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“The Central Cause of January 6th Was One Man”: House Panel Urges Trump Be Banned from Public Office

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The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol released its final 845-page report on the insurrection at the Capitol and Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. The report names former President Trump as the central cause of the insurrection and calls for expanded efforts by the government to combat far-right and white supremacist groups. We’re joined by John Nichols, The Nation’s national affairs correspondent, to discuss the full report.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The House select committee on the January 6th attack released its final 845-page report late Thursday night on the insurrection at the Capitol and Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. The report states, quote, “The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”

The report goes on to state, quote, “The Select Committee estimates that in the two months between the November election and the January 6th insurrection, President Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 apparent acts of public or private outreach, pressure, or condemnation, targeting either State legislators or State or local election administrators, to overturn State election results.”

The report is based on a year-and-a-half investigation that included over 1,000 interviews. The House select committee is urging Congress to consider barring Trump and other people involved in the insurrection from holding public office, citing the 14th Amendment. The January 6th committee is also calling for reforms to the Electoral College certification process and expanded efforts by the government to combat far-right and white supremacist groups, who played a key role in the January 6th insurrection. The report documents how many of the first rioters to break in to the Capitol on January 6th were members of the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, believers of the QAnon conspiracy theories, and other white nationalists.

The report was issued Thursday night, three days after the House select committee voted to refer Donald Trump to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

To talk more about the January 6th report, we’re joined by John Nichols, The Nation’s national affairs correspondent, in a very cold Wisconsin.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, John.

JOHN NICHOLS: Good to be with you, Amy. Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. Well, why don’t you start off by responding to the report? It came out last night about 10:00 Eastern, but if you can talk about what you’ve assessed so far most surprised you, what’s most significant about it?

JOHN NICHOLS: Well, it is a significant report, there’s simply no question, Amy. It is very long. It has an immense amount of detail. And I think one of the most striking things is the clarity with which this report says what committee chair Bennie Thompson has been saying since the start of their public hearings, and that is that this was a coup attempt and that Donald Trump was at the center of it. The report comes back to this again and again and again, I think seeking to make clear to the American people, but also to the Department of Justice, that this is not a difficult call to make, this is not a complicated issue, that the information that they drew from their witnesses clearly [inaudible] … 

… in the report is that the recommendations that they’ve made, which are way late in the report — you have to read — you’ve got to go through about 680 pages to get to the recommendations as regard to policy, because so much of the focus has been on personality. But when you get to policy, the report — the recommendations are actually relatively limited. They do talk about the Electoral Count Act reforms, which appear to be moving through Congress pretty well at this point. They also talk, I think most importantly, about Amendment 14, Section 3, and that is the section of the Constitution which allows someone who participated in or supported an insurrection to be barred from holding office. And I think one of the most striking things in the report is a clear argument that Congress should take steps to clarify Article [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: John, we’re going to break and then come back and clear up your audio. John Nichols is The Nation’s national affairs correspondent. His recent piece for the magazine is headlined “The January 6 Committee Just Put Kevin McCarthy in Charge of an Investigation Into Kevin McCarthy.” Stay with us

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Room Full of Mirrors,” performed by The Pretenders. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue to look at the final report put out by the January 6th select committee, saying Donald Trump is responsible for this insurrection, that without him it would not have taken place. John Nichols, The Nation's national affairs correspondent. John, why don't you take it from where you left off? But I just want to be clear: In Madison, Wisconsin, where you are, is it true it’s 31 degrees Fahrenheit below zero?

JOHN NICHOLS: That’s the windchill. I think the actual below zero is three to five below, but then the wind — we’ve got 40-mile-an-hour winds, so it has taken us down to about 30, 35 below with the windchill.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to say we were going to have, for this very important day, John Nichols in a studio in Madison, but even the studio said they were simply going to be closed, that too much — I mean, just everyone is frozen out. Well, John, this late-breaking story of the report, yes, ever late — it was supposed to be a few days before, but it did come out last night. I’m sure they were desperately trying to get it out before Congress ended for this year, not clear what will happen with the change of House from Democratic to Republican leadership. But continue with what you were saying.

