When President Donald Trump’s supporters assaulted the Capitol, it was evident they were trying — with his encouragement — to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
Now, as radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say, we know the rest of the story. Or at least most of it.
That’s because the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation, and its eight carefully staged hearings, left no doubt the former president was directly responsible for initiating, inspiring and failing to stop the most serious domestic assault on American democracy since the Civil War.
Its hearings have provided detailed proof for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s assertion that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for that day’s events. Or, as GOP Rep. Liz Cheney put it, “Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame.”
Here are the 10 most important things about Jan. 6 that the hearings have made clear:
1. Trump always planned to claim fraud, regardless of the specifics, if he was losing to Biden.
He often said before the 2020 election that was the only way he could lose to his Democratic rival. His longtime confidant, Steve Bannon, confirmed that was his pre-election intent.
2. Trump knew that his persistent, undocumented claims of widespread election fraud were false.
That’s because numerous members of his own camp told him so, including his own attorney general, his campaign manager, family members and top White House aides.
3. Trump pressured officials in several key states to reverse the results and his own Justice Department to let him pursue the fraud allegations it had already rejected.
An Atlanta grand jury is weighing possible criminal charges stemming from his much-publicized phone call urging Georgia election officials to reverse Biden’s 10,000-vote victory there.
4. Trump was directly involved in initiating the demonstration that preceded the attack on the Capitol while it was formalizing his election defeat.
His supporters considered as a call to arms his Dec. 20 tweet: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Top advisers predicted in advance there would be violence.
5. Trump knew many demonstrators that day were armed and sought to protect them by not enforcing the usual security restrictions at his midday rally.
He said he was unconcerned because he knew he wasn’t their target.
6. Trump’s call for the protesters to go to the Capitol at the end of his Jan. 6 rally speech was planned from the outset.
Some leaders of participating groups said they were told to keep it secret so it would look spontaneous.
7. Trump demanded that his own security officials let him go to the Capitol with his supporters, though his intent remains unclear.
He clashed with his own Secret Service detail when told he couldn’t go because they could not ensure his security.
8. Trump exerted pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to exert powers he did not have and assist his effort to overturn the result by rejecting state certifications of their electoral votes.
Pence, supremely loyal to Trump for four years, resisted and did his constitutional duty. When demonstrators threatened Pence, aides heard Trump say maybe he “deserves it.”
9. Trump considered invoking the most extraordinary presidential powers intended for national emergencies as part of his effort to overturn the election results, but his top legal advisers talked him out of it.
On Jan. 6, he ignored their advice to invoke his authority to quell the violence.
10. While the insurrection raged, Trump resisted for hours the pleas of those who beseeched him to call off the protesters, choosing instead to keep calling senators to urge them to reject the results.
Committee members said it raised a question whether he violated his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Nineteen months later, Trump continues to lie about the 2020 election, having convinced millions of Americans including a majority of Republicans there was substantial fraud despite the absence of evidence. According to Axios’ Jonathan Swan, he has ousted all advisers who dispute that.
Republican congressional leaders have refused to discuss the substance of the hearings, including their own pleas for Trump to quell the violence on Jan. 6. They questioned the veracity of witnesses and procedural aspects like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rejection of two Republican House members for the panel after the GOP torpedoed her original plan for a totally bipartisan probe.
Trump has regularly denounced panel members, especially Republican Cheney, and witnesses. But virtually every person whose testimony was shown live or taped was a Republican, a former Trump aide or a nonpolitical police officer.
More seriously, Trump apparently sought to influence the testimony of several potential witnesses who were preparing to testify about what they saw on Jan. 6, committee members said.
This all explains why they have suggested Trump — and possibly some top aides, like former chief of staff Mark Meadows — violated federal laws barring obstruction of congressional proceedings or engaging in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Final decisions on possible criminal charges will be made by the Department of Justice and the attorney general, Merrick Garland.
But the American people, starting with Republican leaders and primary voters, will determine Trump’s ultimate fate. After these hearings, there will be no excuse for any of them saying they didn’t know what happened.
Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. Readers may write to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org