After 10 public hearings spanning six months (and over 1,000 interviews), the House Jan. 6 committee finally did the damn thing and recommended four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump.
These charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to make a false statement and insurrection. Committee members faced the American public for the last time on Monday, wearing their usual stoic faces, in one of the shortest hearings they have held—clocking in at one hour. And now the insurrection of the United States Capitol is the problem of the Department of Justice.
That’s because the panel’s decision is mostly symbolic and the DOJ will ultimately decide whether or not it will actually prosecute Trump and others for the charges that have been recommended—and it’s worth noting that the DOJ has not used the charge of insurrection since the Civil War. The committee spent the better part of 2022 trying to convince the public, and more pointedly, Attorney General Merrick Garland, that these charges are in fact merited, showcasing bombshell interviews with Trump’s inner circle, including former White House counselor Hope Hicks, special assistant to the president Cassidy Hutchinson, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and others.
The witnesses helped the committee paint a story of the lead up to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as the day of and the months following it. The aim was to uncover as much information as possible about Trump’s role in instigating a violent mob, who attempted to stop the electoral vote count certification of the 2020 presidential election. It gathered all kinds of evidence suggesting Trump was responsible for spreading misinformation about election fraud, pressuring state and federal officials to support The Big Lie (never forget the infamous Georgia phone call to “find 11,780 votes.”), tweeting to his millions of followers to come to Washington for a “wild” time on Jan. 6, and pressuring former vice president Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election results. The committee also showed dramatic video footage of the actual insurrection.
A critical piece to the committee’s argument was also proving that Trump knew he lost the 2020 election and therefore was knowingly spreading false information and acting in bad faith, which was illustrated with the testimony of Hutchinson. She told the committee that Trump, speaking to his former chief of staff Mark Meadows after the Supreme Court rejected multiple lawsuits disputing election results, admitted, “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. That is embarrassing. Figure it out.”
On Monday, the committee aired new evidence provided by Hicks, as she described a conversation she had with Trump where he said no one would care about his legacy if he lost the election. “The only thing that matters is winning,” said Trump, according to Hicks. In the words of committee member California Rep. Adam Schiff, “if that’s not criminal, then I don’t know what is.”
If the political pressure on the DOJ to prosecute Trump wasn’t high enough, Monday brought the momentum to a boiling point. An executive summary of the committee’s findings was publicly released and a full report is expected Wednesday. And in a few short weeks on Jan. 3, 2023 the work of the infamous Jan. 6 committee will officially end—right in time for the new Republican-led House to take over. The committee’s vice chairwoman and Trump’s public enemy #1 Liz Cheney made sure to leave the public with zero ambiguity at her last public hearing, saying every president in American history has defended the orderly transfer of power, “except one.”