JOHN NICHOLS: Sure. What I was saying is that the report focuses primarily on the personalities, on Donald Trump and the other people we’ve heard mentioned a lot. But as you get toward the end of the report, on, I think, page 689, they have their recommendations. And their recommendations are important, because it’s really the policies that come out of this that ultimately will protect us from future incidents like January 6, 2021.

And what they propose is a reform of the [inaudible], which is moving through Congress now. It looks like that may actually happen. They also propose taking steps that will allow to have much more clarity as regards Article 14, Section 3, of the Constitution, which says that an officeholder who supports an insurrection or gives aid and comfort to an insurrection, participates in an insurrection, can be barred from office. And so they want to give clarity to that so that Congress can act on that issue in the future.

Now, all of this takes us back, Amy, to the reality that this Congress, particularly this Senate, failed back in February of 2021 in the impeachment process. Had Donald Trump been convicted by the Senate, then we would have had clarity on these issues at that point. Because that didn’t happen, now we have a series of recommendations, which in some ways are an admission that Congress doesn’t think that the impeachment process probably will ever work, so they want to have another vehicle to bar those who participate in insurrections.

The final thing I’ll mention as regards the recommendations, and it’s a disappointment on my part, is that the committee did not make a clear statement that the Electoral College should be abolished, because the fact of the matter is that the Electoral College is the root of a lot of these problems. This convoluted, you know, mess of a system, which has the votes being counted at certain points and then transferred to Congress and all that, created the real opening for Donald Trump and his allies to do the things that they did. And I think that while abolishing the Electoral College would be difficult, it’s something that clearly the committee should have recommended.

AMY GOODMAN: They did make recommendations but did not go that far, John. Can you explain what those recommendations are?

JOHN NICHOLS: Well, as regards the Electoral Count Act, as regards the clarity on 14.3, and then there’s a number of other recommendations, Amy, within this list for just simply making the processes of Congress work more effectively as regards oversight. And so, they’re a solid set of recommendations, but not a bold set of recommendations, to my view.

AMY GOODMAN: They also dealt with a number of issues. For example, they said that the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley said, “Why are we allowing the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers to be there?” This was days before the January 6th protest. But he did not get support in what he had to say. You have Cassidy Hutchinson and her lawyer — Cassidy Hutchinson was then out of work. She was asked to speak before the committee. And her lawyer was given to her by, as she put it, “Trump world,” Stefan Passantino. And he told her that she should simply say, “I don’t recall.” She did that, apparently, the first time around, and she testified before the staff several times she was questioned, and then came out and said, “I feel like I am lying.” Actually, it’s interesting, the latest news is that Stefan Passantino is on leave from his law firm. And many legal experts are saying, as a message to other lawyers, like Passantino, is that if you interfere in this way, this is literally witness tampering, and that you can go to jail.

JOHN NICHOLS: Right. Look, this report is incredibly detailed, and it does, in fact, look at a lot of the issues as regards the attempts by former President Trump and his allies to thwart this investigation. And you can understand why. At the heart of this report, and at the heart of what the committee has done, are recommendations that Trump be prosecuted and that some of his closest allies be prosecuted. So, I think they knew from the start that this was where the whole process was headed, and they wanted to undermine and weaken that process. And so, the report goes into a lot of detail on that. And some of that may well turn out to be significant as regards future prosecutions and future action by the Justice Department.

But I would counsel, Amy, there’s a significant aspect of this that we should be conscious of. This report is really a roadmap. It is a roadmap as regards what the Justice Department might do. It is also a roadmap as to what Congress might do. It is not a certainty by any means. There is a lot — there are still a lot of open areas and open questions within the report that, effectively, the committee says, “Well, the Department of Justice is going to have to go deeper on this. They’re going to have to explore this more thoroughly. They’re going to have to ask more questions.” And so I think people should be very cautious about assuming that simply because this report has been released with its recommendations to the Department of Justice and to Congress, that we are necessarily going to have a true moment of accountability.

