The January 6th Report (2022) is the official Congressional report into the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The report confirms that Donald Trump, the outgoing president, was the root cause of the attack on the Capitol, and the committee recommended that he broke numerous laws in the process and should be brought to justice.
Discover what happened in Washington on January 6, 2021, according to the official committee.
On January 6, 2021, a violent group of protesters stormed the United States Capitol in an effort to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
They did so with the encouragement of the sitting president, Donald Trump.
Those shocking events were so serious that the US Congress – which of course was the target of the attack – decided it needed to conduct a full forensic inquiry into what happened. So it set up the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.
Nine members of the House of Representatives made up the committee, chaired by Democrat Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, with Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming as vice chair.
Because of the fractious nature of party politics at the time, there was much debate about who should sit on the committee, with many exchanges between Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy. The initial plan was to split it evenly between Republicans and Democrats, but this proved impossible to realize.
In the end, seven members were Democrats, and two Republicans – the only two who voted for the committee to be established in the first place.
The committee was conscious of possible accusations of bias and ensured that a considerable majority of its witnesses were Republicans.
The report was published in December 2022. It’s a quietly furious document that meticulously recounts the events leading up to and culminating in the attack on the Capitol, frequently using the testimony of its witnesses directly.
The January 6 Report is backed up by a huge body of evidence. In this summary, we’ll talk you through its key findings, but if you’d like to dive in deeper, you can find the full document online.
January 6, 2021, was a uniquely shameful day in US history which warranted a comprehensive congressional investigation.
To get the full picture, we need to go back a couple months.
On November 3, 2020, millions of Americans went to the polls and cast their vote in one of the most consequential presidential elections in the country’s history.
Millions more – and this is important to remember – had already voted in advance, through absentee and early voting.
As it turned out, the Democratic challenger candidate, Joe Biden, defeated Donald Trump, the Republican who’d won in 2016. Biden won the popular vote by some seven million, and the electoral vote – the one that decides the winner – by a healthy margin of 74.
But Trump refused to accept the result.
The US had always prided itself on the peaceful transfer of power. But suddenly – unprecedentedly – the sitting president was refusing to concede the election.
And he encouraged others to do the same.
Specifically, he encouraged them to come to Washington on January 6 – the day Vice President Mike Pence would certify the election result – and make their feelings known.
So they did. Thousands of Trump supporters, many of them armed, descended on the Capitol. They entered the building, clashed violently with police, and chanted “Hang Mike Pence.”
Trump, meanwhile, sat in the White House and watched events unfold on TV – refusing to call the attack off for several hours. Many members of Congress, not to mention law enforcement, were in direct danger.
The series of events was serious enough to merit a careful, detailed examination by some of the country’s top politicians – so the Special Committee was established.
The committee itself didn’t have the legal power to arrest or charge Trump – that was never on the table. But it did make a series of detailed criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, outlining the crimes it alleged he’d committed.
In the remaining sections, we’ll lead you through the report’s narrative, from the election itself up to the aftermath of the attack – before outlining what the committee recommended should happen next.
Donald Trump knew he’d lost the 2020 election – and his response was to obstruct justice and lie about it.
This story involves a lot of people. But at the center of it is one man, without whom none of this would have happened. The report is very clear on this: the cause of these events was Donald Trump.
So let’s start with the election itself – which, in one respect at least, actually went as predicted. For whatever reason, it’s usually the case that Republican voters tend to vote in person while Democrats are a lot more likely to use other legitimate methods like postal votes. And the results of those votes take longer to be counted.
So in this relatively close presidential election, it was widely anticipated – including by President Trump’s own team – that Trump would initially seem to have a lead but that that lead would lessen as more absentee ballots were counted. The result would seem to get closer – just because of the nature of the vote count.
The president was clearly informed of this. But when it happened, he acted surprised.
In a speech on November 4 – the day after the election, as votes were still being counted – he alleged “a fraud on the American public.” And early the next morning he tweeted “STOP THE COUNT!” – which would have been illegal.
This was only the beginning of a whole host of claims Trump made over the next months about the illegitimacy of the election. He suggested bins full of fraudulent votes for Biden had been counted. He alleged that dead people cast thousands of votes in Georgia. He frequently repeated claims that voting machines made by the company Dominion were rigged.
