refused over a multiple-hour period to make a statement that would stop his supporters and watched the riots on Fox News, till finally being persuaded to give a video statement asking the rioters to go home.

What are the panel’s suggestions?

The Committee recommended four criminal charges against Trump to the DoJ — aiding an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and conspiracy to make a false statement. It recommended that using the 14th amendment, Mr. Trump be barred from ever holding federal or State office again.

The Select Committee’s recommendations and criminal referrals to the DoJ, however, are eventually symbolic and don’t bind the Justice Department to act against Mr. Trump. The panel also has no constitutional path to debar him from standing for 2024, which he has already announced his candidacy for. He is currently facing multiple federal investigations, including probes of his role in the attack and the presence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. The term of the Committee will also end on January 3, and House Democrats are ceding power to Republicans in less than two weeks.

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