As of March 2022, the House select committee had conducted seven public hearings and was weeks away from producing its final report. But the inner workings of that committee — the members of Congress, lawyers and video producers who totaled about 80 people tasked with investigating a violent attack on American democracy and a sitting president’s role in that attack — had remained almost entirely shrouded from view. Through extensive interviews with all nine committee members, numerous witnesses and senior staff members and a review of their publicly available work, we have been able to reconstruct the story of how that committee operated from behind the scenes, through the febrile — sometimes chaotic — race to a finish line that was always understood to be Jan. 3, 2023, when the new Congress was sworn in and a new Republican majority in the House would dissolve that panel.
The daughter of Dick Cheney, Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney drove the committee’s agenda from the start, insisting that each hearing focus on a different aspect of Trump’s election-stealing schemes and that the overall case against him remain paramount. Dedicated teams were developed to probe the money behind the riot’s instigators (Green Team), the law-enforcement and security lapses before and during the riot (Blue Team) and more, but Cheney made sure that all aspects remained subservient to the main case against Trump.
As a former journalist, Goldston found the heavy-handed scripting of the hearings anathema. He implored committee members and staff to inject more newsworthy information into the narrative, but he was rebuffed. By the end of the year, he had resigned.
By the time of the first televised hearing in January 2022, committee investigators had amassed a mountain of evidence against the president and his allies, including a trove of emails and text messages indicating that Trump and his allies attempted to contact witnesses ahead of their testimony. In one instance, a witness was instructed to tell her lawyer she could “under certain circumstances, say that she did not recall facts,” according to the committee’s summary of its findings.
A key revelation in the final report is that Trump and his allies tried to weaponize the Justice Department to overturn his election defeat, even though they knew many of their efforts were illegal. A detailed account of those efforts, which involved a relentless arm-twisting of election administrators in key states and senior Justice Department leaders, is contained in the committee’s report. The investigation also raises serious questions about the conduct of two Trump appointees, particularly Clark, who may have violated the law by attempting to use his position as acting assistant attorney general to help Trump overturn his electoral defeat.