Jan. 6, 2022 marks the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the US Capitol. And we’re recapping everything that has gone down since the attack — including the House select committee’s investigation, lawsuits, arrests, and changes within local law enforcement.
But first, here's a recap of what went down: While Congress gathered to certify then-President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win, a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol — scaling walls, shattering windows, breaking into federal offices, taking over the Senate floor, and stealing furniture. Videos show groups attacking the press and yelling an all-too-familiar message from then-President Trump: the media is the "enemy of the people." The attack on the Capitol left a handful of people dead and around 140 police officers injured.
The insurrection was the first major attack on the Capitol since 1814 — when the British burned it down during the War of 1812. Many blamed Trump, who for months rallied his supporters to believe that the election was rigged (despite evidence proving otherwise). He also made comments — both before and on Jan 6 — that were perceived as inciting violence (see: this and this).
Fast forward to one year later, and there is still a lot of uncertainty around how this all unfolded. As well as who or what is to blame. A poll from the Morning Consult and POLITICO shows that 82% of respondents say the people who broke into the Capitol are “very” or “somewhat responsible” for the attack. Fifty-nine percent say Trump is to blame. But in equal measure, 59% of those polled said that the news media is responsible. And an even larger group — 66% — said social media fueled the chaos.
Fingers are being pointed in every direction to make sense of this domestic attack. And to understand what went down leading up to it. All of which has resulted in many changes over the past year. Including…
In June, the House created a committee to investigate the riot. It has subpoena power and is made up of nine lawmakers — including Republican Reps Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL), who have both been critical of Trump’s rhetoric.
Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute, told "Skimm This" that this committee is the “highest profile congressional arm investigating what happened on Jan. 6.” And that it’s looking into a number of Qs. Like: Who organized or financed the insurrection? How were Trump or other federal officials involved? And why was the Capitol vulnerable to this attack?
The committee has issued several subpoenas for documents from the National Archive related to the day of the insurrection. Trump has tried to use executive privilege to stop them from being released — but the Biden admin stepped in, saying 'sorry, not allowed.' Which has set off a legal battle between the two. In December, Trump has asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of related White House documents to the committee. It’s unclear when the justices could make a decision.
While the committee has not yet subpoenaed the former president, it reportedly isn’t ruling that option out. In the meantime, several Trump associates have been issued subpoenas. Including former White House strategist Steve Bannon, former press sec. Kayleigh McEnany, ex-WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former senior advisor Stephen Miller, and more. But not everyone was down to cooperate.
Bannon refused to hand over documents or sit for a deposition, saying he was covered under Trump’s executive privilege. But legal experts say 'maybe not.' Bannon was not in Trump’s admin at the time of the riots. And Biden has waived the privilege’s use when it comes to docs and witnesses related to the insurrection. In November, Bannon was indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress. (Each count carries 30 days to one year in jail.) He later turned himself in. And was released without bail after surrendering his passport.
Meadows partially participated in the committee’s investigation at first — previously giving lawmakers info like text messages and email exchanges. But he abruptly changed his tune, refusing to show up for a deposition and suing the committee to block a subpoena. In mid-December, the lawmakers investigating the insurrection recommended that Meadows be charged. And the House voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress for not fully cooperating with the investigation. Now, the matter goes to the Justice Dept — which will decide whether to prosecute the former chief of staff.
Looking at the evidence: The committee has been looking at two pieces of info from Meadows: Text messages and a PowerPoint presentation. The text messages show that several Trump allies, including his son Donald Trump Jr and Fox News host Laura Ingraham, tried to convince Meadows to get Trump to call off the riot. Meanwhile, the PowerPoint presentation — which Meadows received the day before the insurrection — included arguments for attempting to overturn the 2020 elections. Lawmakers say they could implicate Meadows in the attack.
Meanwhile, the committee is sifting through thousands of pages of documents from the federal gov. And has also requested records from social media and communication companies. Lawmakers grilled Google, Facebook, and Twitter execs over the connection between online disinformation and the riots. And the Facebook Papers, released in October, showed that the company allegedly removed some safeguards around misinformation and the election leading up to the Jan 6 riots.
It’s unclear when the committee could wrap up its investigation, and what could happen as a result of their findings. But the select committee chairman said that lawmakers have “significant testimony” to show that the White House was told to take action during the attack. The committee plans to make the details of the investigation public in the coming weeks and months.
Federal prosecutors have said the Justice Department’s probe into the attack is “likely the most complex investigation" it has ever prosecuted.
