CW: The following story contains a slur that was used by rioters at the Capitol against Black police officers.
Now that the January 6th committee has spent more than a year investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, they have unearthed evidence, in physical records and eyewitness testimony, that overwhelmingly suggests former President Donald Trump desperately schemed to retain power after losing the 2020 election and saw this plot aided or advanced by an increasingly craven series of lawmakers, lackeys, lawyers, aides, and right-wing extremists.
RELATED STORY: A social media field guide to lawmakers who pushed Trump’s lies before, on and after Jan. 6
A note: An earlier version of this story listed Rep. Jim Hagedorn as resigned. He passed away in February 2022. It is now updated.
Many of those lawmakers who parroted Trump’s meritless claims of voter fraud did so at relatively the same clip he did, using their sizeable platforms, power, and influence to promote conspiracy theories about the results of the election that were disproven by the nation’s Justice Department and intelligence apparatuses and dismissed by court after court and judge after judge—including those judges Trump appointed.
When Congress finally met for the joint session on Jan. 6 to count certified elector slates and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gaveled in, throngs of protesters would breach Capitol police barriers just minutes later. Trump, live from the Ellipse, was finishing a speech where he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol. One line encouraging this in his draft speech, according to White House records provided to the committee by the National Archives, shows Trump ad-libbed this call to action four times on Jan. 6.
Testimony and other evidence collected by the committee indicate too that Trump initially tried to conceal a plan to march on the Capitol even as he, members of his campaign staff, and rally organizers moved full steam ahead. This detail drastically undercuts claims by Trump and his allies currently in Congress that say January 6 was a peaceful protest that spontaneously went awry.
The committee has also shown evidence of at least six Republican lawmakers seeking preemptive pardons from Trump in the wake of the insurrection. In a request spearheaded by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, he went so far as to ask for a preemptive pardon for all 147 members of Congress who lodged an objection to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Brooks also requested pardons for 126 Republicans who joined an amicus brief filed in Texas that sought to challenge election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.
Brooks has since defended his ask while simultaneously trying to distance himself from his own inflammatory remarks delivered at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.
It was Trump who told Brooks to make the pardon request, he wrote, in a Jan. 11, 2021 email.
Notably, Brooks said he was making his inquiry “pursuant to a request” from Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. More than six weeks after Trump finally left office, it was reported for the first time by The New York Times that Gaetz was under investigation for alleged sex trafficking and sex with a minor.
Brooks has said he only asked for the pardon because he expected litigious Democrats would sue or even imprison Republicans who lodged objections on Jan. 6.
But why Brooks felt he and other legislators could not defend themselves or their actions in a typical legal setting like a courtroom and felt recourse was most readily available through a presidential pardon, is unclear.
Former White House staff, like ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows’ aide Cassidy Hutchinson and John McEntee, leader of the Trump White House personnel department, both testified under oath that Republican legislators came calling for pardons after the Capitol attack.
In addition to Brooks and Gaetz, Hutchinson specifically named House Republicans Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. All have issued various denials about the pardons but remain vocal, staunch supporters of Trump and have continued, until now, to cast doubts or aspersions on the Jan. 6 committee’s work and standing.
Trump never issued the pardons and Brooks fell out of favor with him after he urged prospective voters during his failed campaign for a Senate seat to put the 2020 election “behind them.” Trump said Brooks went “woke” and endorsed his opponent.
RELATED STORY: Pardons and a whole lot of pressure: An explosive day of testimony from Jan. 6 probe
Other Republicans in the House and Senate and particularly those who allegedly requested pardons, have been far more risk-averse, choosing to stay in Trump’s good graces or ride his coattails instead of addressing the needs of their constituents.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example, was stripped of her committee assignments after making repulsive comparisons between the Holocaust—where millions of people died gruesome deaths—to mask mandate rules put into place in the House of Representatives during a global pandemic.
Her removal from committee assignments, as a result, rendered her actual legislative presence in Congress to be staggeringly ineffectual. On a good day, she is little more than a warm body to cast votes as GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy tells her and on a bad day, she is a little else than a living, breathing barrier to common decency.
