Final House report on Jan. 6 calls Trump’s fraud allegations ‘concocted nonsense’
Megan Butler and Emily Zantow
(CN) — House lawmakers investigating the insurrection released their final report Thursday, marking the end of a nearly 18-month probe that resulted in a historic referral for criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump for his actions connected to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Spread out over 845 pages, the massive report fills in the gaps of an executive summary that the nine-member bipartisan panel released earlier this week, announcing criminal referrals for Trump’s alleged efforts to stop the peaceful transfer of power to his eventual successor, President Joe Biden.
"If this Select Committee has accomplished one thing, I hope it has shed light on how dangerous it would be to empower anyone whose desire for authority comes before their commitment to American democracy and the Constitution," Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the committee, wrote in a forward.
The report details how Trump watched for hours from the Oval Office as a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol, despite urgent pleas from his White House staff and others to tell the insurrectionists to stop.
"What most of the public did not know before our investigation is this: Donald Trump’s own campaign officials told him early on that his claims of fraud were false," Representative Liz Cheney, the committee's Republican vice chair, wrote in her own forward. "From the beginning, Donald Trump’s fraud allegations were concocted nonsense, designed to prey upon the patriotism of millions of men and women who love our country."
The report also dives into testimonies from Trump supporters who participated in the attack, including Graydon Young, an Oath Keeper, who testified in October against fellow members of the far-right militia.
Young told the jury that they were provoked to travel to Washington by Trump’s tweets and his false assertions that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
The committee says Trump's public remarks that he won the 2020 race, as well as his demands to "stop the count" on the night of the election, were cataclysmic to the trauma that Congress members suffered on Jan. 6 as they tried to hold a ceremony that would certify Biden's victory.
"None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him," the final report states.
For the last year and a half that the investigation has been underway, the investigation has included 10 public hearings, testimony from more than 1,000 witnesses and upward of 1 million documents that tie Trump to the melee.
The committee referred four charges against Trump: obstruction of an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the U.S.; conspiracy to make a false statement; and inciting, assisting or engaging in rebellion or insurrection against the U.S.
Trump denies any wrongdoing related to Jan. 6 and criticized the committee’s criminal referrals earlier this week as “fake charges” brought by the “highly partisan Unselect Committee of Jan. 6.” The Department of Justice meanwhile has declined to comment on the referrals.
In addition to Trump, the committee says it believes the evidence is sufficient for a criminal referral of one of Trump’s attorneys, John Eastman, and other associates who attempted to overturn election results by soliciting state officials. The report specifically calls out Trump’s former environmental attorney, Jeffrey Clark, for drafting a letter that sought to persuade Georgia's Legislature to change its certified slate of electoral college electors.
These findings are likely to shape what charges will be recommended by the special grand jury in Atlanta that has been conducting its own investigation into potential criminal efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia. Another of Trump’s attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, and a slate of 16 fake Republican electors, are among the known targets.
While the report emphasizes that Trump is to blame, a 30-page appendix notes that federal and local law enforcement failed to adequately secure the Capitol despite receiving “multiple streams of intelligence predicting violence” on Jan. 6.
They did also find, however, that the Secret Service seized hundreds of weapons from 28,000 attendees of Trump’s speech at the Capitol. According to the report, 269 knives or blades, 242 canisters of pepper spray, 18 brass knuckles, 18 Tasers, six pieces of body armor, three gas masks, 30 batons or blunt instruments, and 17 miscellaneous items such as scissors, needles or screwdrivers were detected by magnetometers and confiscated. But Trump reportedly was not concerned about so many of them being armed.
“When he arrived at the Ellipse that morning, President Trump angrily said: ‘I don’t [fucking] care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. They can march to the Capitol from here,’” the report states, recounting testimony from June.
The committee stressed their concern that such an attack could happen again, an outcome that could be forestalled with more security in future electoral vote count sessions and harsher penalties against threats to those “involved in the election process.”
In the lead-up to Thursday's release of the report, a group of Republican representatives published their own 141-page opposition report that details security failures surrounding the Capitol riot.
The report was crafted by the five lawmakers whom Republican Party leaders had nominated to serve on the committee: Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jim Banks of Indiana, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy Nehls of Texas.
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, rejected the appointments of Banks and Jordan, the other three Republican nominees refused to join in response.
"When Speaker Pelosi made the unprecedented decision to reject Jim Banks and Jim Jordan from sitting on the January 6 Select Committee — we knew she intended to play politics instead of addressing the massive security failures that lead to that day," the lawmakers said in a statement on Wednesday.
Along with seven Democrats, the committee ultimately included Cheney and another Republican, Representative Adam Kinzinger.
Jordan and the other four Republicans vowed to conduct their own investigation to counter the work of the select committee, which was formed in July 2021 with the goal of providing transparency about the Capitol attack.
Thousands of Trump supporters joined the mob on Jan. 6 that overran the Capitol, causing Congress to call off their work as lawmakers went into hiding. At least five people died either in or because of the riot, which left dozens of police officers injured and resulted in thousands of dollars in damages to government property.
The Department of Justice has so far charged approximately 880 people for their actions related to the attack.
The committee referred the criminal charges against Trump to special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland last month to oversee the Department of Justice probes into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as records taken from the White House at the end of Trump’s term that were stored at his south Florida Mar-a-Lago home.
While criminal referrals are largely symbolic, Trump would face up to 45 years in prison if the Justice Department goes after and ultimately convicts Trump on the committee's charges. Legal experts told Courthouse News this week that they think it will be hard for the department to ignore the committee’s referrals.
In addition to Trump and Eastman, the committee brought referrals against four Republican House members — Kevin McCarthy of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona — for failing to comply with subpoenas.
The committee began Wednesday to release transcripts of interviews. More transcripts of committee interviews are expected to be released on a rolling basis in coming weeks. The committee is set to dissolve on Jan. 3 when the House will be taken over by a Republican majority.