Donald Trump knowingly led a dangerous conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and should be held criminally responsible for the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. That was the damning final word of a watershed congressional investigation that wrapped up its work yesterday.
Astonishing as it is, the conclusion may have been somewhat expected, particularly for Americans who watched former Trump aides and others testify at explosive hearings this past summer. But the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack offered something definitive at a time when Trump and his allies continue to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and its aftermath. It delivered an exhaustive account, built on Trump’s own words and testimony by his advisers, of just how thoroughly a sitting president trampled over American democracy.
“The central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed,” the committee wrote in a lengthy summary of its findings, ahead of the release of a final report later this week. “None of the events of Jan. 6 would have happened without him.”
The committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, was so convinced of Trump’s culpability that it took an unprecedented step at its final meeting yesterday: Its members voted to refer their findings to the Justice Department and urge officials there to criminally prosecute Trump and several associates.
The case against Trump
Nearly 18 months ago, when the House first created a special committee to investigate Jan. 6, lawmakers gave the panel a broad mandate to look at all of the attack’s “facts, circumstances, and causes.” Yet from the outset, there was little doubt about its most important task: determining Trump’s level of responsibility.
To find out, investigators interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and reviewed text messages, memos and other documents from within Trump’s orbit. Nearly all of the committee’s major findings centered on Trump and the “multipart conspiracy” that it said he led. Among their chief discoveries:
Beginning on election night, Trump “purposely disseminated false allegations of fraud” in an effort to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.
Despite the fact that aides were telling him he had lost and was likely violating the law, Trump pressured state elections officials, the Justice Department and Vice President Mike Pence to make false statements, change election results or otherwise aid his efforts.
Trump “verified false information” to courts and oversaw an attempt to assemble and submit to Congress false election results in key states.
After urging thousands of supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and “take back” their country, Trump watched the bloody siege unfold on television. For hours, he refused requests to ask his supporters to stand down and did not ask the National Guard to intervene.
The committee used that evidence as its basis to accuse Trump of committing federal crimes, including inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of an act of Congress. (My colleague Alan Feuer explained key committee findings here.)
In a social media post before the committee voted, Trump dismissed it as “highly partisan.”
The committee’s findings have already damaged Trump politically. But a pressing question remains: Will Trump face legal repercussions beyond a sternly worded congressional report?
The answer lies with prosecutors. Justice Department prosecutors, in particular, have been investigating many of the same issues as the congressional committee. Their inquiry is now led by a special counsel, whose team recently issued subpoenas to officials in states where Trump tried to reverse electoral results.
Criminal referrals, like the ones the Jan. 6 committee approved, are not legally binding. The Justice Department could simply drop the committee’s recommendation in the wastebasket and move on. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill are betting on a different outcome: that by publicly delineating evidence and legal arguments against Trump, they will increase public pressure on prosecutors to act.
Advice from Wirecutter: These robes and candles will help you stay cozy this winter.
Lives Lived: Drew Griffin’s investigative reporting for CNN on delayed care at Veterans Affairs hospitals prompted the resignation of Barack Obama’s secretary of the department. Griffin died at 60.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Packers stay alive: Green Bay beat the Rams 24-12 last night, putting its chance of making the postseason at 7 percent, according to The Athletic’s projections.
“College football is a business”: Deion Sanders, Colorado’s new coach, has left 13 recruits searching for a new home.
The Eagles quarterback: Jalen Hurts has a sprained shoulder and may not play again in the regular season.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Beyond the tens of thousands of deaths and displacement of millions, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also dealt a grievous blow to Ukrainian culture. The Times’s Visual Investigations team has been tracking the war’s toll on museums and monuments, theaters and libraries, historic churches and more. In all, the team verified nearly 340 cultural sites that had sustained substantial damage.
Times reporters found that pro-Russian forces had intentionally targeted some of the sites. Long before the invasion began, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, claimed that Ukraine had no culture of its own and called Ukrainian nationhood a fiction.
The investigation explores several damaged or destroyed cultural sites in depth, including a monastery that predates Catherine the Great and a library that bridged Ukraine’s linguistic communities, its books now burned. See the evidence of the destruction.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
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Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter incorrectly said that Kylian Mbappé of France was the first player to score three goals in a World Cup final in over half a century. Carli Lloyd performed the same feat for the U.S. women’s team in 2015.
P.S. Andrea Stevens, a “meticulous, erudite, merciless” former longtime editor for The Times, died last week. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.
Here’s today’s front page.
“The Daily” is about the Jan. 6 committee.
Matthew Cullen, Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Tom Wright-Piersanti contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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