While much attention is paid to the conduct of this particular sextet of allegedly pardon-seeking legislators, the majority of Republicans who cast their vote to overturn the election results on Jan. 6, receive less attention and fanfare.
Some, like Senator Josh Hawley, or Rep. Paul Gosar, have remained in the spotlight since January 2021. But other Republicans, far less so.
This is troublesome for many reasons. Foremost because their objections were made after multiple people died during the attack and Trump had, the committee will unpack in a hearing soon, ignored mulitple pleas for help for more than three hours.
A gallows was erected outside of these lawmakers' workplace. Flags, some of which bore Trump’s name, were used to assault members of law enforcement. Confederate flags flew inside the Capitol. Black cops were called “niggers” by Trump’s supporters.
And even still, these 147 lawmakers picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, emerged from their secure rooms and voted to overturn the election.
The right to object during the count exists. But the premise on which these lawmakers based their objections—widespread voter fraud—was debunked and resoundingly dismissed by the time they cast their objections and before.
Many if not all of those lawmakers who objected on Jan. 6 have since condemned the violence to some degree but their language is often careful to avoid criticism of Trump or his supporters on Jan. 6 directly.
Republican Tom Rice, once the U.S. Representative for South Carolina, lost his seat in Congress this June to Russell Fry, an open advocate for Trump who received Trump’s official endorsement.
Rice voted to impeach Trump over the insurrection. Before he was voted out, Rice publicly declared he was still “livid” with the former president over Jan. 6 and that if he had the chance to impeach again, he would.
A month after the insurrection, in February 2021, Reuters conducted a survey of the 147 lawmakers who voted to overturn the results and found that 133, or 90%, “either declined to answer or did not respond” to repeated inquiries begging a yes-or-no question: Do you believe that Trump lost the election because of voter fraud?
Four lawmakers insisted that the fraud was genuine: Reps. Gohmert, Greene, Gosar, and Ronny Jackson of Texas.
Just 10 Republicans who voted to overturn the election issued statements saying it was not stolen but their public statements were carefully couched.
Rep. Lauren Boebert a week before the insurrection tweeted: “Winning an election through fraud is what I would consider ‘overthrowing’ the results. That’s exactly why we’re fighting for POTUS!”
In February, her spokesperson Benjamin Stout told Reuters the Colorado Republican did not believe Trump lost due to fraud and denied her previous remarks.
Most of the other lawmakers who voted to overturn the results have not achieved national name recognition the way Gosar, Greene, or Boebert have, for example, but many remain in Congress and if given the chance, appear perfectly on track to align themselves with Trump or Trumpian ideas about what a so-called democracy looks like. Others failed to stay in office, or resigned. One has died.
Liz Cheney, the Republican vicechair of the Jan. 6 committee, has come out swinging against the former president and bucked party leadership. Considered a dynasty political elite, she was ousted mercilessly from her leadership spot in the GOP as a result of her opposition to Trump. Her fight in the Wyoming primary this August is likely to be one for her political life.
Some who voted to overturn the election like Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, Andy Biggs, and Kevin McCarthy, have been subpoenaed by the committee. To a legislator, they have refused to cooperate or have dangled their cooperation under strict conditions, all while blasting the committee as “illegitimate.”
But the committee is not illegitimate. Not according to the courts. And that includes the U.S. Supreme Court which found the panel was properly formed and operating when Trump raised an appeal there to keep his presidential records tied to Jan. 6 hidden.
Many of the lawmakers who voted to overturn the 2020 election walk the halls of the U.S. Capitol today insulated from public pressure to address their own track records when it comes to Jan. 6. Instead, for the last 554 days, many of them have flown under the radar.
That oversight could prove to be a grave mistake as Democrats fight to keep the House, the Senate, and the White House the months ahead.
The Senators who voted to overturn the 2020 election after the insurrection are:
The House lawmakers who voted to overturn the 2020 election after the insurrection are:
RELATED STORY: Witness tampering, carnage, screaming matches: Jan. 6 probe ties extremists to insurrection