The January 6 committee issued a synthesis of his final report on Monday, and files the lawsuit against Donald Trump.
The committee argues that the former president is not only responsible for the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol, but that his effort to overturn the presidential election was incredibly extensive, corrupt, and illegal.
Much of the most relevant evidence and testimony in the summary has already been brought to light in previous committee hearings. So rather than dropping new bombshells, the executive summary is an aggregate of everything that’s come before. (The full report should be published later this week.)
The committee presents the most comprehensive effort to present the case against Trump that we have seen to date, with far more evidence and understanding of what really happened than Congress had when the House impeached Trump for these events days after they happen.
The old narrative was: After the election, Trump — either deliberately lying or lost in a web of conspiracies propelled by like-minded sycophants — unleashed various corrupt, long-term, and chaotic attempts to overturn the victory of Joe Biden, which they all failed. His supporters took him seriously and stormed the Capitol because of his falsehoods. It was not clear that Trump had foreseen this violence, but his irresponsible conduct meant that he was responsible for it.
The committee’s new narrative is: From election night through Jan. 6, Trump and his associates conspired in a large, serious, multi-pronged criminal effort to keep him in power. He knowingly spread lies about voter fraud, pressured federal and state officials to corruptly join the program, and enlisted his supporters to lobby Congress on January 6, even though he was well aware that violence could result. final, as it was.
The latest version of events looks much more like a prosecution brief and, in a way, it is: Committee members voted Monday to recommend that Trump be referred for prosecution by the Justice Department. They argued that he probably committed four crimes: obstruction of official proceedings, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and assisting an insurrection. (Thankfully, a federal judge, David Carter, already ruled months ago that evidence suggests Trump committed some of these crimes, and the committee cites his analysis.)
The postponement will mean little in practice, because the DOJ has long investigated these matters on its own, with Special Counsel Jack Smith now in charge of that probe. But reading the executive brief gives a glimpse of what a future prosecutor like Smith might say if an indictment against Trump proceeds.
The case against Trump: planning, premeditation and conscious prevarication
When the nation watched Trump’s bid to stay in power unfold in real time, it often seemed vaguely comical. Distraught characters like Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and pillow seller Mike Lindell played leading roles spreading nonsense as establishment Republicans tried to look away. Judges have consistently thrown Trump’s lawsuits out of court, and state GOP officials have refused to act on his behalf. Flasks like those of Giuliani Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference follow.
True, matters like GOP officials flirt with the blocking of certification of state and Trump achievements pressure effort It seemed worrisome that the Georgia Secretary of State would “find” the exact amount of votes he needed, but they quickly failed. Until the Capitol was stormed on Jan. 6, Trump’s effort, however maliciously intentioned, seemed somehow vaguely pathetic.
But the commission’s investigation and executive summary of its report put forward a very different interpretation of events. Rather than flustering and silly, they argue that Trump has always been deadly serious. They say his conduct was generally part of a larger plan. They say there is evidence that he was premeditated. And they don’t believe the argument that Trump may have believed his own lies—they say he was knowingly prevaricating.
First, the committee argues that when you look at Trump’s post-election conduct as a whole, it looks like a larger plan. At the beginning of the executive summary, the committee lists among its key findings that Trump:
Spread false fraud allegations related to the 2020 election Plotted to overturn the election outcome Corruptly lobbied Vice President Mike Pence, US Department of Justice officials, state officials and lawmakers, and members of Congress to help him overturn the election He oversaw an effort to send false ballot papers to Congress He submitted and verified false information as part of his judicial challenges to the outcome He summoned thousands of his supporters to Washington, inflamed them on 6 January and then delayed the intervention to keep them in check once many of them stormed the Capitol
All of which, the executive summary says, amounts to a “multi-party conspiracy to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election.” That is: this was not ordinary politics, it was criminal association.
The committee also determines which Trump officials or allies were involved in all of these parts of the plan, focusing specifically on Trump’s effort to get Pence to drop electoral votes for states won by Biden, and his consideration of putting a friend head of the Justice Department, which was willing to state that the department believed some election results could be fraudulent.
Second, the committee argues that Trump’s decision to falsely declare victory on election night was “premeditated.” They cite evidence that Tom Fitton of the conservative group Judicial Watch recommended Trump to do it just days before the election and that outside allies like Steve Bannon and Roger Stone predicted that Trump would. (Speculation that Trump would do this was also disseminated in the media.)
The committee even suggests that Trump understood that the violence that unfolded on January 6 could very well have happened and that even the violence that occurred may have been, to some extent, premeditated.
A key witness, former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson, described how Trump tried to get Secret Service agents to let more of his supporters attend his rally that day, even though they had guns. Hutchinson said Trump said something like, “I don’t care that they have guns. I’m not here to hurt myself,” and she added, “They can march to the Capitol from here.” Hutchinson’s testimony he also hinted that Trump did indeed intend to go to the Capitol himself that day, but it’s not clear what exactly he wanted to do there.
Thirdly, there is the problem of abuse. The committee argues that Trump not only falsely believed conspiracy theories about voter fraud, but was rather “willfully and maliciously” lying to the public. A startling table in the executive summary lists 18 incidents in which Trump was privately informed that a specific claim he was making about voter fraud was false, only for Trump to later repeat that false claim in public. These include claims of thousands of dead people who voted in Georgia, “rigged” voting machines, and reports of wrongdoing at vote-counting sites. Again and again, he was told these claims were inaccurate, but he kept making them.
Whether Trump was knowingly lying about advocating voter fraud is an important question to resolve, because it gets to the question of his intentions and has implications for the strength of the criminal charges against him. If Trump knew he was lying as he made his false claims about him, that could help any future prosecutors make their case. The committee repeatedly takes the position that their evidence supports the idea that these were deliberate and knowing lies.
However, the final decision on whether Trump’s conduct constitutes a criminal offense will be left to Special Counsel Jack Smith and his boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland. Over the course of the year, this investigation seemed to get more and more serious, with dozens of Trump’s close associates face subpoenas and testify. The January 6 committee succeeded in shifting the understanding of many people of what happened, but the Justice Department will decide whether Trump faces the consequences.
Former President Donald Trump addresses supporters at the Ellipse in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images