Not only was all of this unfounded, the president had also been specifically told that each of those claims was false – yet he kept on with them. When he eventually moved away from one conspiracy theory, he simply alighted upon another. Attorney General William Barr likened trying to stop him to a game of Whac-A-Mole.
So stage one was proving the election result was invalid. Trump had failed to do that – but he proceeded to stage two all the same: halting the handover of power.
According to the Constitution, it’s the vice president who officially receives the votes from the electoral college. There is very little legal debate surrounding the VP’s role: they ensure the votes have been counted but may not influence the process at all. They can’t refuse to count certain votes.
Vice President Pence knew and respected this. And Trump was informed – multiple times – there was nothing Pence could do.
But Trump still put pressure on Pence to reject the count. And on January 6 – the day that Pence was to collect and certify the count – he even tweeted it: “All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN.”
Pence refused to play ball. And consequently, according to her staff, Trump’s daughter Ivanka heard her father refer to Pence as “the p-word.”
As the mob descended on the Capitol, the consequences for Pence were almost much, much worse.
Tactics Trump employed included faking election certificates and influencing state legislatures and the Justice Department.
Trump’s big idea wasn’t simply that Pence would overturn the vote count. He and a few members of his team went further: they actually made documents certifying Trump victories in seven states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, that were won by Biden.
In full knowledge that faking electoral slates was illegal, the team prepared the documents, acquired a series of signatures from fake electors, and sent them to places including the National Archives and Mike Pence’s office. Pence, they thought, would simply certify the fake documents, not the real ones, on January 6.
That was far from the only tactic Trump tried out in his efforts to cling to power.
He also applied considerable pressure on officials in various states. He instructed Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, to “find 11,780 votes,” quoting conspiracy theories and using threatening language.
Raffensperger, like other officials directly targeted by Trump, had people outside his house and encroaching on his property. His wife received sexualized threats by phone.
Another Republican who refused to play ball with Trump, Arizona house speaker Rusty Bowers, had his personal details leaked online. Someone even turned up at his house with a weapon.
And Trump also involved himself with the Department of Justice. One official there – Jeffrey Clark – was identified as being particularly useful, despite not being particularly high-ranking. Clark met with the president in late December, engaging in secretive work that he hid from his boss, acting attorney general Jeff Rosen.
Clark eventually drafted a letter to the state legislature of Georgia, stating that the DoJ had “significant concerns” about electoral fraud. This was completely false: no fraud investigations had yielded anything to merit concern.
Rosen refused to let the letter be sent out. Trump’s reaction was to offer Rosen’s job to Clark.
This proved a step too far – Trump was eventually forced to take the offer back, as it would have led to a huge series of resignations. “It’s not going to be worth the breakage,” Trump told Clark.
Trump’s next tactic? Well, that involved breakage too.
Trump summoned a violent mob to march on the Capitol – and delayed calling them off for 187 minutes.
“Be there, will be wild!” – that’s what the president tweeted to his followers in the early hours of December 19, 2020. He kept on after that, too – more than a dozen times.
As the committee discovered, his supporters took this instruction to heart.
Extremist groups including the Proud Boys and Three Percenters took it upon themselves to follow through. It’s been well established, through evidence as well as testimony to the committee and in court, that their aims were to storm the Capitol and keep Trump in power.
“He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!” read one tweet. Other online sources commented that the president “can’t exactly openly tell you to revolt … This is the closest he’ll ever get.”
Hope Hicks, a member of the president’s team, was among those who asked him multiple times to explicitly state that January 6 should remain peaceful. He did not agree to do so.
On the day itself, Trump spoke at a rally at the Ellipse, near the White House. To his aides, he repeated a familiar theme: fury that the crowds assembled weren’t larger. Why not? Because many supporters who’d come were refusing to pass through the magnetometers at the gates – because they were armed.
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide, recalled the president calling for the magnetometers to be taken away. She told the committee: “I overheard the President say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f’ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me.’ ”
After the rally, according to some reports, he became equally incensed that he wasn’t able to personally march up to the Capitol with the protestors. But on this issue at least, he acquiesced, returning to the White House.
His speech finished around 1:10 p.m. By 1:25 p.m., Trump had been informed the attack on the Capitol had started.
“Oh really?” the president said when told. “All right, let’s go see.”
