Introducing the January 6th Hearings Criminal Evidence Tracker
The January 6th Select Committee’s first hearing was compelling. As with Watergate and other historic congressional proceedings, Thursday night will be long remembered and shows every sign of kicking off a month of important revelations about how President Donald Trump and his allies tried to subvert American democracy. Among the most striking moments were Vice Chair Liz Cheney’s dissection of the potential criminal case against Donald Trump. While she has no power to prosecute him, she sketched a compelling case for federal or state criminal charges against Trump in her presentation of the evidence.
[The Tracker is available below and also as a separate PDF.]
The questions of criminality raised by Cheney, and also by Chair Bennie Thompson, are central to these hearings and even more so to ultimate accountability. After all, on their own, the committee has no power to impose actual consequences for Trump’s misconduct they have substantiated through over 1,000 interviews, more than 140,000 pages of documents and much more evidence. Only federal or state prosecutors can do that.
Accordingly, the authors are publishing in Just Security the enclosed evidence trackers of three federal and state crimes potentially committed by the former president. We will update these trackers after each hearing to show the accumulation of new evidence as to each of these criminal offenses. These inaugural charts are a baseline established by compiling key details that were already in the public record and supplemented by what we learn during the first hearing. We believe readers can judge for themselves the evidence and strength of the case through these detailed findings.
First, we look at 18 U.S.C. §371, criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States. As a federal judge has already found, and as some of the authors explain in a new report, there is substantial evidence of a likely crime here. On Thursday night, the Committee laid out a seven-part plan orchestrated by Trump and his allies to commit this fraud on the United States government by:
1. Engaging in a colossal effort to spread false and fraudulent information to the American public claiming the 2020 election was stolen from him;
2. Corruptly planning to replace the Acting Attorney General with Trump apologist Jeffrey Clark, so that the Department of Justice would substantiate his fake election claims;
3. Pressuring Vice President Pence to refuse to count or delay the counting of certified electoral votes in violation of the U.S. Constitution and statutory law;
4. Pressuring state election officials and state legislators to change election results;
5. Instructing Republicans in multiple states to create false electoral slates and transmit those slates to Congress and the National Archives;
6. Summoning and assembling a violent mob in Washington and directing them to march on the U.S. Capitol; and
7. As the violence was underway, ignoring pleas for assistance and failing to take immediate steps to protect the Capitol and stop the violence.
While the Committee signaled much more is to come, they also revealed new evidence relating to this possible offense that we detail in our first chart. That includes statements by former Attorney General Bill Barr that President Trump was made fully aware that he had lost the election as he was executing that seven-part plan to attack the election results. This point was corroborated in various ways by never-before-seen footage of presidential daughter and White House aide Ivanka Trump, top campaign aide Jason Miller, the Vice President’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, and numerous others from the president’s orbit— all Republicans and all one-time, if not remaining, strong allies of the president. We include this body of evidence in our first chart, and will update it going forward.
Second, we look at 18 U.S.C §1512, obstruction of Congress—also found to be a likely crime by the same federal judge and also the subject of extensive analysis in our report. The theory of the case here is that Trump intentionally interfered with Congress’s certification of the electoral votes for his opponent—despite knowing full well that Biden won. The first hearing wove together evidence of President’s Trump’s incitement of violence with testimony and video footage of its effect on the insurrectionists, some of which was never before seen. That included testimony that they were following his commands. Or, as Cheney put it, Trump “summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the fuse of this attack.” We include this evidence in our second road map.
Third, we look at a potential Georgia state crime, one which may well be the first to be charged against the former President. The Fulton County District Attorney has convened a special grand jury and has suggested that charges if merited could be coming as soon as the fall . Here we focus on the Georgia crime of solicitation of election fraud. The core of this possible offense is Trump’s January 2, 2021 tape-recorded demand to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that he just “find 11,780 votes”— one more than Trump needed to win; and implicitly threatened the state officials. They were votes that did not exist, and there is substantial evidence that Trump knew that.
It is not an overstatement to say that after January 6 the second most important day in the investigation of Trump‘s seven-part-plan may be January 2. We also learned in the first hearing about that fateful January 2nd call to Raffensperger in the form of Liz Cheney’s statements that in the coming hearings we “will hear details about President Trump’s call to Georgia officials urging them to ‘find’ 11,780 votes that did not exist, and his efforts to get states to rescind certified electoral slates without factual basis and contrary to law.” It substantiated her promise that the Committee will share evidence with the American public that “President Trump corruptly pressured state legislators and election officials to change election results.” Like any good opening statement, this teased what is to come, at least signaling the possibility that we may hear from Raffensperger himself.
Finally, although we focus in these initial trackers on Trump, the possible culpability of others must be borne in mind. One of the most striking moments of the first hearing for us was Cheney’s statement that Republican lawmakers contacted the White House to seek pardons from Trump. That could be a significant new development if the committee has the evidence – as it would go to consciousness of guilt of members yet to be named for participating in one or more of the possible crimes we chart, or others.
There is much more that could be said about the committee’s successful launch and the work that lies ahead. But part of the challenge of processing a sprawling investigation like this one is focusing on what is essential. With our criminal evidence tracker we hope to contribute to that as we move through what promises to be a significant month for the most fundamental of American ideas: that no one is above the law.
The Tracker is available as a SCRIBD file below and also as a separate PDF.