The House select committee investigating the deadly insurgency at the US Capitol has sought to demonstrate that Donald Trump was at the center of a multi-layered conspiracy to seize a second term in office, accusing him of having “summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack” during its landmark summer of hearings.
The president then let the firestorm he started burn for 187 minutes on January 6, the panel argued in a riveting capstone presentation on Thursday.
The panel argued in its final midsummer hearing, one of the most dramatic of the series of eight, that Trump betrayed his oath of office and was negligent in his duty by refusing to condemn the violence as rioters carrying poles, bear spray, and Trump campaign banners led a bloody assault on the US Capitol.
The primetime session recounted the siege of the Capitol in harrowing, minute-by-minute detail, while also laying out the actions Trump did – but mostly deliberately did not – take during those agonizing hours when “lives and our democracy hung in the balance,” as Congresswoman Elaine Luria, a Democrat from Virginia and a member of the committee, put it on Thursday.
During the chaos at the Capitol, Trump was sitting in the White House, watching it all on Fox News. Even after 24 hours, Trump refused to declare the election over.
Trump’s resignation as president on January 6 was a “stain on our history,” said Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a committee member.
But, were his actions unlawful? It’s the central question of the committee’s year-long investigation.
The panel has sought to lay out the case that Trump orchestrated a multilayered plot to seize another term in office despite being told repeatedly and unequivocally that his myth of a stolen election was false.
Using hundreds of thousands of documents and hundreds of interviews, the committee demonstrated that Trump became increasingly desperate in his attempt to overturn the results of an election that his own attorney general deemed free and fair.
The panel attempted to provide a complete public accounting of the events of January 6 for the American people and the historical record.
Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, said the committee will spend August “pursuing and merging information” that is still coming in before reconvening for more hearings in September.
While the committee originally planned to release a final report on their investigation in September, lawmakers now say they will only release a preliminary report by then, followed by a full report by the end of the year. The committee must issue a full report before disbanding, which is scheduled to happen with the start of the new Congress in early January.
The committee’s report is already being treated in the same way that major investigations such as Watergate and 9/11 have. Several publishers, including Hachette and MacMillan, will release books based on the committee’s findings in September.
However, the committee has already presented evidence that lawmakers and aides believe could be used to build a case against the former president. Among the possible charges discussed are conspiracy to defraud the American people and obstructing a congressional official proceeding. The committee has also raised the possibility of witness tampering, revealing at its most recent hearing that Trump attempted to contact a cooperating witness.
According to a federal judge, Trump “likely” committed federal crimes in his efforts to delay or disrupt the congressional count of electoral college votes on January 6.
However, legal experts are divided on whether the evidence presented during the hearings is sufficient to charge Trump. The Justice Department has never prosecuted a former president. And in this era of polarization, there are risks that both charging Trump – or declining to do so – could further undermine Americans faith in their system of justice.