The January 6th Report cover

The January 6th Report - Book Summary

The Final Report on the Capitol Insurrection That Shook America

Duration: 19:18
Release Date: November 8, 2023
Book Author: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol
Category: Politics
Duration: 19:18
Release Date: November 8, 2023
Book Author: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol
Category: Politics

In this episode of 20 Minute Books, we delve into "The January 6th Report". Released in 2022, this is the official Congressional report scrutinizing the events surrounding the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. This comprehensive report confirms the outgoing president, Donald Trump, as the root cause behind the assault, recommending that numerous laws were broken in the process, warranting justice.

The Select Committee, responsible for compiling this report, consisted of nine diligent members from the US House of Representatives. The committee was chaired by Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, with Liz Cheney of Wyoming acting as the vice chair.

This report is an engaging read for news enthusiasts who were captivated by the developments of January 6th. It is equally enlightening for those intrigued by the dynamics of politics, as well as anyone interested in understanding the strengths and limitations of democracy. Tune in as we unravel the contents of this critical report in the next 20 minutes.

Join me as we journey through a landmark event that rattled the pillars of US democracy: the January 6th attack.

Do you remember where you were on January 6, 2021? That's when a mob stirred into a frenzy converged on the Capitol in Washington, D.C. — all in an attempt to disrupt the formal acknowledgment of President-elect Joe Biden's victory. The instigator? None other than the outgoing commander-in-chief, Donald Trump.

As serious as these events were, the United States Congress — the very institution under siege — had no choice but to meticulously investigate the circumstances surrounding this attack. In their pursuit of the truth, they established the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.

The committee comprised nine seasoned representatives, with Democrat Bennie G. Thompson from Mississippi serving as the chairman and Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming as his deputy.

The partisan landscape of the period added fuel to the debate around the committee's composition, leading to heated exchanges between Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Although the initial blueprint called for an even split between Democrats and Republicans, this proved a pipe dream.

When the dust settled, there were seven Democrats and two Republicans — the only ones who supported the committee's establishment.

Despite the lopsided membership, the committee was committed to impartiality. They demonstrated this by inviting a majority of Republican witnesses to stand for scrutiny.

Fast forward to December 2022 — the report was finally unveiled. Its contents? An articulate, meticulously detailed account of the chain of events surrounding the Capitol's attack, relying heavily on direct testimonies from its witnesses.

This retelling is underpinned by an extensive collection of evidence supporting the committee's conclusions. While we will walk you through the major revelations, should you wish to delve deeper, the full report is available for your perusal online.

January 6, 2021 — a day steeped in disgrace — demands a thorough inquiry into the depth of its implications on American democracy.

Let's rewind for a bit, though. On November 3, 2020, the United States conducted what could be dubbed one of its most momentous presidential elections in recent times.

Scores of voters made their way to the polling stations, while many had already placed their bets via early or absentee ballots. As the dust settled, the verdict was clear. The Democratic contender, Joe Biden, had dethroned the incumbent Republican, Donald Trump. Biden's victory was resounding — he garnered an additional seven million popular votes and a comfortable Electoral College lead of 74 votes.

However, Trump was not ready to bow out. He rocked the boat of American democracy that had always cherished a smooth transition of power. For the first time, an incumbent president was flatly refusing to accept electoral defeat.

But he didn't stop there.

Trump summoned his loyal supporters to Washington on January 6 — the day Vice President Mike Pence was slated to rubberstamp the electoral results. He encouraged them to voice their discontent boldly.

And, indeed, they heeded his call. Throngs of Trump supporters, a significant number of them armed, stormed the Capitol building. Amid violent clashes with the police, they chanted ominous threats against Mike Pence.

As chaos reigned, Trump stationed himself in the comfort of the White House, watching the unfolding drama on television. He resisted calling off the attack for hours, even as the lives of members of Congress and law enforcement were precariously hanging in the balance.

Such a significant breach of peace and democratic decorum called for a painstaking investigation by the nation's top leaders — leading to the establishment of the Special Committee.

While the committee lacked the authority to indict or arrest Trump, it didn't hesitate to refer a detailed list of alleged criminal acts to the Department of Justice.

As we delve into the subsequent sections, we will guide you through the intricate narrative of the report — from the election build-up to the aftermath of the Capitol attack. We will also discuss the committee's recommended course of action in the wake of their findings.

