House select committee investigates events of Jan. 6 insurrection

The+Capitol+is+the+crown+jewel+of+American+democracy

Creative Commons Unsplash photo by Harold Mendoza

On January 6th, a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol attempting to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. With the recent one year anniversary, the January 6th select committee is unearthing more about what happened on that infamous day.

Jasmine Z. Allison, Social Media and Podcast Editor

“When an angry violent mob staged an insurrection on Jan. 6 and desecrated our Capitol — the temple of our democracy — it was not just an attack on the building, it was an attack on our Republic itself,” Senator Amy Klobuchar stated on Jan. 6. The day marked the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, one of the darkest days in American history. And now, with the work of the Jan. 6 select committee, Americans are learning more and more about what happened on that infamous day.

Jan. 6, 2021

Jan. 6, 2021 marks the day when armed protesters forcibly stormed into the U.S. Capitol with the intent of stopping the certification of the 2020 election by any means possible.

Per usual, a joint session of Congress was held to formally certify the 2020 presidential election and count the electoral college votes. However, they were interrupted when an angry mob broke into the Capitol building and then- Vice President Mike Pence, representatives, senators and their staff were forced to hid. An ill-prepared security force attempted to contain them but the mob broke through windows and flooded the building. The building was not cleared until later that evening and Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Congress back into session to finish certifying the election.

Responses to Jan. 6, 2021

Matt Kiedrowski, AP U.S. history teacher, felt “shock then disbelief” when he watched the insurrection take place. As rioters broke into the Capitol building, the crown jewel of American democracy, many doubted whether there would even be a democracy left.

Americans were not just thinking of what other Americans would think of the insurrection. Many were thinking about what kind of reaction the world would have: the self-proclaimed beacon of democracy was almost overthrown by its own people.

“I think it kind of humiliated the United States on a global scale,” junior Maurice Kolondy explained. “It make us look very weak. If you’re looking at what other countries think of it, it made us look like we were able to be trampled by a group of people. And some of them were wearing cowboy hats and Viking hats and face paint so that was a bit concerning for our global perception but I guess what people around the world saw was a sign of a troubled country. A country that allows a group of regular citizens to trample the democratic process.”

Despite an overwhelming amount picture and video evidence, and firsthand testimonies, some have claimed that it was actually ANTIFA and the deep state who staged the insurrection. Trump and some of his allies have claimed that the real crime was actually the 2020 election.

In his Jan. 6 anniversary statement, Trump stated, “Why is it that the Unselect Committee of totally partisan political hacks, whose judgment has long ago been made, not discussing the rigged Presidential Election of 2020?”

Despite his repeated claim that the 2020 presidential election was full of widespread voter fraud and thus illegitimate, there was no widespread fraud. Then- Attorney General Bill Barr and the Department of Justice said there was no fraud, the Department of Homeland Security and Cyber Security and Infrastructure said there was no fraud and 60 out of 61 court cases said there was no voter fraud. So Trump’s claim of a rigged election is baseless and is what led the mob to attack the Capitol in the first place. They believed that they were rightfully stopping the certification of an illegitimate election.

Jan. 6 Select Committee

A few months later, a proposal to create a bicameral commission, similar to that of the 9/11 commission, was brought to the senate by Democrats to investigate the causes behind Jan. 6th. The proposal failed to overcome the filibuster in the Senate and Pelosi resolved to create a House select committee in response. The committee looks into Jan. 6 funding, individual’s motivations, organizational coalitions and Trump’s actions. By the end of 2021, the committee had heard from over 300 witness and had obtained 35,000 documents from individuals and the National Archives.

“I think it’s been pretty solid [the Jan. 6 committee’s work],” Kiedrowski said. “It’s still seemingly under the radar. I would hope that they will uncover some stuff that would prevent the left from saying ‘I told you so’ and allow the right to say ‘there is some accountability from certain venues.'”

Significant Findings

The committee’s work is vitally important to understanding exactly what happened behind the scenes. However, their progress has been painfully slow. Most of it is thanks to Trump and his allies not cooperating with the committee. Trump and his allies tried very hard to legally withhold any White House documents from the committee. He and his ex-White House staff claimed executive privilege which was struck down by the Supreme Court who ruled that their desire for confidentiality outweighed the need to investigate the events of Jan. 6. Several have also resisted cooperating with the committee resulting in hundreds of subpoenas being issued.

