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House Jan. 6 panel releases final report on 18-month investigation

The 845-page document includes recommendations for "a good starting point" to protect American democracy

Real and fake electoral certificates are displayed during the final meeting of the House select Jan. 6 committee on Monday.
Real and fake electoral certificates are displayed during the final meeting of the House select Jan. 6 committee on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol released a sprawling final report late Thursday, with new details about the broader effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and policy recommendations for Congress.

The committee released the 845-page report days after it capped its 18-month probe with referrals of former President Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department for their role in spurring the attack. Framed as a narrative and dotted with extensive endnotes, the report walks through the aftermath of the election leading up to the unprecedented assault on America’s transfer of power.

Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., placed blame at Trump’s feet in the foreword to the report, and said the committee included a set of recommendations that the panel “believes is a good starting point” to protect American democracy from another attack.

“Donald Trump summoned that mob to Washington, DC. Afterward, he sent them to the Capitol to try to prevent my colleagues and me from doing our Constitutional duty to certify the election. They put our very democracy to the test,” Thompson wrote.

More details

Much of the information across the eight chapters of the report has already been detailed in the 10 public hearings the panel held. However, the report also contains new details about Trump’s effort to overturn the election, such as communications with congressional allies such as Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich.

Trump engaged in a broad strategy both before and after the election to tilt the outcome in his direction, regardless of the actual vote outcome, according to the report. In the months after the election, the report said Trump and his close allies spread the “Big Lie” that fraud had helped President Joe Biden win in key states and attempted to enlist local officials to overturn the results there.

In November, Walberg sent an email to a Trump official saying the president had asked him to reach out to the leadership of Michigan’s legislature about “pushing back on election irregularities and potential fraud.”

“He wanted me to gauge their willingness to talk with him about efforts to bring about transparency and integrity in Michigan’s election and report back to him,” Walberg’s email said.

Walberg reached out to state legislators in Michigan at the president’s request in mid-November, and Trump later invited them to the White House for a meeting in the Oval Office, the report states.

The report also revealed new information about the breach of the Capitol that day, such as members of far-right groups who brought firearms to the Capitol grounds.

Recommendations

The report makes 11 policy recommendations that Thompson wrote “will help strengthen the guardrails of our democracy,” including steps that Congress could take. However, the committee released its report hours before House members will finish for the year and after the Senate has already left, which leaves the proposed policies to a Republican House.

Congress is already on a path to do the first recommendation — legislation to overhaul the Electoral Count Act — since it was added to the sprawling fiscal 2023 omnibus spending bill that is racing to passage this week.

That legislation would clarify that the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is clerical and raise the threshold for the number of senators and representatives needed to object to state-certified electoral ballots.

The committee also recommends Congress designate the joint session to count electoral votes on Jan. 6 as a security event that requires specific security measures and significant advanced planning and preparation, as is done for the inaugural and State of the Union.

Other recommendations include legislation that would allow the House to better enforce its subpoenas in federal court; more rigorous oversight of the Capitol Police and full funding for critical security measures; and evaluate the potential risks to future elections of a president using the Insurrection Act to deploy the military in the United States for law enforcement.

Some of those recommendations may face tough headwinds in the new Congress, where Republicans are set to take over the House.

Separate from the criminal referrals, the panel on Monday recommended the House Ethics Committee investigate four members for defying committee subpoenas for their testimony: House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Reps. Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.

Jordan and four other Republicans published their own report on the attack Wednesday, which focused on security failures in advance of Jan. 6 and inadequate preparation of the Capitol Police.

That report also had an overlapping recommendation with the bipartisan panel: more oversight of the Capitol Police Board.

Thompson and other members of the panel have promised to air thousands of documents from their investigation, including information about potential tampering with committee witnesses. Since Monday, the committee has released more than 1,000 pages of documents including more than three dozen transcripts of interviews with witnesses.

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