The epicenter of the events of January 6th is found in one man: Donald Trump. His refusal to accept the 2020 election result set the stage for this infamous day.

A cast of characters featured in this saga, but our focus zeroes in on one man whose influence catalyzed the events we're exploring. The report is unequivocal — the January 6th story pivots around Donald Trump.

Our journey begins with the election. A peculiar pattern has often emerged in past U.S. elections: Republican voters are more likely to cast their votes in person, while Democrats tend to lean towards other legitimate options such as mail-in ballots. These mail-in votes inevitably take a longer time to be processed.

Hence, in this rather tightly-contested election, it was anticipated — even by Trump's own advisers — that the initial results would favor him. However, as the mail-in ballots were tallied, the race was expected to tighten. This wasn't an electoral anomaly but a mere factor of the vote-counting process.

Despite being aware of this dynamic, Trump feigned surprise when the tides began to turn.

On November 4, as votes were still trickling in, he delivered a speech decrying the election as a "fraud on the American public." The following morning, he further escalated tensions by tweeting "STOP THE COUNT!" — a move that, had it been executed, would have contravened the law.

However, these actions only marked the onset of a relentless campaign to delegitimize the electoral process. Trump made numerous wild claims: alleging the presence of fraudulent Biden votes in trash bins, accusing dead people of casting votes in Georgia, and consistently implying that the Dominion voting machines were rigged.

Despite having been categorically informed that these allegations were baseless, Trump persisted with his conspiracy theories. His relentless pursuit of fabrications was likened by Attorney General William Barr to a game of Whac-A-Mole, constantly popping up with a new, unfounded claim when one was debunked.

Despite failing to convince the public and the legal system of the election's alleged illegitimacy, Trump advanced to his next move: stalling the transition of power.

As per the U.S. Constitution, the vice president officially acknowledges the Electoral College votes. The mandate is clear: they ensure all votes are accounted for, without having the power to influence the count. Vice President Mike Pence fully understood and respected this constitutional duty.

Nevertheless, Trump exerted pressure on Pence to reject the vote count. On January 6, the day set for Pence to officially recognize the results, Trump amplified his rhetoric, tweeting, "All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN."

Pence refused to comply, prompting Trump — according to his daughter Ivanka's staff — to derogatorily refer to him as "the p-word."

As the mob flooded the Capitol, the real danger extended beyond reputational harm for Pence. It threatened his very life.

In his quest to retain power, Trump employed various strategies, from counterfeiting election certificates to exerting pressure on state officials and the Department of Justice.

Trump's determination to overturn the election went beyond merely influencing Pence. In a brazen act, Trump, along with a select group of his team members, fabricated documents declaring his victory in seven states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, despite Biden winning in those states.

Fully aware of the illegality of this act, the team nevertheless went ahead, collecting fake signatures from impostor electors and dispatching these fraudulent documents to several locations, including the National Archives and Pence's office. They assumed that Pence would certify these counterfeit documents on January 6, rather than the legitimate ones.

But Trump's desperate pursuit of power didn't end there.

He exerted significant pressure on several state officials. Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican Secretary of State, was instructed to "find 11,780 votes." Using conspiracy theories and intimidating language, Trump attempted to wield his influence. Raffensperger, like other officials directly in Trump's crosshairs, faced harassment with people invading his property, and his wife receiving explicit threats over the phone.

In Arizona, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, another Republican who refused to join Trump's charade, found his personal information leaked online. A weapon-wielding individual even showed up at his house.

Trump also tried his hand with the Department of Justice. Jeffrey Clark, an official who wasn't especially high-ranking, became Trump's target. In late December, Clark participated in a clandestine meeting with the president, managing to keep his activities hidden from his superior, acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen.

Clark eventually composed a letter to the Georgia state legislature, falsely claiming that the Department of Justice had "significant concerns" about electoral fraud, despite the absence of any investigation findings that supported this statement.

Rosen, refusing to sanction the release of this misleading letter, found his job offered to Clark as retaliation from Trump.

This move, however, proved to be a bridge too far. The impending mass resignations forced Trump to retract his offer, admitting to Clark, "It's not going to be worth the breakage."

Yet, the term "breakage" would indeed feature in Trump's next strategy.

Trump incited a violent mob towards the Capitol, and he hesitated 187 minutes before calling them off.

