Key findings from the Jan. 6 committee’s final report
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol released its full, final report late Thursday night.
Below are our key takeaways.
1. ‘Potus im sure is loving this’: Mid-riot text adds to suggestions of Trump’s approval
The committee has focused extensively on then-President Donald Trump’s inaction as the riot was taking place. But it has occasionally suggested that he might have approved of what was happening or at least seen some political upside in it.
And the final report contains more grist for that mill: One of the most striking new revelations is a text message from a Trump aide, Robert Gabriel. At 2:49 p.m., as the Capitol was under siege, Gabriel texted, “Potus im sure is loving this.”
The text builds upon previously known evidence.
Shortly after Jan. 6, 2021, and amid Trump’s impeachment, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) relayed that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had said Trump told McCarthy during the riot, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
White House aide Sarah Matthews has said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told her that Trump resisted calling on the rioters to be “peaceful” in a tweet. (In texts from the time and in later testimony to the committee, Trump aide Hope Hicks also said that, before Jan. 6, both she and White House lawyer Eric Herschmann called for Trump to preemptively urge peacefulness, but that Trump “refused.”)
White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has also testified that, amid a frantic effort to get Trump to act, she overheard chief of staff Mark Meadows telling White House counsel Pat Cipollone, “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.”
The committee pressed Cipollone on whether Trump actually wanted people to leave the Capitol. Cipollone had said he couldn’t think of anyone on staff who didn’t want the rioters to leave. But when asked whether Trump shared in that opinion, Cipollone struggled with the question and ultimately punted, saying he couldn’t “reveal communications” with Trump, citing executive privilege.
2. New details on the ‘fake elector’ plot
One of the committee’s criminal referrals hones in on the effort to appoint alternate Trump electors (also known as “fake electors”) in key states. And a key question has been: What was the intent behind their appointment?
The Trump campaign pitched these electors as just a contingency — i.e., they needed to be in place by the Dec. 14 deadline, just in case a given state changed course and declared Trump the winner of their electoral votes. But there has been evidence that some of the architects of the plot planned to deploy the electors regardless, in a much more desperate and forceful ploy to overturn legitimate election results.
Some of the fake electors were apparently concerned about the strategy, or even saw something unsavory ahead. In newly revealed evidence, Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt texted his party’s executive director in late November and said, “I hope they are not planning on asking us to do anything like try and say we are only the proper electors.” He added on Dec. 12 after receiving a message about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani: “These guys are up to no good and its gonna fail miserably.” Hitt signed on as a Trump elector anyway.
Other electors clearly worried about legal liability, insisting (in New Mexico and Pennsylvania) that the documents listing them specify that they were only legitimate if their states’ election results were overturned. But most documents made no such distinction.
The committee also detailed new evidence linking Giuliani, Trump and Meadows to the early fake-elector effort. Trump campaign lawyer Joshua Findlay testified that “it was my understanding that the President made” the decision to have someone look into the feasibility of appointing alternative electors around Dec. 7 or 8.
3. Some notable recommendations — including on 14th Amendment
On Monday, the committee took the historic step of referring Trump and others to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. But the report features some other recommendations, including one that had been floated after Jan. 6: possibly disqualifying Trump and others from holding office.
The 14th Amendment of the Constitution says that anyone who has “engaged in an insurrection” or given “aid or comfort to the enemies” of the United States can be barred from holding office. (This law has been invoked in unsuccessful efforts to bar some GOP lawmakers like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from office.)
Trump’s second impeachment featured a historic number of members of the president’s own party voting in favor. And some Democrats and watchdogs continue to argue for Trump to be barred from office. But with Republicans taking over the House in early January — and even Democrats generally having shown little appetite for this step before — it appears unlikely Congress will take up this proposal.
The report also advises that congressional committees look into media and social media companies whose policies have “have had the effect of radicalizing their consumers, including by provoking people to attack their own country.” And it recommends possible safeguards against a president misusing the Insurrection Act, which some Trump allies floated.
