May 24, 2024, 12:55

What we learned from the January 6 committee report

What we learned from the January 6 committee report

Ben Jacobs
is a political reporter at Vox, based in Washington, DC. Ben has covered three presidential campaigns, as well as Capitol Hill, the White House, and the Supreme Court. His writing has appeared in publications including New York magazine, the Atlantic, and the Washington Examiner.

The much-anticipated Thursday release of the report from the select committee to investigate the January 6 attack, along with a number of accompanying depositions, gave us more insight into the efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election that culminated in the attack on the Capitol.

The report is sprawling, with over 800 pages and dozens of attached interview transcripts, which you can find here. Even though much of what was in it was revealed during the 10 televised hearings the committee held over the summer and fall, there is plenty in the report that is public for the first time.

Here are some of the most interesting takeaways, revelations, and recommendations from the report and the accompanying depositions.

1) The extent of the effort to overturn the election

The committee laid out just how much effort Trump and his allies put into schemes to convince state and local officials to overturn the election. According to the report, “between the November election and the January 6th insurrection, President Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 apparent acts of public or private outreach, pressure, or condemnation.”

This tally does not count other efforts by Trump campaign staffers to contact state legislators, which included efforts to contact 190 Republican elected officials just in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan. The Trump campaign also put on a full-scale whip operation to organize its efforts to select fake electors and ensure they convened on December 14, when the Electoral College met, so they would have an alternate avenue to challenge the election results.

For a sense of how invested the former president personally was in his efforts, Trump tried to speak with Brad Raffensperger “at least 18 times” before that infamous January 2 phone call where he asked the Georgia secretary of state “to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”

2) Extremists were integral to January 6

The report makes clear that the political fringes were instrumental at almost every step leading up to — and during — the attack on the Capitol. Members of the Proud Boys were in the vanguard of the attack and breached police fencing before Trump even finished speaking, ensuring that the full crowd walking from the Ellipse down to the Capitol would be close to the building by the time they arrived.

It also shows that key figures on the right thought the march to the Capitol was a central part of the plan. Ali Alexander, a far-right activist and organizer of the rally that day, believed that the White House wanted him to march to the Capitol. Alt-right media personality Alex Jones even asked Caroline Wren, a prominent Republican fundraiser who helped organize the rally, when he should leave Trump’s speech and begin the march, according to Wren’s testimony. Many of these figures connected in a Signal chat called “Friends of Stone,” named after longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. It included Stone, Alexander, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.

3) The push to overturn the election started right away

Within days of Trump’s loss, top allies already were encouraging him to try to overturn the result. It wasn’t just former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows who was batting around ideas about how to overturn the election results in text messages.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sent Trump’s assistant a message on November 10, two days after visiting him at the White House, where he suggested Trump urge “GOP legislatures elect not to send in electors” in order to somehow throw the election to the House on January 6. Cleta Mitchell, a longtime Republican election lawyer, emailed Trump lawyer John Eastman on November 5 to draft a memo on how state legislatures could “reclaim electors.”

Vince Haley, a White House speechwriter, didn’t even suggest that claiming election fraud was a necessary fig leaf, and argued that state legislatures “have the constitutional right to substitute their judgment for a certified majority of their constituents” because “Harrisburg [Pennsylvania], Madison [Wisconsin], and Lansing [Michigan] do not have to sit idly by and submit themselves to rule by Beijing and Paris.”

4) Trump did not take Sidney Powell seriously

Although the former president has propounded many of the conspiracy theories that conservative attorney Sidney Powell touted about Dominion voting machines and mass election fraud during the 2020 election, he at least initially did not take them seriously. The day after her infamous press conference at the RNC headquarters — where she fingered the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez as one of the key election fraud masterminds while Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye dripped off of his head — Powell was on a conference call with Trump. During the call, the former president put her on mute and laughed at her, adding to others in the room that “this does sound crazy.”

5) Cassidy Hutchinson’s lawyer was representing “Trump World,” not her

In a September deposition before the committee, Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Trump aide who gave explosive testimony in a televised June committee hearing, made clear that her original lawyer was only trying to protect Trump. Hutchinson eventually switched lawyers before her testimony, and details had trickled out about how Trump World had been pressuring her in advance of her appearance before the committee, but her deposition provides the first full accounting of this.

Hutchinson describes how she was connected with Stefan Passantino, the former Trump White House ethics lawyer, to represent her pro bono after the committee originally subpoenaed her. Passantino encouraged her to avoid answering questions at every possible turn by saying, “I don’t recall.”

He also made clear to her, “We just want to focus on protecting the President. We all know you’re loyal,” and avoided telling her who was actually paying for her legal representation. Eventually, he slipped that it was “Trump World.” In the meantime, Passantino was aiding in efforts to find Hutchinson a job by working his connections around Trump. Eventually, Hutchinson fired him when he advised her to risk being held in contempt by the committee rather than comply with their requests.

6) Trump and his allies should suffer constitutional consequences

In its recommendations, the committee says Trump and his allies should be permanently barred from holding government office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States from holding any “civil or military” office if they have previously taken a formal oath to support the US Constitution.

In the words of the report, “the Committee believes that those who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and then, on January 6th, engaged in insurrection can appropriately be disqualified and barred from holding government office — whether federal or state, civilian or military.”

It goes on to recommend that Congress pass legislation on this topic to establish specific procedures for formal disqualification.


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