Some will try to dismiss its value – and some already have.
The most notable grumble came, with little surprise, from the man about whom the entire January 6 report and its supporting investigation is about: Donald J Trump.
“The FBI used Twitter and Facebook to bludgeon the 2020 Election to Biden. Nothing Negative could be said about him, especially as it related to Hunter’s Laptop From Hell, and ONLY Negative could be said about me,” he wrote in one of several posts on Truth Social. “They were illegally after “Trump” at a level of ferocity, hate and yes, desperation, that has never been seen in our Country before.”
There will be many of Trump’s supporters who will agree with him. Some of those might in passing take note of the report’s publication and move on. Others will ignore it entirely, persuaded by Trump that it is is skewed and biased — just as they continue to believe, falsely, that the 2020 election was rigged.
For others, for those already convinced of Trump’s guilt – and especially those with an open mind – the January 6 committee’s report will be something worth taking the time to sit down and read. At the very least, those people will want to acquaint themselves with its main findings.
Curiously, for even those of us who have followed with a close eye and attentive ear the committee’s work, its many hearings and multiple witnesses, the report’s arrival is both familiar and utterly shocking.
Yes, we knew the former president was involved in a wilder-than-fantasy effort to hold on to power. We knew that effort involved bullying election officials to “find” votes that did not exist; a series of lawsuits to federal courts (that were summarily dismissed); and a scheme hatched by a little-known law professor, John Eastman, to use an obtuse reading of the US Constitution for pro-Trump states to send their own electors to DC, and for the vice president to oversee such a process. If only he had the stomach to do so.
We knew, too, the most striking and violent manifestation of this came on January 6 itself, when Trump addressed supporters near the White House, fired them up with words about the need to “fight like hell”, and then dispatched them to do his battle.
We knew all of that. And yet to read the 814-page report, or its executive summary, with 11 recommendations on how to “bolster” the nation’s institutions, is still a shock.
“The central cause of January 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed,” the report says. “None of the events of January 6 would have happened without him.”
One supremely powerful aspect of the report — something that was echoed in the 10 hearings themselves — is that the words we hear are not those of Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi, or any other of figures that Republicans could easily dismiss as bias. Rather, it is made up of people from Trump’s own circle: his own lawyers, his own Secret Service agents. It also allows us to hear the voices of Trump’s supporters, people so believing of the lies he made that they would travel to Washington DC and help storm the US Capitol.
Mike Pence says Jan 6 charges would be ‘terribly divisive’
One of those is Graydon Young, who testified against Stewart Rhodes and other members of the Oath Keepers militia group. Young, 54, from Florida, was also a member of the militia and entered the Capitol after having gotten “really ginned up” watching claims about the “stolen election” on Facebook.
“Unfortunately for me, at the time, it meant I felt it as like a Bastille-type moment in history, where in the French Revolution it was that big turning-point moment,” Young, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, told the committee. “It was exhilarating. I felt like I was going to be an important or an integral part of what was happening.”
Another striking aspect of the report is that it lays out just how many others were, for several weeks, involved to a lesser or greater extent in supporting the effort to overturn the 2020 election. This includes the so-called “grown-ups” in the room, the likes of Mark Meadows and Mike Pence. It is sobering to consider that even after the violence of January 6, 147 Republicans — including Ted Cruz and Kevin McCarthy — went on to vote to reject Biden’s win. It is a jolt to think that two years after that day of violence and chaos, Trump remains the favorite of Republicans to be the party’s next presidential candidate.
The committee makes four criminal referrals for Trump, asking that its findings be investigated alongside the probe already being conducted by Department of Justice-appointed special prosector, Jack Smith. That has never happened before.
In ordinary times, it would be impossibly hard for the DoJ to bring charges against a former president, especially one who is a candidate seeking to retake the White House. Most would rapidly dismiss any undertaking as a political attack. Yet, given we have entered such unprecedented times, such a move no longer seems impossible.
It is probably a Democratic fantasy too far that Trump will end up reading this report in his prison cell. On the other hand, if he does, there is a lot to read.