How the Jan. 6 committee wants to safeguard democracy: 11 recommendations

The House committee examining last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol issued its long-awaited final report on Thursday night, marking the culmination of a historic investigation that’s captivated Congress and the country for the last 18 months.

The thrust of the committee’s argument has centered on the accusation that former President Trump, while still in the White House, sought to use his executive authority in an illegal effort to cling to power despite his 2020 election defeat. And the 845-page report aims to fill out the underlying details of investigative findings that were aired publicly over the course of 10 televised hearings that spanned seven months of this year.

Largely excluded from those public forums, however, were any specific proposals to prevent another rampage like the Jan. 6, 2021, attack — recommendations that were an explicit responsibility of the Jan. 6 committee.

The final report filled that void, providing 11 reform proposals designed to ensure the peaceful transition between presidents that eluded the country in 2021.

Here are those recommendations.

14th Amendment

One of the most striking proposals put forth by the panel aims to bar Trump from holding public office in the future under the 14th Amendment, which prohibits individuals from serving if they “engaged in insurrection.” The committee called on Congress to consider “creating a formal mechanism for evaluating whether to bar” individuals in the report from holding government office under the constitutional statute.

The report notes that Trump was impeached by the House for incitement of insurrection following the riot, that 57 senators voted to convict him of the charge, and that more recently, the committee referred the former president to the Justice Department for inciting, assisting or aiding and comforting an insurrection.

“The committee believes that those who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and then, on January 6th, engaged in insurrection can appropriately be disqualified and barred from holding government office — whether federal or state, civilian or military — absent at least two-thirds of Congress acting to remove the disability pursuant to Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the report reads.

The recommendation is similar to legislation Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced last week, which would prevent Trump from holding public office in the future under the 14th Amendment.

Subpoena enforcement

The Jan. 6 committee conducted more than 1,000 interviews with witnesses of all stripes, an overwhelming majority of whom appeared before the panel voluntarily. But a number of high-profile Trump allies declined to cooperate, even under subpoena from the panel, leaving large holes in the Jan. 6 narrative that may never be filled.

The list included prominent figures with unique, first-hand knowledge of the events of the day, including Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who spoke to Trump by phone in the midst of the riot.

In response, the committee is recommending that Congress grant itself greater powers to enforce its own subpoenas in federal courts.

Protection for poll workers

Among the most compelling testimony through the Jan. 6 hearings came from poll workers who said their lives were upended after Trump’s allies accused them — falsely — of tampering with the elections to help Joe Biden.

The attacks have sparked concerns that election workers across the country will be discouraged from pursuing those duties at the expense of the electoral process overall.

The Jan. 6 investigators, aiming to prevent such attacks, are suggesting that Congress consider steeper penalties for threats to election workers, while establishing new safeguards to protect the identities of those employees.

Tougher oversight of the Capitol Police 

The Jan. 6 attack took a devastating toll on the law enforcers charged with protecting the Capitol that day. And lawmakers in both parties have hailed the heroics of those officers in the nearly two years since.

Yet the forces on hand were wildly unprepared for the thousands of Trump supporters who marched on the Capitol — a crowd that ultimately stormed violently into the building, injuring more than 150 officers in the ensuing melee.

In response, the Jan. 6 committee is suggesting that Congress adopt a much more aggressive supervision role of the Capitol Police, to include “regular and rigorous oversight” of the agency, as well as new routine hearings with testimony from the Capitol Police Board.

The panel is also recommending that “full funding for critical security measures” is “assured.”

Role of media

Through its investigation, the Jan. 6 panel said it found that a number of individuals connected to the Capitol riot were galvanized by incorrect information regarding the 2020 presidential election that was amplified in legacy and social media.

The report, for example, makes several mentions of InfoWars host Alex Jones, at one point claiming that he “riled up crowds both in-person and online with incendiary rhetoric about the election” prior to Jan. 6, and that the radio show was “a platform for others in the election-denial coalition.”

The committee said that while individuals are responsible for their own conduct, Congress should continue to scrutinize “policies of media companies that have had the effect of radicalizing their consumers, including by provoking people to attack their own country.”

Insurrection Act

The Jan. 6 panel details multiple instances when members of the Oath Keepers — including the far-right milita group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes — called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would have allowed the president to deploy an armed militia or federal troops to crack down on domestic rebellion or insurrection.

The committee said it was “troubled” by such evidence, and encouraged relevant congressional committees to “evaluate all such evidence, and consider risks posed for future elections.”

National Special Security Event

The select committee is recommending that the joint session of Congress convened to count electoral votes on Jan. 6 be designated a national special security event, which would require increased security protections and advance planning and preparation for the proceedings.

Events like the presidential inauguration and the State of the Union are labeled national special security events by the Department of Homeland Security.

“Until January 6th, 2021, the joint session of Congress for counting electoral votes was not understood to pose the same types of security risks as other major events on Capitol Hill,” the report reads. “Given what occurred in 2021, Congress and the Executive Branch should work together to designate the joint session of Congress occurring on January 6th as a National Special Security Event.”

Electoral Count Act

Top of the committee’s list of legislative recommendations is reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887 in an effort to protect presidential elections from being overturned in the future.

To that end, the panel called on the Senate to take up the Presidential Election Reform Act, legislation crafted by Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that the House passed in September. The measure would clarify that the vice president’s role in certifying election results is strictly ministerial and increase the threshold for objecting to a state’s electoral votes, among other tenets.

The upper chamber, however, has instead approved its own version of the legislation — titled the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act — which is largely similar to the House measure with a few minor differences. Senate leaders included the legislation in the end-of-the-year omnibus, which passed through the chamber on Thursday. The spending measure now heads to the House.

Combating violent extremism

While most of the Jan. 6 protestors were not affiliated with specific groups, several white nationalist organizations appear to have played an outsized role in the violence that defined the day, including leaders of the Oath Keepers, who have since been convicted of seditious conspiracy, and the Proud Boys, who are facing similar charges.

The Jan. 6 panel is suggesting that the federal government — including a host of intelligence agencies like the Secret Service — adopt “whole-of-government strategies” to address the violent threat “posed by all extremist groups.”

The panel is also recommending that the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies better synchronize themselves in the delicate task of sharing information “on a timely basis.”

More severe penalties for obstructing the transfer of power

Congress’s role in finalizing presidential election results is essentially symbolic: It OKs the electoral votes submitted by the states based on the election results.

But the Jan. 6 rampage sought to upend that tradition. And the select committee is now suggesting that Congress expand existing federal criminal statutes — those aimed at punishing victim tampering — to include those who try to obstruct, influence or impede the counting of electoral college votes on Jan. 6.

The report specifically cites 18 U.S.C.§ 1512(c)2, which says individuals who obstruct, influence or impede official proceedings — or attempt to do so — should face a fine, prison for up to 20 years, or both.

The committee also recommended that Congress assess whether or not current statutes in place are strong enough to deter illegal actions that could thwart the peaceful transition of power.

Accountability measures

A major development in the investigation came Monday, when the committee accused Trump and a key ally — attorney John Eastman — of specific federal crimes and filed formal recommendations with the Justice Department that the agency investigate those accusations further.

But the panel isn’t stopping there, asserting that federal law enforcers should also evaluate the activities of other Trump allies identified within the report in order “to ensure criminal or civil accountability for anyone engaging in misconduct described” in the document.

The committee is also urging courts and local bar associations to disqualify any members of the legal profession who are found to participate in efforts to undermine democratic institutions. And it’s calling on the Justice Department to adopt guardrails ensuring that agency employee’s steer clear of “campaign-related activities.”

Via The Hill