Between then and 4:03 p.m., we don’t know definitively what happened. The White House photographer seems to have been told to stand down and nobody could find the official records of Trump’s calls.
The report refers to this period as the “187 minutes” during which Trump refused to call off the worst riot at the Capitol in centuries.
Everyone, from Ivanka to the Fox News pundit Sean Hannity, realized Trump was the only one who could call the riot off – and they tried to persuade him.
Yet at 2:24 p.m., he sent out another tweet – directly pointing the finger at Pence. Naturally, this made things much worse.
Ivanka eventually had modest success. After negotiating with her, Trump sent out a couple of tweets encouraging people to “Stay peaceful.” He didn’t call for them to go home – so they didn’t. The violence continued.
It wasn’t until 4:17 p.m. – 187 minutes after the rally had ended – that he sent out a video message telling the attackers to go home. They obliged straight away.
Trump left work at 6:27 p.m. His final words to a worker: “Mike Pence let me down.”
The Special Committee couldn’t formally charge Trump with crimes – but they encouraged others to do so.
The committee’s report isn’t simply an account of what happened in the run-up to, and on, January 6. It also considers the causes – or rather, the cause. The report is very clear that Donald Trump himself was the reason the whole episode took place.
Specifically, the report refers the case to the Department of Justice Special Committee, which could formally charge him, as well as the House Ethics Committee.
Among the crimes it believes he committed is Obstruction of an Official Proceeding – referring to his efforts to derail Mike Pence’s electoral vote count by calling a riot. The law requires that the obstruction be for a “corrupt” purpose – which, the committee suggests, is self-evidently the case here, as Trump was trying to alter a presidential election result of which he had been clearly and accurately informed.
Another broken law, the committee recommends, is Conspiracy to Defraud the United States – through Trump’s efforts to prevent Joe Biden from being certified as the election winner.
There’s also Conspiracy to Make a False Statement – most clearly broken, the committee suggests, through putting together and distributing those fake election certificates.
And last but very much not least is the law that forbids inciting, assisting, or aiding and comforting an insurrection. By summoning and stoking up the mob to the extent that he did – and then by encouraging them further an hour after the riot had begun – the committee suggests that Trump clearly broke this law as well.
On January 6, when Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, tried to get the president to ask the rioters to leave, he replied: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Amid a few more possible allegations of criminality – not just involving Trump, but also other members of his team who either conspired with him or refused to cooperate with the committee – these are the central claims that the report makes.
Bennie G. Thompson, the committee chairman, writes in his foreword to the report that voting in a US election is “an act of hope and faith” – it’s done in trust that the process will be fair. The way to make sure this bond isn’t broken is to make sure that anyone who places this under threat faces consequences.
The alternative? Tyranny.
The report was put together by nine members of the House of Representatives, who created a uniquely thorough and forensic account of what happened on that historic day. Their findings confirmed that Donald Trump, the outgoing president, was the root cause of the attack on the Capitol, and the committee suggested that he broke numerous laws in the process. In order to make sure this never happens again, it also recommended, he should be brought to justice.
About the author
Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol
David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker since 1998, began his career at the Washington Post, in 1982. He is the author of several books, including The Bridge, King of the World, Resurrection, and Lenin’s Tomb, for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction and a George Polk Award for excellence in journalism. He became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1992 and has since written more than two hundred pieces for the magazine. In 2015, he debuted as the host of the national radio program and podcast, “The New Yorker Radio Hour,” which airs weekly. Under Remnick’s leadership, The New Yorker has become the country’s most honored magazine, with a hundred and ninety-two National Magazine Award nominations and fifty-three wins. In 2016, it became the first magazine to receive a Pulitzer Prize for its writing, and now has won six, including the gold medal for public service.
Congressman Jamie Raskin is the U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. A former professor of constitutional law at American University Washington College of Law who has also taught at Yale Law School, he has served on the House Oversight, Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committees. He was the lead impeachment manager in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial in the Senate for inciting violent insurrection against the Union which ended in a 57-43 vote in favor of conviction. Congressman Raskin serves on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he served as an Editor of the Harvard Law Review. He has authored several books, including We the Students, which was recently banned in Texas public schools; the Washington Post best-seller Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus the American People; and the New York Times #1 best-seller Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy (2022).