What The Jan. 6 Committee Has Accomplished So Far

The Capitol riot was just the tip of the iceberg of an attempt to overthrow American democracy ― and that's according to Donald Trump's own advisers.
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WASHINGTON ― It was obvious on Jan. 6, 2021, that President Donald Trump had incited a riot at the U.S. Capitol.

It’s become clearer since then that the riot was part of a larger effort to overthrow the 2020 presidential election, that Trump pulled every lever available to him, and that he had loyalists throughout the government willing to do his dirty work ― just not enough of them.

Most of Trump’s schemes initially came to light through news stories, but the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has woven the many threads into a single narrative that’s better than the sum of its parts.

That’s because the committee has told the story almost exclusively through testimony from Republicans and Trump loyalists, who gave firsthand accounts and often spoke against their personal interests.

Former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone likened the testimony to footage from his body camera as the mob tried to kill him that day.

“You don’t have to believe me. You don’t have to listen to my accounting of that day. But you can watch it,” Fanone told HuffPost before Thursday’s committee meeting.

“You can see what happened to me just like you can listen to Trump’s own people [about] what he did,” Fanone said, “the lies he was peddling, the fact that 2020 was a free and fair election, and saying anything different is a lie.”

The committee has emphasized that Trump lied when he repeatedly said the 2020 election was stolen from him. Thursday’s hearing replayed video testimony from several top advisers ― including former Attorney General William Barr, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and former Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia ― all saying they had told the president he lost fair and square.

“I told him my personal viewpoint was that the electoral college had met, which is the system that our country is set under to elect a president and vice president, and I believed at that point that the means for him to pursue litigation was probably closed,” former deputy press secretary Judd Deere said.

As committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) summed up, Trump knew the truth.

“He heard what all his experts and senior staff were telling him,” Kinzinger said Thursday. “He knew he had lost the election but he made the deliberate choice to ignore the courts, to ignore the Justice Department, to ignore his campaign leadership, to ignore senior advisers and to pursue a completely unlawful effort to overturn the election.”

Trump’s intent was plain, Kinzinger said: “Ignore the rule of law and stay in power.”

The president’s scheme to remain in office stretched from state legislatures to the top of the Justice Department. Trump ousted Barr in December 2020 for refusing to back his claims of widespread election fraud and replaced him with deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen. When Rosen wouldn’t go along with Trump’s plans, he tried to appoint someone who would: an assistant attorney general in the department’s environmental division named Jeffrey Clark.

Clark’s most important qualification, in Trump’s eyes, was that he drafted a letter to state legislatures falsely indicating the department found evidence of voting fraud. If sent, the letter would have laid a pretext for state lawmakers to try to undo Biden’s victory.

The committee revealed that in January 2021, the White House had already begun referring to Clark as “acting attorney general” in its call logs.

Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general, told the House's Jan. 6 select committee about former President Donald Trump's efforts to elevate an ally to head the Justice Department.
Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general, told the House's Jan. 6 select committee about former President Donald Trump's efforts to elevate an ally to head the Justice Department.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

During a committee hearing in June, several former officials described a contentious White House meeting with Trump and Clark on Jan. 3 where they explained that his plan to appoint Clark and blow up the election would only backfire.

“[Clark has] never been a criminal attorney. He’s never conducted a criminal investigation in his life. He’s never been in front of a jury, much less a trial jury,” Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general at the time, recalled saying at the meeting during live testimony before the select committee in June.

“And [Clark] kind of retorted by saying, ‘Well, I’ve done a lot of very complicated appeals in civil litigation, environmental litigation, and things like that,’ And I said, ‘That’s right. You’re an environmental lawyer, how about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill,’” Donoghue continued.

In video testimony, former Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann recalled saying Clark’s proposal was nuts: “The best I can tell is the only thing you know about environmental and elections challenges is they both start with E. And based on your answers tonight, I’m not even certain you know that.”

Trump ultimately backed down from appointing Clark after a threat of mass resignations from Donoghue and other senior Justice Department officials. Clark, for his part, sat for an interview with the committee but refused to answer most questions.

One thing the committee hasn’t firmly established is how well the White House understood in advance the potential for mass violence on Jan. 6 and whether anyone close to Trump helped coordinate the attack. (The panel did devote one hearing to the systemic harassment and abuse that befell anyone Trump thought got in his way, whether they were poll workers or high-ranking GOP state officials.)

Thursday’s hearing aired newly uncovered tips warning the Secret Service that protesters could “start marching into the chambers” of the Capitol and that the Proud Boys street gang was planning for violence. The committee also aired a documentary filmmaker’s footage of Roger Stone, an informal Trump adviser, saying “fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence” the day before the election. As committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) noted, Stone had been in touch with both the Proud Boys and with the Trump administration in the weeks and days before the insurrection.

The committee’s most explosive witness was former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. During live testimony in June, Hutchinson said Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani mentioned days in advance of Jan. 6 that there were plans to go to the Capitol. She said when she asked chief of staff Mark Meadows about those plans, he said, “Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”

During his event near the White House that day, Hutchinson testified that she heard Trump complaining that the Secret Service was overly concerned that some of his supporters had weapons.

“I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson.

The panel will eventually compile a final report with legislative recommendations and may make criminal referrals to the Justice Department, though neither of those will necessarily result in action by prosecutors or lawmakers.

So far, however, the committee helped prevent Trump and his allies from burying the insurrection in the public’s memory as just another riot.

On Thursday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee’s vice chair, noted that Stone, Meadows and other close confidants of the former president hadn’t testified, but she said she hoped the Justice Department would find out what they are hiding as part of its various criminal investigations into the attack.

The committee then approved a subpoena for Trump himself to testify.

“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion,” Cheney said. “And every American is entitled to those answers.”

Trump responded to the subpoena with a long letter that didn’t say whether he’d agree to an interview.

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