"Be there, will be wild!" was the rallying cry Trump tweeted to his supporters in the wee hours of December 19, 2020. He echoed this sentiment more than a dozen times. His followers took these instructions to heart, as the committee discovered.

Radical groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters pledged their allegiance. Evidence and testimonies to the committee and in court confirm that their intent was to invade the Capitol and ensure Trump remained in power.

"He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!" went a tweet. Another online sentiment echoed that the president “can't openly instruct you to revolt … This is the closest he'll ever get."

Despite repeated requests from his team member Hope Hicks, Trump refused to clarify that the January 6 gathering should remain peaceful.

On the day itself, Trump addressed a rally at the Ellipse, not far from the White House. Yet, his main gripe to his aides was about the crowd size, or lack thereof. The reason? Numerous supporters who had shown up refused to pass through the magnetometers at the entrances because they were carrying weapons.

Cassidy Hutchinson, one of the aides, shared that the president even demanded the removal of the magnetometers. She told the committee, “I overheard the President say something to the effect of, ‘I don't f'ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me.’ ”

Post-rally, he was reportedly infuriated that he couldn't personally lead the protesters to the Capitol. Regardless, he returned to the White House.

Trump concluded his speech around 1:10 p.m. By 1:25 p.m., he was informed of the attack on the Capitol.

"Oh really?" he responded when informed, "All right, let's go see."

From then till 4:03 p.m., events remain unclear. The White House photographer appears to have been asked to stand down and records of Trump's calls during this period are missing.

The report refers to this as the "187 minutes," the duration Trump resisted calling off the most severe riot at the Capitol in centuries.

Everyone, from Ivanka Trump to Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, knew that Trump alone could end the riot and tried to persuade him to do so. However, at 2:24 p.m., he tweeted, indirectly blaming Pence, which naturally exacerbated the situation.

Only after bargaining with Ivanka, Trump sent out a few tweets, urging people to "Stay peaceful." Yet, he didn't ask them to leave, so the violence persisted.

Finally, at 4:17 p.m., 187 minutes after his rally concluded, Trump sent out a video message instructing the attackers to leave. They promptly complied.

Trump left work at 6:27 p.m. His parting words to an employee: "Mike Pence let me down."

The Special Committee was unable to formally indict Trump – but suggested others to do so.

The committee's report provides more than a chronological account of the events leading up to and transpiring on January 6. It delves into the underlining motives — pointing specifically at Donald Trump as the root cause of the entire incident.

The report effectively refers the case to the Department of Justice Special Committee, potentially laying the groundwork for formal charges, as well as hinting at a potential investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

It outlines several possible offenses, starting with Obstruction of an Official Proceeding — referring to Trump's attempts to disrupt Mike Pence's electoral vote count by inciting a riot. The law necessitates that this obstruction serves a "corrupt" agenda. The committee suggests this is clearly the case here since Trump sought to overturn the presidential election results that he knew to be legitimate and accurate.

The committee also identifies a potential case of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, with Trump's efforts to stop Joe Biden from being confirmed as the election winner.

The accusation of Conspiracy to Make a False Statement is another potential crime highlighted by the committee. This comes into play most conspicuously through the crafting and distribution of counterfeit election certificates.

Lastly, and certainly not least, is the statute that criminalizes the incitement, aiding, or comforting of an insurrection. The committee points out that by rallying and inflaming the mob as he did — and then further provoking them an hour into the riot — Trump seemingly violated this law as well.

On January 6, when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to persuade the president to call off the rioters, Trump retorted: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

Along with other potential allegations of illegality — involving not only Trump but also members of his team who either conspired with him or declined to collaborate with the committee — these are the key assertions made in the report.

Committee chairman Bennie G. Thompson highlights in his introduction to the report that casting a vote in a US election is “an act of hope and faith” — a trust in the fairness of the process. The only way to maintain this trust, he argues, is to ensure that anyone undermining it faces consequences.

The alternative would be despotism.

Closing synopsis

The report was the painstaking work of nine dedicated members of the House of Representatives, who meticulously compiled a comprehensive and investigative account of the events on that infamous day. The findings unequivocally pointed to Donald Trump, the departing president, as the instigator of the Capitol assault, with the committee highlighting a multitude of laws he likely violated. To safeguard the future of the country's democratic processes, the committee insists that he must face the legal repercussions of his actions.

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