4. It suggests Trump defamed Dominion
Some have questioned why, though Fox News and others have found themselves under legal scrutiny, Trump himself isn’t the focus of high-profile lawsuits aimed at those who spread lies and misinformation about voting machines. (Legal experts disagree on the strength of the potential legal case a plaintiff would have against him.)
The report lays out how Trump was repeatedly told what he was saying about Dominion voting machines was false, even as he continued to spout the claims. And it suggests Trump meets the test for defaming Dominion.
“President Trump’s own campaign staff, administration officials, and State officials, all told him the claims had no merit. Hand recounts confirmed the fidelity of the machines," the report says. "But none of this overwhelming evidence mattered. President Trump demonstrated a conscious disregard for the facts and continued to maliciously smear Dominion.”
The language here is deliberate: Legally speaking, the “actual malice” standard for defamation requires proving that the person either knew what they were saying was false or showed a reckless disregard for whether it were true.
The report highlights previously known evidence about the various advisors and government officials who either tried to dissuade Trump from this theory, or knew that others had. It also added a new name this week: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who confirmed she had tried unsuccessfully to wave Trump off the theory.
In a transcript released Thursday, White House press aide Sarah Matthews also testified that McEnany “actively” resisted Trump’s attempts to get her to bring up the conspiracy theory in media interviews and hold White House briefings on the subject.
5. The extent of Trump’s pressure campaign in key states
We’ve known that Trump and his allies pressured lawmakers and officials far and wide to help overturn the election results in key states. But the report lays out the vast scale of this effort.
It says, “President Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 apparent acts of public or private outreach, pressure, or condemnation, targeting either State legislators or State or local election administrators, to overturn State election results.”
What qualifies as “targeting” an official is, of course, subjective. But several officials indicate they felt the pressure.
Then-Michigan state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R) said he received between five and 10 phone calls from Trump after the election. Chatfield said he repeatedly informed Trump he had seen nothing that would overturn Trump’s nearly three-point deficit in the state, and he and state Senate President Mike Shirkey (R) put out a statement saying as much after a meeting with Trump.
But the Trump campaign on Jan. 3 tweeted that people should contact Chatfield or the GOP leader of the state Senate, Mike Shirkey, to “Demand [a] vote on decertification." Trump’s social media team promoted Shirkey’s personal cell phone number and a number for Chatfield that turned out to be wrong. Shirkey said he received 4,000 text messages. Chatfield testified, "I and my family have received numerous threats, along with members on both sides of the aisle.”
The report details dozens of officials who were threatened, though not all were targeted by Trump personally. The chairman of the Maricopa County, Ariz., board of supervisors, Clint Hickman (R), said “the threats never abated.”
6. Little focus on security issues, while mostly blaming Trump
The Washington Post reported in November that some committee members and staffers on the Jan. 6 committee were upset that Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) wanted the report to focus so extensively on Trump. Well, the final product appears to reflect Cheney’s desires.
The report says relatively little about the security failures that had been the focus of some congressional probing. It mostly relegates those findings to the first appendix — about 30 pages long — near the end of the report. For example, it does little to reconcile conflicting timelines presented by key officials when it comes to when the National Guard was requested and approved.
But the verdict is rather damning, saying these failures also put lives in danger.
The report says that, before Jan. 6, both federal and local law enforcement had intelligence predicting violence that day. “Although some of that intelligence was fragmentary, it should have been sufficient to warrant far more vigorous preparations for the security of the joint session.” the report says. “The failure to sufficiently share and act upon that intelligence jeopardized the lives of the police officers defending the Capitol and everyone in it.”
In the next breath, though, the report emphasizes Trump’s culpability and says that better planning might not have been able to account for the violence he would stoke.
7. The full picture of an allegedly corrupt plot
The chief alleged crime the committee has focused on is what’s known as obstruction of an official proceeding — in this case, Congress’s counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6. And showing that requires proving Trump acted corruptly.
