Politics

Trump ‘lit that fire’ of Capitol rebellion

WASHINGTON (AP) – The House of Representatives’ Jan. 6 committee final report alleges that Donald Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the legal results of the 2020 presidential election and failed to act to stop his supporters from attack the Capitol, ending an extraordinary 18-month investigation into the former president and violent rebellion two years ago.

Trump “lit that fire,” writes the committee’s chairman, Mississippi Rep. Benny Thompson.

That 814-page report released Thursday comes after the panel interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, held 10 hearings and obtained millions of pages of documents. The witnesses – ranging from many of Trump’s closest law enforcement aides to some of the rioters themselves – described Trump’s “premeditated” actions in the weeks leading up to the riot and how his extensive pressure campaign to overturn his defeat directly affected those who brutally pushed past police and smashed through the windows and doors of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The central cause was “one man,” the report says: Trump.

The uprising seriously threatened democracy and “put the lives of American lawmakers at risk,” the nine-member panel concluded, providing by far the most definitive account of a dark chapter in modern American history. It serves not only as a compendium of the most dramatic moments of testimony from months of hearings, but also as a document to be preserved for future generations.

In a foreword to the report, outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the findings should be a “clarifying call to all Americans: to vigilantly guard our democracy and to give our vote only to those who are dutiful in their defense of our constitution.”

The report’s eight chapters tell much of the story, as the panel’s hearings did this summer — detailing the many facets of the remarkable plan Trump and his advisers devised to try to nullify President Joe Biden’s victory. The lawmakers describe the former president’s pressure on states, federal officials, lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence to game the system or break the law.

In the two months between the election and the uprising, the report says, “President Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 apparent public or private acts of outreach, pressure or condemnation, directed against either state legislators or state or local election administrators, to overturn state election results.”

Trump’s repeated false claims about widespread voter fraud resonated with his supporters, the committee said, and were amplified on social media and built on the distrust of government he had fostered during his four years in office. And he did little to stop them when they resorted to violence and stormed the Capitol.

The massive, damning report comes as Trump is running for president again and also faces multiple federal investigations, including investigations into his role in the insurgency and the presence of classified documents at his Florida estate. This week is particularly busy for him, as a House committee is expected to do release his tax returns after years of fighting to keep them private. And Trump has been blamed by Republicans for a worse-than-expected performance in the midterm elections, leaving him in his most politically vulnerable state since winning the 2016 election.

Among other recommendations, the seven Democrats and two Republicans on the committee suggest that Trump be barred from future office, noting that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that anyone who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution , may be excluded from office. to engage in rebellion or sedition.

“He is unfit for any office,” writes the committee’s vice chairman, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney from Wyoming.

Writing on his social media, Trump called the report “highly partisan” and falsely claimed it did not include his January 6 statement that his supporters should protest “peacefully and patriotically.” The committee noted that he followed this comment with election fraud and accusatory language exhorting the crowd to “fight like hell.”

The report details a host of failures by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, noting that many of the rioters came armed and had openly planned violence online. “The failure to adequately share and act on this intelligence endangered the lives of the police officers who defended the Capitol and everyone within it,” the report said.

At the same time, the committee emphasizes that security failures are not primarily responsible for the uprising.

“The President of the United States inciting a mob to march on the Capitol and obstructing the work of Congress is not a scenario our intelligence and law enforcement communities have envisioned for this country,” Chairman Thompson writes in a separate foreword.

“Donald Trump lit that fire,” Thompson writes. “But in the weeks leading up to it, the firewood he ultimately ignited was gathered in plain sight.”

The report details Trump’s inaction as his loyalists stormed the building violently. When he returned to the White House from his fiery speech, he asked a staffer if they had seen his remarks on television.

“Sir, they cut it off because they’re rioting down at the Capitol,” the staffer said, according to the report.

A White House photographer took a photo of Trump at 1:21 p.m., when he heard about the riot from the staffer. “At that time, if not before, he had been made aware of the violent rioting at the Capitol,” the report said.

In all, 187 minutes passed between the time Trump finished his speech at the Ellipse and his first attempt to disperse the rioters, through an eventual video message, in which he told his supporters to go home, even as he reassured them : “We love you, you are very special.”

That inaction was a “dereliction of duty,” the report says, noting that Trump wielded more power than any other person as the nation’s commander-in-chief. “He purposely remained idle even as others, including his own vice president, acted.”

During those hours, dozens of staff and associates implored him to make a strong statement. But he didn’t.

“We all look like domestic terrorists now,” longtime aide Hope Hicks wrote to Julie Radford, who served as Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff, in the aftermath.

The report says that “virtually everyone on the White House staff” interviewed by the committee condemned a tweet by Trump at 2:24 p.m. that day — just as the rioters broke into the Capitol — that Vice President Mike Pence “didn’t have the guts to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution.”

Pence had denied trying to object to or delay the certification of Biden’s victory at the joint session of Congress.

“Attacking the VP? Wtf is wrong with him,” Hicks wrote to a colleague that evening.

The investigation’s release is a final act by House Democrats, who are ceding power to Republicans in less than two weeks and have spent much of their four years in power investigating Trump. Democrats impeached Trump twice, the second time a week after the uprising. He was acquitted both times by the Senate. Other Democratic-led investigations probed his finances, his businesses, his foreign relations and his family.

On Monday, the panel officially handed over their investigation to the Justice Department, recommending that the department investigate the former president on four crimes, including aiding and abetting a rebellion. Although the criminal referrals have no legal standing, they are a final statement by the committee following its extensive year-and-a-half-long investigation.

Trump has sought to discredit the report, blasting members of the committee as “thugs and scoundrels” as he has continued to falsely dispute his loss in 2020.

In response to the panel’s criminal referrals, Trump said, “These people don’t understand that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. That makes me stronger.”

The committee has also begun releasing hundreds of transcripts of its interviews. On Thursday, the panel released transcripts of two closed-door interviews with former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who testified in person at one of the televised hearings over the summer and described in vivid detail Trump’s efforts to influence the election results and indifference to for the election campaign. violence as it occurred.

In the two interviews, both conducted after her July appearance at the hearing, she described how many of Trump’s allies, including her lawyer, pressed her not to say too much in her committee interviews.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Capitol uprising at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege

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