DemDaily: Three Years Later. The Capitol Insurrection
January 9, 2024
Three years have passed since the deadly insurrection at the United States Capitol.
On January 6, 2021, as members of Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, Trump supporters -- at the behest of the President -- violently breached the Capitol building in an attempt to stop the transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden.
The five-hour siege resulted in injury to nearly 200 people, including 174 police officers, and led to nine deaths -- five people within 36 hours of the vicious attack, and four officers who committed suicide in the following months. The Capitol building and grounds suffered an estimated $3 million in damages.
The impact of this literally assault on our democracy has since reverberated far beyond the events of that day, as the nation strives to hold its perpetrators responsible.
While the divisions that fueled the assault are still playing out in elections, legislatures and living rooms across the country, Congress and the Department of Justice have attempted to identify and pursue the players who incited and carried out this historically devastating event.
Chief amongst those is then-President Donald J. Trump, who on January 13, 2020 -- one week after the storming of the Capitol -- was impeached by the US House of Representatives for "High Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Trump was charged with "willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States" with a speech to supporters "that encouraged - and foreseeably resulted in - imminent lawless action at the Capitol."
|The insurrectionists were overwhelming white (92%) and males over the age of 35. Women made up 12.7% of the rioters. They came from nearly all 50 states and DC, with the largest representation from Florida (11.5%),Texas (8.8%), Pennsylvania (8.9%), New York (7.4%) and California (7.3%). 30% had a high school diploma, 37% had a college degree and 18.6% had a background in the military or law enforcement. 25% were armed, 22.2% had a criminal record before January 6th, and 17% were tied to extremist or fringe movements, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Patriot Front, and the Texas Freedom Force.
At the same time, the Department of Justice launched what is now the largest investigation in history -- expected to eventually charge as many as 2,500 people with federal crimes.
To date, 1,240 people had been arrested in connection with the attack, accused of crimes ranging from misdemeanor trespassing to seditious conspiracy.
After being convicted or pleading guilty, more than 720 people have received sentences so far -- including over 450 for periods of incarceration ranging from a few days to more than 20 years. The longest of those so far was the 22-year sentence imposed on Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the Proud Boys. More than 350 cases are still pending.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, created by a vote of Congress May 19, 2021, conducted an 18-month investigation into Trump's role in the insurrection.
Their exhaustive work spanned millions of pages of documents, emails, text and phone records, along with nearly 1,200 interviews and the testimony of those closest to Trump in the White House, his campaign and his family.
In their final report, released December 18, 2022, the committee presented their findings, most of which had been methodically laid out to the public in nine powerful hearings between June 9 and October 13, 2022.
In their conclusions, the committee recommended four referrals for criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump to the Department of Justice for his leading role in a "sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of power."
|The criminal referrals against Trump included: 1) Obstruction of an Official Proceeding; 2) Conspiracy to Defraud the United States; 3) Conspiracy to Make False Statements to the Federal Government; and 4) Conspiracy to Incite, Assist or Engage in Insurrection Against the United States of America, and Anyone Who Gives Aide or Comfort to an Insurrection.
Status of Our Democracy: The investigations
On November 18, 2022 Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the appointment of an Independent DOJ Special Counsel, Jack Smith, former Chief Prosecutor for The Hague, to oversee the Capitol Insurrection case.
On August 1, 2023, a grand jury in DC US District Court indicted Trump on four charges for his conduct following the 2020 presidential election through the January 6 Capitol attack: 1) Conspiracy to defraud the United States under Title 18 of the United States Code; 2) Obstructing an official proceeding; 3) Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002; and 4) Conspiracy against rights under the Enforcement Act of 1870.
It was the first indictment against a US president concerning his actions while in office. Trump was arraigned on August 3 and federal Judge Tanya Chutkan has set the trial date for March 4, 2024.
On Friday, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an immunity claim filed by Trump's lawyers which asserted that sweeping presidential powers protect him from facing prosecution. In a late Saturday night filing to a federal appeals court, his attorneys claimed that immunity is necessary for “bold, fearless Executive leadership” and that a president can not be prosecuted unless impeached and convicted. The court heard those arguments today.
|Independent Counsel Smith also took over a separate DOJ investigation into Trump for his removal of hundreds of classified government documents from the White House following his presidency. A June 8, 2023 indictment and July 27 superseding indictment by a federal grand jury brought 40 felony counts against Trump, who was charged separately for each of the 32 documents under the Espionage Act, as well as eight charges for making false statements and engaging in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. A trial is set for May 20, 2024.
On August 15, 2023, Fulton County, Georgia US Attorney Fani Willis announced the indictment of Trump and 18 co-conspirators for their "criminal racketeering enterprise," in which he and all other defendants "knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome" of the 2020 US presidential election in Georgia.
The 13 counts against Trump include conspiracy under RICO, soliciting a public official to violate their oath, conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery, filing of false documents and charges related to false statements and writings.
Willis has requested a trial date of August 5, 2024. Trump’s attorneys have filed an immunity claim in Fulton County Superior Court.
In another federal case, Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on March 30, 2023 on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in the first degree for his role in a hush money scandal involving a pornographic film actress before the 2016 US presidential election. That trial is set for March 25, 2024. Trump is also facing numerous civil lawsuits.
|All told, the twice-impeached former president has been indicted four times in the last year, bringing the total to 91 felony counts against him in four jurisdictions.
In a January 5 speech in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden reminded us that "Trump’s assault on democracy isn’t just part of his past. It’s what he’s promising for the future...This is the first national election since the January sixth insurrection placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy...We all know who Donald Trump is. The question we have to answer is who are we?
"That’s what’s at stake. Who are we? In the year ahead, as you talk to your family and friends, cast your ballots, the power is in your hands...We must be clear: Democracy is on the ballot. Your freedom is on the ballot."
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Sources: DOJ, Center for Policy and Research, SSRN, AP, CNN, Washington Post, New York Times