Again, I keep coming back to this point. The moment of accountability should have been back with impeachment in February of 2021. And you and I talked a lot about impeachment before that. And I remember I was in Madison on January 6th, when things occurred. And because I had written so much about impeachment, my phone started ringing off the hook. And I really did, I think, believe for a few days there that it was possible we’d have the accountability moment as it was intended. Instead, what we ended up with is this long, very slow process of trying to find a route to accountability. And, I would emphasize, we’re still not there.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about Kevin McCarthy.

JOHN NICHOLS: Ha! Well, Kevin McCarthy is obviously in this report in a significant way. Both they describe how he sought to thwart the committee’s work initially, and then they also talk about how he refused to cooperate with the committee. And there’s been a recommendation to the House Ethics Committee that they examine Kevin McCarthy’s actions for potential penalties.

The problem with that is that this report comes so late in the current Congress that any action on it will take place in the next Congress. And the next Congress will likely be led by Kevin McCarthy. He will then appoint the five Republican members of the Ethics Committee, one of whom will serve as chair of the committee. So we end up in a situation where Kevin McCarthy is effectively overseeing his own oversight. And it’s really one of the messes as regards how the House Ethics Committee works.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to step aside from the January 6th report for a minute to talk about George Santos. He is the new congressmember-elect from Long Island, Republican, would be the first openly gay congressman, if he’s even telling the truth about that, because so much we do not know about who this man is, including possibly his name. He has just put out on Twitter, “I’ll have my story to tell. I’m going to tell it next week.”

This is the latest news that we have, revelation of Santos’s apparent fabrications: The Jewish Forward is reporting Santos lied about his grandparents fleeing anti-Jewish persecution during World War II. The Forward reports genealogy websites show Santos’s maternal grandparents were born in Brazil, not Ukraine or Belgium, as he said. On Wednesday, the incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries accused Santos of hiding from legitimate questions about his résumé.

Now, to be clear, that’s just the latest revelation of what wasn’t true. Also what’s not true is that he said he presided over a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, an animal rescue group; the IRS says they have no record of that group, Friends of Pets United. He said he graduated from Baruch College; Baruch College said they have no record of him. Also that he worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; both said they have no record of him there. It is not even clear we know what his real name is, John Nichols. And this is the second time he’s run, first time he won. He was also at the January 6th insurrection in Washington.

JOHN NICHOLS: Look, you’re putting a lot on the table here. And all of it points to a really significant issue with this representative-elect. Here’s the thing to understand first off, and that is, this is a big deal, because the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is so narrow, so small, that if Representative-elect Santos is — decides not to take his seat, in some way is forced not to take his seat, or whatever — that would obviously the require a lot of action by Congress — then you reduce that Republican majority. So it’s a big deal, actually, toward the governance of the country in the coming term.

But as regards Santos, I think the thing that really is important here is that we have immense amount of focus on the man and his apparent difficulties with the truth. What’s troublesome to me is that this story is being told now. This is someone who has run for Congress twice, and who has run for Congress and been elected in the biggest media center in the world. This is a place, New York City and surrounding New York City, where you have all sorts of media outlets, and yet he was not properly vetted. And it really speaks to the collapse of political journalism in the 21st century. There is a lot of coverage to Washington, but there is too little coverage of what’s happening down at the congressional district level and in our communities across the country. In my view, it’s really a collapse of journalism story.

AMY GOODMAN: This latest was an exposé in The New York Times of who he was, though the man he ran against, Zimmerman, said that he was continually raising these issues on the campaign trail. John Nichols, The Nation's national affairs correspondent, speaking to us from an extremely cold Madison, Wisconsin. We'll link to your piece, “The January 6 Committee Just Put Kevin McCarthy in Charge of an Investigation Into Kevin McCarthy.”

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“This Is a Racial Backlash”: Stanford Prof. Hakeem Jefferson on Role of White Supremacy in Capitol Attack

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