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Jan. 6 committee releases final report on Capitol riot, fixing blame on Trump and allies

Capitol riot
Posted at 1:23 PM, Dec 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-23 15:23:03-05

WASHINGTON - The House select committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol released its long-anticipated final report late Thursday night, capping a nearly 18-month investigation that resulted in the historic recommendation that former President Donald Trump be criminally prosecuted for his conduct surrounding the insurrection.

The panel wrote that the evidence presented over the course of its hearings of "a multi-part plan" to overturn the 2020 election "led to an overriding and straightforward conclusion: the central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed."

"None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him," the committee concluded.

The 814-page report devotes nearly 400 pages to a narrative that places the blame for the Capitol riot squarely on Trump, beginning with a chapter called "The Big Lie." Here, the committee sets out to show that Trump planned even before the 2020 presidential election to declare prematurely that he had won. It quotes testimony by his campaign team in which they informed Trump that he had lost the election and that there had been no fraud.

The narrative walks through Trump's alleged post-election efforts to retain power, including attempts to replace slates of electors with fake alternate electors who would support him, alleged efforts to subvert the Justice Department by replacing officials who refused to make false statements that would help Trump remain in power and plans to stop Congress' certification of the election on Jan. 6.

The report also lists 11 recommendations to prevent another Jan. 6. Among them: barring Trump from holding any federal or state office in the future and the passage of the Electoral Count Act to clarify the vice president's and Congress' narrow roles in the presidential election and to make it more difficult to overturn the results.

The committee points out that the Constitution says individuals can be disqualified from holding public office if they "engaged in an insurrection" or gave "aid or comfort" to one.

The committee on Wednesday also began releasing transcripts from the months of testimony gathered, starting with 34 witnesses' interviews. Those witnesses included Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Nick Fuentes, Alex Jones, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Arizona Republican Party chairwoman Kelli Ward. In addition to recommending charges against Trump, the committee also recommended charges against Eastman, a law professor who proposed having Vice President Mike Pence refuse to count the electoral ballots of certain states that had voted for Joe Biden.

The transcripts confirmed many of the witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, including to questions about biographical details. Stone, for example, asserted his Fifth Amendment rights when asked where he resides and his age.

Lawyers for Clark, a former Justice Department official who the committee said "stands out as a participant" in an alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States, responded to the report with a statement Thursday night attacking the committee. They called it a "political and public-relations bust" and said, "This is why, on its way out the door, the Committee is desperately trying to make a splash with criminal referrals it was obvious from the very start its members were going to make in an effort to try to destroy their conservative political opponents."

On Thursday, the panel made public two transcripts from September interviews with Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Hutchison testified before the committee in an explosive public hearing in late June, during which she discussed Trump's repeated demands to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and an interaction she learned of between the former president and the head of his security detail in a presidential vehicle after his speech on the Ellipse, which involved Trump allegedly lunging toward him when he was told he could not go to the Capitol.

Later Thursday, the committee release the transcripts of interviews with former Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs; Capitol rioter Stephen Ayres (Part 1, Part 2); former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former Justice Department official Ken Klukowski (June 10, 2022), who was an aide to another Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark; and former special assistant to the president Sarah Matthew.

The committee published introductory materials to the report earlier this week, which included the committee's criminal referrals to the Justice Department for possible prosecution and 17 key findings from its investigation.

The panel recommended the Justice Department pursue at least four criminal charges against former President Donald Trump related to his alleged efforts to thwart the transfer of presidential power: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and incitement, rebellion or insurrection.

During the course of its probe, the select committee held 10 public hearings, conducted interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses and collected more than 1 million pages of material. It issued subpoenas to Trump and some of his closest allies, though ultimately did not speak with the former president or former Vice President Mike Pence.

The committee's hearings, the bulk of which were held over the summer, focused on what investigators said was a multi-part plan by Trump and his allies to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election and keep the former president in office. The pressure campaign involved Pence, state lawmakers, election officials and the Justice Department, and culminated in the Jan. 6 attack, during which a mob of Trump's supporters breached the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from re-affirming President Biden's electoral win, the panel alleged.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and a member of the committee, told "CBS Mornings" on Wednesday that the decision to refer Trump for possible criminal charges was a "somber decision to make, and not one we made lightly."

"We believe that with respect to inciting an insurrection and conspiracy to defraud and obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to lie ... that Donald Trump committed all of these offenses," Schiff said. "And as the Congress itself was the victim of some of them, our democracy, all of them, that we had an obligation to report what we knew to the Justice Department."

Trump, who has launched a 2024 presidential bid, has maintained he did nothing wrong on Jan. 6, and has repeatedly called the committee's investigation a "witch hunt." He called the criminal referrals "Fake charges made by the highly partisan Unselect Committee of January 6th" in response to the release of the introductory materials earlier this week.