The January 6th Committee

The investigation by Congress into the events of 6 January 2021 was set up following the attack on the US Capitol on that day by supporters of President Trump. On 6 January, members of Congress and the vice president were certifying the 2020 election result in which President Biden had been declared the winner. Protesters who disagreed with the announced result of the election gathered outside the Capitol building, and ultimately more than 2,000 of them broke through police lines and entered the building. This led to the suspension of congressional activities while the situation was brought under control.

Nancy Pelosi initially wanted  the events of 6 January  to be investigated by a commission. This would have had joint membership from the House of Representatives and the Senate specifically to investigate the events of that day. A commission would have had greater status and authority. Howevert this  failed due to a filibuster in the Senate, and therefore the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack was set up instead.

 While President Trump was impeached for ‘incitement of insurrection’ on 6 January, he was ultimately found not guilty by a vote of 57–43. Therefore, the House Committee was set up to investigate ‘changes in law, policy, procedures, rules, or regulations’ to prevent future acts of violence, and ‘to strengthen the security and resilience of the United States and American democratic institutions’.

 The committee   did not have the power to punish Trump. However, their findings could be used by the Department of Justice in its continuing investigations and prosecutions of those involved in the attack of 6 January 2021. It has also been widely carried by news organisations, including their public hearings held throughout the summer of 2022.

In its last public meeting Monday, the Jan. 6 committee introduced a video presentation that laid out key findings and evidence throughout its investigation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) of the House of Representatives formed a House select committee to investigate the 6 January 2021 insurrection at Congress. The vote passed, with all House Democrats and two House Republicans, Representatives Kinzinger and Cheney, voting for the committee and most Republicans voting against it. The vote allowed Pelosi to appoint eight members to the committee and House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy (R), to appoint five. However, Pelosi disallowed two of McCarthy’s picks as they had voted to invalidate the results of the 2020 election. As a result, McCarthy withdrew all of his picks. Pelosi therefore appointed seven Democrats to the committee and two Republicans – Kinzinger and Cheney. From the outset, therefore, polarisation of US parties was evident in the investigation into the 6 January insurrection, and highlighted the limits on the power of Congress in a hyper-partisan environment.

The committee interviewed over 1,000 witnesses and reviewed over 100,000 records. A number of these witness came from President Trump’s inner circle of aides, including his chief of staff, Mark Meadows. The committee decided to hold a series of public hearings in which members could hear from key witnesses and showcase what the investigation had uncovered. These public hearings were broadcast on primetime television. The committee aimed to influence public opinion on the events of 6 January 2021. The witness at these hearings included police officers on duty on Capitol Hill. The hearings were watched by around 13 million people per day, with some sessions gaining more than 20 million viewers.


Liz Cheney of Wyoming lost her primary to a Trump-endorsed rival, Harriet Hagemen. Cheney’s concession speech highlighted her belief in the work that she had done on the January 6 Committee, while recognising that it had resulted in her defeat.

 A poll by CNN in July 2022, found that following the public hearings, 69% of Americans deemed the events of 6 January 2021 to be a crisis for the USA – up only a little from 65% earlier in 2022. This suggests the committee had little impact on public opinion despite the headlines and primetime television reporting. TV news and select committees do not have the influence they once had. While the January 6 committee has often been compared to Watergate, it has very little in common with the carefully crafted Senate committee that investigated the Watergate break-in, led by conservative Democrat Sam Ervin in 1973, an era when politics was more genteel and most Americans received their news through traditional media outlets.

While the decision to refuse to participate was initially made in an effort to delegitimize the committee and make it look like a partisan vehicle after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked two of McCarthy’s original nominees from joining the committee, Republicans have since been left regretting the decision. Even Trump has criticized it after the hearings began when he was left without any allies in the room. 

Following recommendations from the January 6 Committee, Senators Manchin (D) and Collins (R) introduced the Electoral Count Reform Act. The Act aims to clarify the 1887 Electoral College Act, notably outlining the vice president’s role in the election process as only ministerial. This was in response to President Trump’s claim that Vice President Pence had the constitutional right not to validate the results of the 2020 election.

The summary of the report which was  184 pages long, made the following recommendations:

1. Recommendations of criminal referrals of Donald Trump (and others) to the Department of Justice on the following counts:

2. Recommendation that four Members of Congress be referred to the House Ethics Committee for failure to comply with a subpoena, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The first recommendations will mean the Department of Justice now take the evidence gathered by the Committee and consider bringing criminal charges against Donald Trump and members of his administration.