My Reflections on the Release of the January 6 Committee Report on Trump’s Attempted Election Subversion and the Expected Passage This Week of Electoral Count Act Reform: Gratitude, Awe, and Partial Relief

We are just a few weeks shy of the two-year anniversary of the January 6, 2021 insurrection in the United States Capitol, the culmination of a series of events engineered by Donald Trump and his allies to disrupt the peaceful transition of power and subvert the election of Joe Biden as President in the 2020 election. Late this evening, the special House select committee investigating these events issued its final report, 854 pages including footnotes and appendices. And within about 24 hours, the House is almost certain to approve the omnibus spending bill that already cleared the Senate containing a major rewrite of the Electoral Count Act. The ECA is the byzantine 1887 law that Trump and his allies tried to exploit and misread in their attempted election subversion. (I give a quick sketch how in this HLRF piece.)

That this comprehensive and damning, detailed report got completed and ECA reform accomplished in two years in a hyperpartisan atmosphere following an attempted self-coup and insurrection is nothing short of remarkable. It took courageous Republicans coming together with Democrats to recognize the urgency of the matter and the need for immediate reform or else the risk of election subversion in future elections would only increase. Some Republicans did so likely sacrificing their political careers in an act of courage.

The report is careful, lawyerly, and fact-based, and the picture it paints is damning of those, beginning with the former President, who were willing to manipulate legal theories and engage in baldfaced lies about voter fraud in an attempt to steal a presidential election. Even though most of the information in the first 5 chapters of the report was familiar to someone who has been following this closely, the set of narratives makes an unmistakeable record for history of unprecedented treachery and sedition. This is true whether or not criminal charges are brought and convictions obtained. There are strong reasons to prosecute the former President, and as I argued in the New York Times, the risk of not prosecuting Trump is greater than the risk of prosecuting him.

There was some new information to me, such as the fact that former professor John Eastman, who advanced wrong and dangerous theories about the Vice President’s powers to throw out electoral college votes, changed his views when politically expedient:

The role of some lawyers in facilitating attempted election subversion is despicable, and these lawyers deserve disbarment and potentially criminal prosecution. Lawyers have a special responsibility to act as guardians of justice, and some of these Trump allies were the opposite of that.

In the end, the risk of election subversion is lessened but not behind us. Trump copycats like Kari Lake are still out there. Fortunately, courts are mostly functioning like they should and must in combatting attempted subversion via unsubstantiated claims of fraud or irregularities, and Kari Lake will soon lose her bogus case too.

We are not out of the woods, but we are in much better shape thanks to the courageous work of the January 6 committee, and the work of Democrats and Republicans coming together, especially in the Senate, to fix the Electoral Count Act. There is much to be thankful for this holiday season.

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