“I would have preferred to see something sooner, but at the same time, I know that’s not always possible and that’s unrealistic,” Kolondy said. “It’s nearly impossible to get any of these very high power people to really say anything on themselves because they’ve got higher power and they have lawyers. I would like it to be a lot faster but also, it’s nearly impossible for it to be faster. We’ve found a lot of interesting things, things that I wouldn’t have thought were going to occur before, but things that definitely make sense. It’s like finding out your family’s drama were all the pieces go together.”

Shock then disbelief.”

— Matthew Kiedrowski

Mark Meadows, former White House Chief of Staff, turned over thousands of emails and text messages, some of which may prove how certain people understood the gravity of Jan. 6. Multiple Republican congress members, FOX News hosts and Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., urgently texted Meadows if the president was going to do anything to stop the insurrection. This may be used as evidence that the president did indeed have the power to stop the insurrectionists.

One of the most damning pieces of information the committee received was a PowerPoint presentation obtained from Phil Waldron, a Trump campaign associate. It describes a strategy to overturn the election results by which Trump would declare a national emergency to delay the Jan. 6th electoral certification, then invalidate all ballots cast by machine and order the military to seize and recount all paper ballots. It was also found that not only Waldron was involved, but also National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and other military-intelligence veterans were involved.

Criminal Charges

For far, 725 defendants have been arrested in all 50 states and District of Columbia. However, those sentenced as of Jan. 2022 have mainly been only sentenced with misdemeanors and felonies are surprisingly rare. Also, among those who have been sentenced, only a few have received prison time with the mean prison time served being 45 days.

While those are significant criminal charges, many think that those sentences are too light for the crime they took part in.

“People can get arrested, then thrown into jail for multiple years until they are cleared because they are innocent,” junior Evan Olds said. “Then there’s obviously people storming the Capitol and they just get away easily.”

More significant charges came recently when 11 members of the far-right extremist group, the Oath Keepers, were charged with seditious conspiracy. The authorities have stated that the Oath Keepers and others worked before Jan. 6th as if they were going to war and during the siege, seemed coordinated in their formations.

Does Trump or anybody close to him deserve criminal charges?

Something that has been floating around many people’s minds is the idea that Trump deserves criminal charges for his participation in Jan. 6.

“I can’t say that I know enough about the legality of it to say that he should face criminal charges,” Kiedrowski said. “I don’t know if I can comment on that in particular.”

While the legality of Trump’s case is complicated, it is clear to many that he and other speakers riled up the crowd at the “March to Save America” rally that was held the on January 6. While their words may not have come off as inciting, their words most certainly had some sort of impact.

In his speech, Trump said, “We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”, and “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, said in his speech, “Let’s have trial by combat!”

Senator Mo Brooks (R-AL) appeared onstage wearing body armor while giving his speech and said, “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”

Many argue that Trump and others could be charged with “incitement of an insurrection” based on those statements. Such a charge is liable to up to 10 years in prison plus hefty fines and would made Trump or any other governmental officials charged incapable of holding public office ever again.

Similarly, the committee obtained firsthand testimony that Trump reportedly sat in the Oval office, watched the insurrection happen on live TV for two hours, before issuing any sort of statement. Even in his social media statements, Trump still repeated his claims of election fraud and did not outright denounce the mob.

Trump’s tweet at 20:13:26: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

Trump’s tweet at 23:01:04: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice chair of the committee, had called Trump’s lack of initial action “supreme dereliction of duty”. Dereliction of duty is a person’s purposeful or accidental failure to perform an obligation without a valid excuse, especially an obligation attached to his or her job. This sort of charge is not necessarily criminal but would have ramifications for Trump if he ever ran for a public office again in the future.

Trump is currently facing multiple lawsuits and investigations, both federal and state. Some are related to his pre-presidential business dealings and others are related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The state of New York is looking into whether Trump got loans or tax breaks by lying about the value of his assets. Georgia is investigating his interference regarding the state’s administration of the 2020 election, most noteably his phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where Trump asked Raffensperger to produce 11,780 votes.

Trump has repeatedly proven that he is unfit to serve as the Commander in Chief of the United States. He has spread lies about a free and fair election and because of that lie, riled up a crowd into attacking the crown jewel of American democracy, the Capitol building. Even after the insurrection, Trump has denied that it even happened and refuses to cooperate with the January 6 select committee. Trump should be prosecuted for his role in the insurrection and should he be found guilty, he will be unable to run for president in 2024 which he most surely will try to do. Regardless of one’s position on the political affiliation, it should be clear that Trump’s lies and anti-democratic ideas should never again step foot into the White House.