Jan. 6 committee wraps up with a summary hearing designed for an attention-deficit era
The Jan. 6 committee’s final hearing Monday represented a concise summary of the case against former President Donald Trump, designed for a digital age dominated by short attention spans.
In just over an hour, the committee breezed through its case, seeking to show the public why it is recommending that the Justice Department take the historic step of bringing criminal charges against a former president.
Most of the evidence was compiled from the previous nine hearings. But there were a few new details. Hope Hicks, a longtime close adviser to Trump, added some damning testimony about Trump’s refusal to tell his supporters to be peaceful in the days leading up to the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. And new references to potential witness tampering were made.
But by condensing their findings down to a brief and fast-moving presentation, the committee members aimed to make them as easily digestible as possible. It was an implicit acknowledgment that most Americans are unlikely to read their written report, but may watch an hourlong video.
The committee actually made its case in an even shorter format within the hour, presenting a 12-minute video at the beginning that raced through key findings, supported by snippets of testimony from witnesses and former Trump aides and advisers.
The six major headings each got roughly two minutes: “Trump knew he lost,” “Trump pressured state officials to overturn the election,” “Trump pressured the Department of Justice to overturn the election,” “Trump pressured Vice President Pence to overturn the election,” “Trump summoned the mob” and “187 minutes: Dereliction of duty.”
Almost every single person whose testimony to the committee was featured in the video was either an adviser to Trump, a member of his administration at the end of his presidency or a member of his family. It was their words that the committee used to make the case.
After the video concluded, each committee member spoke for a few minutes, unpacking each of the story’s elements with a bit more detail.
It was a way of taking the 18-month investigation and boiling it down to a series of smaller and briefer presentations, like a group of Russian nesting dolls. The biggest result is still to come: a sprawling report expected to be several hundred pages.
The committee released a summary of the written report on Monday that it called “introductory material,” which ran to 154 pages.
In all, the committee interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses since it began its work in July 2021, and held 10 public hearings. It has long had a self-imposed deadline to finish its work by the end of this year, anticipating that Republicans would win control of the House of Representatives this fall and seek to dismantle the probe.
The committee’s work focused on Trump’s role in fomenting the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, and concluded that he was at the center of a plot to overturn the election. The panel did not delve as deeply into why law enforcement and intelligence agencies failed to coordinate to better protect the Capitol, and why there was a delay in moving National Guard troops and law enforcement to the Capitol to put down the riot.
Yahoo News reported last week that at the Department of Homeland Security, junior analysts attempted to raise alarms inside the federal government about the growing threat of violence for more than two weeks leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, to no avail.
But the report issued on Monday did address questions around the failure to anticipate the insurrection, and the slow response to it from law enforcement and military personnel.
The committee’s assessment of government intelligence leading up to Jan. 6 was mixed. “The intelligence community and law enforcement agencies did successfully detect the planning for potential violence on January 6th, including planning specifically by the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper militia groups who ultimately led the attack on the Capitol. As January 6th approached, the intelligence specifically identified the potential for violence at the U.S. Capitol. This intelligence was shared within the executive branch, including with the Secret Service and the President’s National Security Council,” the report said.
But, it added, “neither the intelligence community nor law enforcement obtained intelligence in advance of January 6th on the full extent of the ongoing planning by President Trump, John Eastman, Rudolph Giuliani and their associates to overturn the certified election results.”
The report said intelligence and law enforcement did not “anticipate the provocation” that Trump would make in his speech that day, in his instructions to march to the Capitol, in his statement that he would accompany the marchers there and in his tweet attacking Vice President Mike Pence as the insurrectionists became more violent.
“Nor did law enforcement anticipate that President Trump would refuse to direct his supporters to leave the Capitol once violence began. No intelligence community advance analysis predicted exactly how President Trump would behave; no such analysis recognized the full scale and extent of the threat to the Capitol on January 6th,” the report said.
The committee also said it “found no evidence that the Department of Defense intentionally delayed deployment of the National Guard.” The commander of the D.C. National Guard told a Senate committee in March 2021 that the Pentagon waited three hours to approve his movement to the Capitol with a regiment of troops as the riot unfolded.
The committee report noted that “some at the [Defense] Department had genuine concerns, counseling caution, that President Trump might give an illegal order to use the military in support of his efforts to overturn the election.”
Trump himself, rather than seeking to stop his supporters from waging their violent assault on police officers outside and inside the Capitol, egged them on, the report stated.
“Knowing that a violent attack on the Capitol was underway and knowing that his words would incite further violence, Donald Trump purposely sent a social media message publicly condemning Vice President Pence at 2:24 p.m. on January 6th,” the report said. “Knowing that violence was underway at the Capitol, and despite his duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed, Donald Trump refused repeated requests over a multiple hour period that he instruct his violent supporters to disperse and leave the Capitol, and instead watched the violent attack unfold on television.”
“President Trump had authority and responsibility to direct deployment of the National Guard in the District of Columbia, but never gave any order to deploy the National Guard on January 6th or on any other day. Nor did he instruct any Federal law enforcement agency to assist,” the report also said.
Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney said in her opening remarks that Trump’s choice to sit and watch the insurrection unfold on TV, tweeting incendiary attacks on Pence and doing nothing to stop the assault on American democracy, was “among the most shameful” aspects of his conduct.
“During this time, law enforcement agents were attacked and seriously injured, the Capitol was invaded, the electoral count was halted, and the lives of those in the Capitol were put at risk. In addition to being unlawful, as described in our report, this was an utter moral failure — and a clear dereliction of duty,” said Cheney, who lost her seat in Congress likely because Republican voters in Wyoming have been so angered by her determination to confront Trump.
“Evidence of this can be seen in the testimony of President Trump’s own White House counsel and several other White House witnesses,” she said. “No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.”