Key takeaways from the January 6 committee’s final report
The House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, laid out a damning case over 800-plus pages that former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election led to the violence at the US Capitol, documenting the ex-chief executive’s actions for the record and potentially for criminal investigators.
On Monday, the committee referred Trump to the Justice Department on four criminal charges. On Thursday, the committee effectively showed its work for why it believes Trump is criminally liable for his actions.
In its report, the committee recommends barring Trump from holding office again.
Trump swiftly lashed out over the report on his Truth Social platform with false claims about the riot and the 2020 election. He did not address specific findings from what he called the “highly partisan” report but instead falsely blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the breakdown in security that day and resurfaced his unfounded claims of election fraud.
Here are key takeaways from the committee’s final report:
The committee spared no words in laying blame for the violence on January 6 squarely at Trump’s feet.
After holding nine public hearings and releasing a summary of the report earlier this week, the final document reads like an indictment of Trump, explaining his direct role in every facet of the plot to overturn the 2020 election – drawing a clear through-line between Trump’s election denialism and the violence that unfolded.
The panel zeroes in on the section of the Constitution that states an individual who has taken an oath to support the Constitution but has “engaged in an insurrection” or given “aid or comfort to the enemies of the Constitution” can be disqualified from office.
The former president and others have been referred by the committee to the Department of Justice for assisting or aiding an insurrection. The panel calls on congressional committees of jurisdiction to create a “formal mechanism” for evaluating whether those individuals who violate that section of the 14th Amendment should be barred from future federal or state office.
Despite Trump’s attempts to shift blame to Democrats for the security failures that day and a GOP rebuttal report released earlier this week that entirely glossed over the former president’s own role in the attack, the select committee report is an effective conclusion to the panel’s 18-month long investigation.
It leaves no doubt that the committee believes Trump, and Trump alone, was responsible for the January 6 attack.
“None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him,” the report states.
There were no major new bombshells in the report that the committee released Thursday – instead the committee focused on laying out the depth and detail of its work across its investigation.
The report offered the most comprehensive account to date of what transpired in the two months between Election Day on November 3, 2020, and Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021.
It’s a narrative that expands upon the committee’s public hearings over the summer, walking readers step-by-step through the various schemes Trump orchestrated and the help he had from allies inside and outside his administration.
Along the way, the committee showed more details about what it had learned in the 1,000-plus witnesses interviews conducted over the 18-month investigation, including tidbits it hadn’t released publicly previously, such as Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann’s call with Rudy Giuliani the morning of January 6, and that Trump and his inner circle targeted election officials at least 200 times.
The committee’s public hearings were largely focused on Trump’s role, and there were questions in the weeks leading up to the report’s release about how much it would go beyond the former president.
But while the report’s main headlines were all about Trump, the final report also offers a definitive picture of the attack on Congress, the contributing factors within American discourse as well as law enforcement preparedness and failures.
The report puts in one place intelligence assessments before January 6 from the federal government, including key messages that law enforcement had seen among Trump supporters on online forums.
The committee also interviewed leaders of agencies who were directing law enforcement response, such as the Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and police force heads.
The select committee also says it interviewed 24 witnesses and reviewed 37,000 pages of documents for a review of the response of the DC National Guard, which attempts to explain the delayed response of the force to the Capitol.
The committee was told, for instance, that commander of the DC National Guard, Major Gen. William Walker, “strongly” considered deploying troops to the US Capitol on the afternoon of January 6 without approval from his superiors even if it meant he would have to resign the next day.
The committee was not able to corroborate a secondhand account from former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson that she was told Trump lunged at his lead Secret Service agent while in his presidential SUV on January 6 and tried to grab the steering wheel because he was angry he wasn’t being taken to the Capitol.
Perhaps in an attempt to pivot beyond the explosive anecdote itself, the select committee emphasized that their goal was to discover the intent behind Trump’s actions in the SUV. Many witnesses, including Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and the Secret Service press secretary, have said Trump wanted to go to the Capitol and was angry when told he could not.
Both the driver of Trump’s SUV and the lead Secret Service agent that day, Robert Engel, told the panel they did not remember the events of that day the way that Hutchinson described them.
“Engel did not characterize the exchange in the vehicle the way Hutchinson described the account she heard from (deputy White House chief of staff Tony) Ornato, and indicated that he did not recall President Trump gesturing toward him,” the panel wrote.
Engel also told the panel he did not remember being present when Ornato told the story with Hutchinson in the room.
Hutchinson testified over the summer that she was told the story by Ornato while Engel was in the room and he did not dispute Ornato’s account.
The driver of the vehicle testified to the committee that he did not recall seeing what Trump was doing or if there was movement.
But, the driver described Trump as “animated and irritated,” and testified that Trump said shortly after getting in the vehicle, “I’m the President and I’ll decide where I get to go.”
Ornato told the panel he did not recall communications about the incident in the SUV and had no knowledge of Trump’s anger, the report says.
The committee makes clear in its report it does not find Ornato’s testimony credible.
The committee’s report underscores how the House’s successful court fights to pry loose documents, emails and phone records played a major role in helping the committee flesh out its narrative of January 6.
Some of the most explosive moments of the committee’s investigation stemmed from records the committee obtained, from text messages of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and other top aides to emails from conservative lawyer John Eastman about Vice President Mike Pence’s role on January 6.
The committee obtained Eastman’s emails after a judge sided with the House in a lawsuit where the committee accused both Eastman and Trump of a criminal conspiracy to obstruct Congress and to defraud the government.
The report included some new details from the emails, including how Eastman emailed Trump’s assistant the day he drafted his memo that falsely claimed Pence could block certification of the election on January 6. Eastman received a call from the White House switchboard shortly thereafter, according to phone records the committee obtained.
In addition to Eastman, the committee identifies a little-known pro-Trump attorney as being the original architect of the legally dubious fake electors plan: Kenneth Chesebro. “The fake elector plan emerged from a series of legal memoranda written by an outside legal advisor to the Trump Campaign: Kenneth Chesebro,” the report says.
Thursday’s report is the committee’s final word on January 6 – but the committee isn’t done releasing documents just yet.
In addition to its summary and report released this week, the committee also started rolling out some of the transcripts from closed-door depositions, including interviews with numerous witnesses who invoked their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination as well as bombshell testimony from Hutchinson.
There are more transcripts expected in the committee’s final days from other witness testimony, teasing out evermore details in the hours before the committee is dissolved, as is expected in the new Congress.
Several parties will be eagerly awaiting their release, including GOP lawmakers and Trump himself, who is still facing legal scrutiny on several fronts related to his role in the January 6 insurrection and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The committee has already begun sharing evidence with the Justice Department and special counsel Jack Smith, CNN reported this week.