It’s time for the Justice Department to decide if former President Donald Trump and his key allies should face legal consequences for their much-scrutinized efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In the waning days of the 117th Congress, as the House prepares to shift from Democrat to GOP majority control, the high-profile Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol dropped its 845-page final report after 18 months of investigation. The Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol building left several people dead and delivered a jolt to the nation about the depth of political polarization among Americans.
The hefty report makes a voluminous case that Trump and some of his top lieutenants and advisors refused to accept reality and worked hard to overturn the November 2020 election results. The report includes page after page of testimony from Jan. 6 participants about what the report dubs “the Big Lie” — that rampant voter fraud denied Trump his true victory at the polls. (It also ensures that photographic evidence of the Trump campaign’s Nov. 7, 2020 Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference debacle will exist in the annals of Congress for all time.)
“This Report also examines the legal implications of Donald Trump and his co-conspirators’ conduct and includes criminal referrals to the Department of Justice regarding President Trump and certain other individuals,” the executive summary states. “The criminal referrals build upon three relevant rulings issued by a Federal district court and explain in detail how the facts found support further
evaluation by the Department of Justice of specific criminal charges. To assist the public in understanding the nature and importance of this material, this Report also contains sections identifying how the Committee has evaluated the credibility of its witnesses and suggests that the Department
of Justice further examine possible efforts to obstruct our investigation. We also note that more than 30 witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, others invoked Executive Privilege or categorically refused to appear (including Steve Bannon, who has since been convicted of contempt of Congress).”
The Jan. 6 investigation created a number of major TV moments in 2022 as the hearings garnered live coverage from news outlets around the world. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who lost her re-election bid and will be leaving Congress next month, emerged as the conscience of the GOP with her principled stand against all that Trump represents.
“Among the most shameful findings from our hearings was this: President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television. For hours, he would not issue a public statement instructing his supporters to disperse and leave the Capitol, despite urgent pleas from his White House staff and dozens of others to do so,” Cheney wrote in her foreword to the report. “Members of his family, his White House lawyers, virtually all those around him knew that this simple act was critical. For hours, he would not do it. During this time, law enforcement agents were attacked and seriously injured, the Capitol was invaded, the electoral count was halted and the lives of those in the Capitol were put at risk. In addition to being unlawful, as described in this report, this was an utter moral failure—and a clear dereliction of duty. Evidence of this can be seen in the testimony of his WhiteHouse Counsel and several other White House witnesses. No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.”
Cheney served as vice chairman of the committee alongside Mississippi democrat Bennie Thompson. Thompson brought a studied calm, respectful but pointed questioning of witnesses and plain-spoken summations of the two hour-plus hearings that garnered live TV coverage in August and October of this year. Thompson’s role in steering the committee greatly raised his profile as a politician even after representing his home state in the U.S. House since 1993.
“We can never surrender to democracy’s enemies. We can never allow America to be defined by forces of division and hatred,” Thompson wrote in his foreword to the final report. “We can never go backward in the progress we have made through the sacrifice and dedication of true patriots. We can never and will never relent in our pursuit of amore perfect union, with liberty and justice for all Americans.”