Given that, it’s worth running through all the evidence — most of it previously established, but some new — that this plot was corrupt. The committee has keyed on a few things: that Trump was told his voter-fraud theories were false, that he actually knew he had lost the 2020 election, and that the participants in the plot knew it was illegal.
In addition to the previously-known figures who said they pushed back on Trump’s theories internally, the committee revealed this week that White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien testified about a Dec. 18 Oval Office phone call in which he said that there was no evidence of fraud using voting machines or foreign interference. Cipollone also testified that the lack of sufficient evidence was made clear internally “over and over again.”
Including an official in Raffensperger’s office, the report details at least eight officials testifying that Trump and his team were informed his theories were false.
As for Trump admitting he lost: Hutchinson and another former White House aide Alyssa Farah Griffin have both said they heard about Trump doing so. And in a transcript released this week, Hutchinson said she asked Meadows, point blank, whether Trump knew he lost. According to Hutchinson, Meadows “said something to the effect of, ‘he knows it’s over. He knows he lost. But we are going to keep trying. There’s a chance he didn’t lose. I want to pull this off for him.”
Previous evidence also showed some of those involved admitted their plot was illegal or might not pass legal muster. That includes contemporaneous documents from Eastman, and testimony from Pence aide Greg Jacob and White House lawyer Eric Herschmann about their interactions with Eastman, and Giuliani, respectively, who they said admitted their case would lose in court. And in October, a judge ruled that Trump had knowingly signed a verification containing false voter-fraud figures that Eastman had admitted were wrong.
8. What the report doesn’t shed light on
The scale of the investigation was massive, and many witnesses weren’t particularly forthcoming, repeatedly invoking their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination or, in some cases, not testifying at all. That means that some of the angles probed by the committee remain unresolved or disputed. Among them:
- The committee didn’t resolve what happened in the presidential vehicle after Trump’s speech. Hutchinson had testified that White House aide Anthony M. Ornato told her that Trump became irate and lunged at the head of his Secret Service detail, Bobby Engel, when Engel wouldn’t bring him to the Capitol. (She emphasized that her account was secondhand.) Ornato said he didn’t recall conveying that information to Hutchinson, according to the committee. The committee confirmed with other witnesses that Trump was angry, but they did not confirm a physical altercation. In the end, the report says it was “difficult to fully reconcile the accounts of several of the witnesses who provided information with what we heard from Engel and Ornato.”
- Some congressional Democrats suggested shortly after Jan. 6 that certain Republicans provided reconnaissance tours to rioters before Jan. 6. And more specifically, the committee raised questions about a tour Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) led on Jan. 5, which Loudermilk struggled to explain. But the report doesn’t dwell upon this at all. It merely mentions that one of Loudermilk’s guests who was captured on video at Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 “took pictures of hallways and staircases,” which was previously known.
- Hutchinson testified that Trump was told people at his speech were found with weapons but was unconcerned — and even asked that security stop using magnetometers. This is a key piece of evidence, since Trump would later direct these people to the Capitol. Hutchinson said Trump justified his lack of concern by saying, “They’re not here to hurt me.” The report doesn’t confirm that Trump was told about the weapons, but it does say Engel recalled Trump making a similar comment, as Trump was trying to persuade Engel to take him to the Capitol.
The committee’s July 21 hearing filled in a lot of the gaps of how Trump spent Jan. 6 (according to them, mostly watching television). You can explore a full timeline of Trump’s day here. The committee’s report highlights additional examples of Trump’s inaction, including this striking episode of White House staff discussing his first statement on the attack, on PAGE 596:
PAGE 598: The report cites “Gabriel Robert” and “Gabriel Roberts,” but it appears to actually reference Robert Gabriel, who meets the description of a White House speechwriter. We don’t know who Gabriel was texting, but a footnote states the text was produced by Ross Worthington, who like Gabriel worked as a speechwriter.
We learned that Trump said this from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R–WA), to whom McCarthy spoke soon after on Jan. 6.