WASHINGTON — The House Jan. 6 committee on Thursday unveiled its formal report, the final product of its historic 18-month investigation into the deadly attack on the Capitol and former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
“[A]fter nearly a year and a half of investigation, I am frightened about the peril our democracy faced. Specifically, I think about what that mob was there to do: to block the peaceful transfer of power from one president to another based on a lie that the election was rigged and tainted with widespread fraud,” Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wrote in the foreword of the report.
“The rioters were inside the halls of Congress because the head of the executive branch of our government, the then-President of the United States, told them to attack,” Thompson continued. “Donald Trump summoned that mob to Washington, DC. Afterward, he sent them to the Capitol to try to prevent my colleagues and me from doing our Constitutional duty to certify the election."
"They put our very democracy to the test,” he added.
The committee released the 845-page report days after a final committee meeting at which its nine members — seven Democrats and two Republicans — voted to recommend that the Justice Department pursue criminal charges against Trump as he makes another bid for the White House in 2024.
It was the first time in history that a congressional committee had made criminal referrals for a U.S. president. The Jan. 6 panel, led by Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., believes there is enough evidence for the Justice Department to prosecute Trump on four specific charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding — Congress’ certification of electoral votes — and inciting or assisting others in an insurrection.
Among the committee’s nearly dozen recommendations listed at the end of the report: Urging Congress to create a way to evaluate whether Trump and others who took part in the 2020 election plot should be banned from holding future office.
Consistent with the committee’s series of summer hearings and its executive summary, the full report — divided into eight chapters — largely lays blame for the Jan. 6 attack at the feet of the 45th president and downplays security and intelligence failures.
Chapter 1 is titled, "THE BIG LIE," a nod to Trump's widespread effort to delegitimize the 2020 election and falsely claim it was stolen, while Chapter 2, titled "I JUST WANT TO FIND 11,780 VOTES," focuses on Trump's attempt to pressure state and election officials in Georgia and other places to overturn the election results.
Witnesses, nearly all of them Republicans, testified that Trump and his inner circle had furiously worked to sow doubt about Joe Biden’s legitimate election victory; launched a multi-pronged campaign to pressure state officials, senior members of the Justice Department and then-Vice President Mike Pence to help overturn the election; directed a mob of thousands of his supporters to march on the Capitol to disrupt lawmakers’ counting of the electoral votes that would certify the results of the election; and refused to call off his supporters as they brutally assaulted police officers and stormed the Capitol.
"Among the most shameful of this committee’s findings was that President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television. ... No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again," Cheney said at Monday's meeting, a line she repeated in her own foreword. "He is unfit for any office."
Trump responded overnight with a series of inflammatory posts to his Truth Social network, repeating many of the same false claims about a stolen election and attacking the committee, the FBI and others.
"The Government of the United States changed our Election Result, and it just doesn’t get any worse than that," he wrote Friday, falsely claiming that he was the true winner of the 2020 election. "Just look at the damage that’s been done to our Country, and the World, in the last two years — It’s incalculable. TRUMP WON!!!"
The committee’s report alleges that Trump and his inner circle conducted at least 200 public or private acts of “outreach, pressure, or condemnation” targeting state and local election officials, as well as state legislators, to overturn the results between Trump’s loss in November and Jan. 6.
There were 68 meetings, phone calls or texts aimed at state or local officials; 18 public remarks targeting them; and 125 social media posts, the committee says.
The report also revealed more details about the fake elector plan, which the committee alleges Trump embraced when it became clear that state officials in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and other key battlegrounds would not overturn the results in their states and replace Biden electors with Trump electors.
While the committee referred conservative attorney John Eastman to the Justice Department on Monday for his role in the scheme to pressure Pence to reject states’ electoral votes on Jan. 6, the report identifies Trump-allied lawyer Kenneth Chesebro as central to conceptualizing the plot.
Some of the committee's conclusions appear in the report's appendices. For example, previous reporting and Jan. 6 hearings had revealed that Pentagon bureaucrats, including Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt and Gen. Charles Flynn, had delayed sending National Guard troops as police were overwhelmed by the rioters.
But the committee found that there was no deliberate attempt to stall the troops: “While the delay seems unnecessary and unacceptable, it was the byproduct of military processes, institutional caution, and a revised deployment approval process," the committee writes in Appendix 2.
"We have no evidence that the delay was intentional.”
As it was tasked to do, the committee also issued a number of recommendations to both Congress and federal agencies. The panel urged congressional committees to consider creating a “formal mechanism” to determine whether to bar Trump and others identified in the report from holding future federal or state office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which targets those who have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."
The Jan. 6 committee also called for reforms to the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to make it clear that the vice president does not have the authority to unilaterally reject electoral votes, an update that is already in the works. Congress will pass such a recommendation this week as part of its omnibus spending package.
In addition, the Jan. 6 committee recommended that federal agencies undertake a “whole of government strategy” to root out and combat violent extremism, including white nationalists. And it urged law enforcement to designate future certifications of presidential elections as a “national special security event.” That would require greater planning, coordination and security for future Jan. 6 certification events at the Capitol.
"Driven by our investigative findings, these recommendations will help strengthen the guardrails of our democracy," Thompson wrote.
The report marks the culmination of a sweeping congressional investigation that included 11 public hearings, more than 100 subpoenas, more than 1,200 witness interviews and the collection of hundreds of thousands of text messages, emails and other documents.
The committee has already begun releasing dozens of transcripts from witnesses who invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, including Trump associates Eastman, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Jeffrey Clark.
On Thursday, the Jan. 6 panel released transcripts of the testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who had testified that Trump was aware the mob was armed when he sent it to the Capitol and that he had tried to join his supporters there.
In the coming days, the committee also plans to release other transcripts from interviews and depositions, as well as video and other documents and records.
Because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., created it as a "select" committee, the panel expires at the end of the year. Republicans, who will take control of the House in January, have no plans to renew it.
At her final news conference as speaker Thursday, Pelosi praised Thompson, Cheney and the other Jan. 6 members for their "persistent, patriotic leadership."
"The 117th Congress began with a violent assault on our democracy, and now we hear its conclusions," she said. "We have a vital road map ensuring justice will be done ... and that this won’t happen again."