In mid-December 2020, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in Pennsylvania and three other battleground states, a livid Donald Trump turned to chief of staff Mark Meadows and — in a rare moment of truth — admitted he had lost the election.
"This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don't want people to know that we lost," Trump said, according to Meadows' assistant, Cassidy Hutchinson, who was standing close by.
That's one of the many illuminating details in the House select committee's report that examined the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
After an 18-month investigation that included interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses and the review of thousands of documents, the committee came to a damning conclusion: "The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him."
The bipartisan committee accused Trump of inciting an insurrection, obstructing an official government proceeding, and conspiring to defraud the United States. The committee voted 9-0 to refer Trump to the Justice Department for criminal investigation and potential prosecution for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The committee also singled out several officials from Pennsylvania for their treacherous actions.
Jeffrey Clark, a Philadelphia native who worked in the Justice Department, was one of five coconspirators the committee named. Rep. Scott Perry, whose district includes Harrisburg and York, was one of four Republican members of Congress the panel referred to the House ethics committee for possible sanction for their refusal to comply with subpoenas. U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, of Butler, was also named for his role in a failed plot to send a false slate of Wisconsin electors for approval by Vice President Mike Pence.
In the days and weeks after the election, many of Trump's key advisers repeatedly told him that he had lost. Yet, he pressed on. Trump leaned on the Justice Department, pressured state election officials, flooded state and federal courts with flimsy lawsuits, organized protests, plotted with far-right groups, raised tens of millions of dollars for a defense fund, and spread lies about election fraud.
The president's efforts — along with those of his associates — culminated in the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6.
A violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol that day, causing millions of dollars in damage as they hunted for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, defecated on her desk, chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" and delayed the certification of the election. Seven people died and more than 100 U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police officers were injured, including one who was beaten with a Trump flag by a Montgomery County man.
The public now knows the disturbing details thanks to the House committee's investigation. As usual, Trump tried to paint the report as a witch hunt, calling the bipartisan committee a "kangaroo court."
The hard truth is the Jan. 6 committee followed their sworn duty to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. They did their job, and it was not for political gain.
In fact, the two Republicans on the panel will soon be out of office. Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) lost her seat in the primary, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) did not run for reelection. Nearly all the testimony that formed the committee's report came from Republicans, including Trump administration officials, White House staffers, key advisers, and Trump's own family members.
The 154-page committee summary — along with the 10 televised hearings — detailed Trump's brazen multipronged attempt to overturn a free and fair election. The committee's work product may be the best historical record we will ever get.
Unfortunately, it is not a complete picture, since many Republican officials refused to cooperate. Not to mention, the Secret Service deleted nearly all of its agents' text messages from Jan. 5 and 6.
The committee will likely be disbanded once the GOP takes control of the House next month. Some of the same Republican members of Congress who refused to comply with the subpoenas and denied the election results reportedly want to waste time and money investigating the Jan. 6 committee itself.
Regardless, this much is clear: Trump betrayed the country. He orchestrated a coup and tried to block the peaceful transfer of power that is the bedrock of our democracy.
The committee's work was admirable. It is now up to the Justice Department to hold Trump and his associates accountable.