With Detailed Evidence and a Call for Accountability, Jan. 6 Panel Seeks a Legacy
WASHINGTON — The House Jan. 6 committee’s 845-page final report is chock-full of new details about former President Donald J. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
It documents how Mr. Trump and his allies tried at least 200 times to convince state or local officials to throw out President Biden’s victory. It reveals that Mr. Trump did, in fact, push for the National Guard to be present on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021 — but to protect his supporters as they marched on Congress, not lawmakers.
And it has new testimony from Trump aides like Hope Hicks, who became overwhelmed with disgust at the president’s behavior and the mob riot they were witnessing. “We all look like domestic terrorists now,” she wrote in a text.
But even as the committee continues to reveal damning evidence about the attack on the Capitol and what led to it, it has reached the end of its run. The publication of the report, the result of an exhaustive monthslong effort, has created a permanent record intended at a minimum to hold Mr. Trump accountable in history. Criminal referrals have been issued. Much of the panel’s staff has moved on, accepting other jobs.
To be sure, there is still some final work to do. The panel has an interactive website to unveil and hundreds of transcripts to release — even after a batch of nearly 50 more on Friday evening that included testimony by former Attorney General William P. Barr; Pat A. Cipollone, the former White House counsel; and Mr. Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump.
But its members are now beginning to share their views on a central question: What is the legacy of the Jan. 6 committee?
The panel — made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans — consistently broke new ground for a congressional investigation. Staffed with more than a dozen former federal prosecutors, it set a new production standard for how to present a congressional hearing. It also got significantly ahead of a parallel Justice Department investigation into the events of Jan. 6, with federal prosecutors later interviewing many of the same witnesses the panel’s investigators had already spoken with.
For Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is the chairman of the committee, the answer to the question of legacy is simple: The committee raised the issue of threats to democracy to the top of the public consciousness and, during midterm elections in state after state, voters repeatedly defeated election-denying candidates.
“We demonstrated that Jan. 6 was a clear and present danger that an overwhelming majority of the people rejected,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview. “A lot of them expressed that rejection at the ballot box on Nov. 8.”
But Republicans still gained enough seats that they are set to take over the House in January, and are likely to undermine the panel’s legacy in other areas.
Understand the Events on Jan. 6
- Timeline: On Jan. 6, 2021, 64 days after Election Day 2020, a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump raided the Capitol. Here is a close look at how the attack unfolded.
- A Day of Rage: Using thousands of videos and police radio communications, a Times investigation reconstructed in detail what happened — and why.
- Lost Lives: A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people died in connection with the attack.
- Jan. 6 Attendees: To many of those who attended the Trump rally but never breached the Capitol, that date wasn’t a dark day for the nation. It was a new start.
The committee recommended that Congress consider barring Mr. Trump and his allies from holding office under the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists, a proposal likely to go nowhere. Most of its recommendations for legislation are also likely to meet a dead end, with the major exception of the passage on Friday of an overhaul of the Electoral Count Act, the law Mr. Trump had tried to exploit to get his vice president to throw out electoral votes.
Moreover, Republicans are likely to try to turn the tables on the committee, beginning an investigation into the investigators.
A counternarrative is already underway. Mr. Trump bashed the committee’s report as “highly partisan.” And five House Republicans led by Representative Jim Banks of Indiana released their own report on the Capitol attack this week. That 141-page document criticizes law enforcement failures, accuses Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her senior team of bungling Capitol security and tries to recast Mr. Trump’s role in the events of Jan. 6 as a voice for peace and calm.
Mr. Thompson has shrugged off calls to investigate the investigators as a distraction, and pointed instead to his own panel’s findings. The legacy, he said, was in the mountain of evidence the panel amassed.
The committee’s final report revealed more of the scope of that mountain, describing in extensive detail how Mr. Trump had carried out what it called “a multipart plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
Among the new evidence were revelations about how early on Jan. 6 Mr. Trump knew about the mayhem at the Capitol.
After giving a speech to his supporters at the Ellipse, Mr. Trump ran into a member of the White House staff and asked whether he or she had watched his speech on television.
“Sir, they cut it off because they’re rioting down at the Capitol,” the employee said around 1:21 p.m., in an early indication Mr. Trump was aware of the violence, according to the report.
Shortly after 2:44 p.m., Mr. Trump was made aware the riot had turned deadly.
A Capitol Police officer had shot a rioter named Ashli Babbitt, and a handwritten note presented to the president — dashed off onto a White House pocket card and preserved by the National Archives — read: “1x civilian gunshot wound to chest @ door of House chaber.” A White House employee saw the note on the dining table in front of Mr. Trump, according to the committee’s report.
Still, Mr. Trump waited hours to call for his supporters to go home.
The committee presented evidence that Mr. Trump had rejected an internal plea for a more “direct statement” to tell the rioters to leave the Capitol, saying, “These people are in pain.”
In his last phone call of the night, Mr. Trump spoke with Johnny McEntee, his director of personnel. “This is a crazy day,” the president told him. Mr. McEntee said his tone was one of “like, wow, can you believe this?” But asked if Mr. Trump had expressed sadness over the violence, Mr. McEntee said no, adding, “I mean, I think he was shocked by, you know, it getting a little out of control, but I don’t remember sadness, specifically.”
The committee’s report revealed new evidence about how those inside the Trump administration had viewed the president’s conduct.
Mr. Trump’s speechwriter Robert Gabriel Jr. sent a text message at 2:49 p.m. as the riot was escalating: “Potus im sure is loving this.”
Another aide, Ms. Hicks, texted a colleague that evening after learning of Mr. Trump’s denigrating comments about his own vice president, Mike Pence: “Attacking the VP? Wtf is wrong with him.”
As the riot was underway, Ms. Hicks texted Eric Herschmann, a Trump lawyer: “So predictable and so sad.”
“I know,” he replied. “Tragic.”
“I’m so upset,” she continued. “Everything we worked for wiped away.”
“I agree,” he wrote. “Totally self-inflicted.”
The panel also added new evidence about how deeply Mr. Trump was involved in the false elector scheme. Joshua Findlay, a Trump lawyer, testified that it was his “understanding” that Mr. Trump had personally directed campaign lawyers to pursue the false elector plan.
That built on testimony from the Republican National Committee chairwoman, revealed during the committee’s summer hearings, that Mr. Trump had connected the R.N.C. with the conservative lawyer John Eastman “to talk about the importance of the R.N.C. helping the campaign gather these contingent electors.”
The report also illustrated how many witnesses connected to the Trump White House had their memories fail them when they were interviewed by the committee.
Mr. Trump’s personal secretaries Molly Michael and Austin Ferrer Piran Basualdo, for instance, claimed to remember hardly anything from one of the most memorable days in recent American history, the committee said.
Other witnesses attempted to clean up for Mr. Trump and cast his behavior in a more flattering light, the committee suggested.
Ivanka Trump claimed that her father had been “disappointed and surprised” by the Jan. 6 attack, but she could not name a specific instance of him expressly saying it.
“He — I just felt that,” she said. “I know him really well.”
But when the committee staff asked her if Mr. Trump had ever expressed any regret about his actions or sympathy for the people who were injured that day, she answered no.
Representative Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who is the vice chairwoman of the committee, said the “tremendous amount of evidence and information, including witness testimony documents,” that the committee produced would shape its legacy.
“The report demonstrated the very significant and troubling plan that President Trump oversaw to overturn an election,” she said. “People will read the report. They will read the transcripts, and be able to see what evidence the committee has gathered. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Maggie Haberman and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.