On Sunday, the Washington Post published a highly detailed, minute-by-minute account of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol based on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of court documents, and hundreds of video and audio clips. The report also cites several documents obtained by American Oversight through our ongoing investigation into the attack.
The Post’s report uses records obtained through public information requests and first-hand accounts of the day’s events to break down what happened before, during, and after the Trump-incited mob stormed the Capitol, forcing elected officials into hiding and delaying the certification of President Joe Biden’s election. On the days leading up to the attacks, supporters of Donald Trump were pressuring local and state officials to contest the election results across the country, often in collaboration with Trump’s allies. On Jan. 6, hundreds of Trump supporters poured into Washington, D.C., to attend a Trump rally on the Ellipse, a park near the White House, during which the former president instructed his supporters to march on the Capitol to “try and give [lawmakers] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
The report cites records we obtained from the U.S. Secret Service and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, that include reports of Trump supporters bringing military-style gear to the Ellipse. That morning, a Secret Service alert said some people arriving at the “Save America” rally were “wearing ballistic helmets, body armor and carrying radio equipment and military-grade backpacks.”
The Secret Service records also show that at 11:35 a.m., just minutes before Donald Trump left the rally at 11:39, D.C. police responded to reports of a man with a rifle nearby. The Post details how, despite those reports of impending violence at the Hill, Trump spent three hours watching the chaos unfold on TV inside the White House, instead of calling off the mob of those acting in his name.
The riot at the Capitol is just one of the more visible examples of how Trump’s allies and supporters have sought to cast doubt on the 2020 election’s results. Those efforts also include the proliferation of sham election “investigations” undertaken by partisan actors in several states, notably Arizona. The Post’s report also cites records we obtained of Arizona Senate President Karen Fann’s communications regarding the state Senate’s election “audit” of Maricopa County and the broader effort to undermine faith in U.S. elections in the service of Trump’s lies about voter fraud. On Dec. 29, 2020, after one constituent urged her to investigate the election results, Fann responded, “It’s pretty apparent you don’t know everything that is going on,” adding that the state Senate was going to court to force the county to release of election materials and that she had the “full support” of Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
The day before, just one week before the attack, Fann had similarly boasted in an email that she had, “the full support of [Giuliani] and a personal call from Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud.” The records show that Fann and Trump discussed the sham “audit” in Maricopa County before Biden was inaugurated, and that Trump thanked Fann for her work.
Late in the spring, after the “audit” was underway, a constituent emailed Fann to express frustration over her refusal to publicly say that the partisan operation would result in the election results being overturned. “Our only goal is to get this audit finished before they try to shut us down again,” she said. “Sometimes honey does better than vinegar when you want to get something done. The vinegar will come at the end.”
American Oversight has filed dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests to federal agencies in search of documents that could shed more light on how the government prepared for and responded to the events on Jan. 6. In October, we sued multiple agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service, for records that could provide more information.
“The consequences of that day are still coming into focus, but what is already clear is that the insurrection was not a spontaneous act nor an isolated event,” wrote the Washington Post reporters. “It was a battle in a broader war over the truth and over the future of American democracy.”
Read our latest updates regarding our ongoing Jan. 6 investigation here.
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