"The scale of the prosecutions in this case really is something that we have not seen before in American history," Reynolds said. "There are individuals who broke the law and should be held accountable under the law for what they did."
As of Jan. 2022, more than 700 people have been charged in connection to the riot. And charges range from disorderly conduct to assaulting a federal law enforcement officer. More than 150 defendants have pleaded guilty. In June, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, a 49-year-old woman from Indiana, was the first person to be sentenced on charges related to the insurrection — she pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge and got three years probation. In December, the longest sentence yet was issued: a man from Florida was sentenced to more than five years in prison for assaulting police officers.
At least 119 defendants have alleged ties to extremist or fringe groups like QAnon, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers (more on them in a sec), according to NPR. That includes Jacob Chansley — aka the “QAnon Shaman.” He stormed the Capitol wearing a fur headdress and face paint. And was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his role in the riot.
“Skimm This” also talked to Seamus Hughes — the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University — about the connection between the insurrection and domestic extremism. Hughes called Jan. 6 “a bug light for extremism.”
“You had white supremacists, you had neo-Nazis, you had anti-government folks, militia folks, QAnon supporters, conspiracy theorists,” he said. “They all kind of coalesced under this idea of ‘Stop the Steal.’ They saw the election as a fraud and they wanted to prevent it.”
Experts say other defendants may not face time behind bars, because many face charges for low-level crimes that may not result in jail or prison time. But there’s more work to be done. Officials are still searching for suspects. Including those who’ve been accused of attacking officers and journalists. And the person who planted pipe bombs at the DNC and RNC offices. The FBI is offering a $100K reward for more info on this person. And urges anyone who may know more about the potential suspects or who witnessed unlawful violence to report it to the bureau.
Meanwhile, others are facing legal trouble too. In December, DC’s attorney general sued the far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, as well as its leaders and some members, for their role in the insurrection. The lawsuit alleges that they worked together to “plot, publicize, recruit for, and finance their planned attack.” While a member of Congress and a group of police officers have filed similar lawsuits, this one is the first from a gov agency.
With law enforcement…
The US Capitol Police is in charge of protecting members of Congress, employees and visitors, and congressional buildings and grounds. And while a number of officers were on the scene for the Jan. 6 attack, the department has been accused of not being prepared enough to handle the events that unfolded. Video shows how close the mob of rioters got to then-VP Mike Pence, as well as some senators.
The day after the attack, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned. Lawmakers called for investigations into security at the Capitol. And four officers who responded to the riot have since died by suicide. A number of officers have sued Trump, accusing him of helping provoke the riot and saying he should be held responsible.
One report from the Capitol Police internal watchdog found that the department was warned three days before the attack that Trump supporters were planning to target Congress — and that things could turn violent. The report also found that the Department of Homeland Security warned the agency that a map of the Capitol’s tunnel system was posted on pro-Trump message boards. It also stated that the department “did not have adequate policies and procedures” to respond to the insurrection.
On July 6 — the six-month anniversary of the insurrection — then-acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman announced changes that the agency is implementing. And said it’s worked “around the clock” to improve security and support officers. She said the recommendations are from a number of reviews of the attack from a number of entities, including a US Senate committee, House select committees, the Government Accountability Office, and others. That includes…
Opening field offices in places like California and Florida to further investigate threats to lawmakers
Expanding wellness services by working with trauma-informed counselors, bringing in orgs that specialize in addressing psychological trauma and stress, and developing an internal peer support program
Working with the National Guard to increase training for the department’s Civil Disturbance Unit
Increasing trainings in areas like use of force, tactical, and leadership
Establishing a new action plan to quickly mobilize local, state, and federal resources (including the Department of Defense) to respond to emergencies
Acquiring additional equipment like helmets, shields, and batons
Pittman said that the department honors “all the brave men and women who, against all odds, faced down a violent crowd that day and protected our elected leaders and everyone who was in the Capitol Complex.”
A year after the insurrection, a big problem for the department is staffing issues. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told NPR that increasing the force’s staff is his biggest concern. Since the Jan. 6 insurrection, about 130 officers have left the department (reportedly for a number of reasons including retirement). But the department is planning to replace them this year.
Jan. 6, 2021, will go down as a dark day in American history. And a year later, the slow-moving wheels of justice continue to turn as Americans wait to see what happens next. Meanwhile, authorities are wading through one of the largest criminal investigations in American history — so it may be a while before all of the answers are on the table.
Updated on Jan. 5 to include the latest updates ahead of the one-year anniversary of the insurrection.
Updated on Dec. 20 to include the longest sentence issued in relation to the insurrection.
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