8 unanswered questions from the Jan. 6 committee report

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The Jan. 6 committee’s final report says some key questions remain unanswered. Here are 8 of them.

In an 800-plus-page final report released Thursday, the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol detailed the conclusions of its extraordinary 18-month investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and recommended steps to bar former president Donald Trump from holding office ever again.

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol based its findings on more than 1,200 interviews, more than 100 subpoenas and hundreds of thousands of pages of records.

The central finding of the investigation, is, at its core, a simple one:

“In the Committee’s hearings, we presented evidence of what ultimately became a multi-part plan to overturn the 2020 Presidential election,” the report states. “That evidence has led to an overriding and straight forward conclusion: the central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”

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The committee’s investigation was among the most far-reaching fact-finding efforts in modern congressional history. The nine-member committee is expected to dissolve with the end of the current Congress on Jan. 3, when an incoming Republican majority will take over the House of Representatives.

Yet a number of key questions about what transpired on Jan. 6, 2021, and the broader effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election still remain unanswered due to missing evidence, uncooperative witnesses and other factors.

The final report details several instances in which the committee and its staff were unable to answer key questions. Here, according to the committee’s report, are major questions that the committee was unable to fully answer:

1. What role did GOP House members play in Trump’s effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power?

Trump did not undertake his efforts to overturn the 2020 election on his own, the House committee concluded. He had help from a group of lieutenants and allies, including more than a dozen members of Congress.

Yet questions remain regarding their exact role.

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In particular, the final report singles out four Republican members of Congress — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif) and Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Penn.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) — for the “centrality of their efforts to President Trump’s multi-part plan to remain in power.”

The committee noted that each of them refused to comply with subpoenas and referred them to the House Ethics Committee.

Jordan led a Jan. 2, 2021, conference call with Trump and other members of Congress to discuss delaying the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. On Jan. 5, he texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows recommending that he “call out all the electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all,” according to the report. Jordan spoke multiple times on Jan. 6 with both Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani, according to the committee’s report, and has provided inconsistent public statements about how many times he spoke with Trump that day.

Perry was among the 11 Republican members of Congress who attended a Dec. 21, 2020, meeting at the White House to discuss plans to object to certifying the electoral votes. The next day, he introduced Trump to Department of Justice lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who spearheaded an effort within DOJ to overturn the election. Biggs also took part in the Dec. 21 meeting with Jordan.

McCarthy, who is likely to become speaker of the House when Republicans retake control of the body next month, had “multiple communications with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and others on and related to January 6th,” the report states. While he initially expressed frustration with Trump’s inaction the day of the attack, publicly stating that “the president bears responsibility,” McCarthy has since retreated from public discussion of Trump’s role.

“The Committee also believes that each of these individuals, along with other Members who attended the December 21st planning meeting with President Trump at the White House, should be questioned in a public forum about their advance knowledge of and role in President Trump’s plan to prevent the peaceful transition of power,” according to its report.

2. What, exactly, was Trump doing as the attack unfolded?

Few official records exist chronicling Trump’s activities on Jan. 6 between the time he was informed the Capitol was under attack at 1:25 p.m. and the time he emerged from a dining room adjacent to the Oval Office around 4 p.m.

Trump made calls to Giuliani at 1:39 p.m. and 2:03 p.m., according to cellphone records obtained by the committee.

But the final report notes a distinct gap in official White House records regarding Trump’s activities during that time.

“No photographs exist of the President for the remainder of the afternoon until after 4 p.m. President Trump appears to have instructed that the White House photographer was not to take any photographs,” the report notes. “The Select Committee also was unable to locate any official records of President Trump’s telephone calls that afternoon. And the President’s official Daily Diary contains no information for this afternoon between the hours of 1:19 p.m. and 4:03 p.m., at the height of the worst attack on the seat of the United States Congress in over two centuries.”


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3. Which members of Congress did Trump call on the afternoon of Jan. 6?

The committee cites testimony from Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, who told the committee that Trump called “a number of Senators” that afternoon. But the extent of Trump’s outreach to members of Congress remains unknown.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, received one of the outgoing calls from Trump that afternoon. However, the report notes, “the number or names of all such Members of Congress is unknown.” It is not known how many calls Trump made that day.

4. Which congressmember received the Trump campaign’s fake electoral votes?

A key component of the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election was an attempt to gather signatures from “fake electors” — Trump supporters who pledged to cast electoral votes for him even though they were not members of the Electoral College and had no authority to do so — who “submitted false electoral votes to Washington,” the committee found. The fake elector scheme is reportedly among the matters under investigation by the Department of Justice.

The committee’s report states that its investigation determined who delivered the fake votes to Congress but could not determine which member or members of Congress received them.

G. Michael Brown, the Trump campaign’s deputy director for Election Day operations, on Jan. 5 sent a text to other campaign staffers “suggesting that he was the person who delivered the fake votes to Congress,” the report notes, adding: “The Select Committee does not know where Brown delivered the fake votes.”

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A footnote to the report details multiple unsuccessful attempts to contact Brown. The committee issued a subpoena to Brown, but servers were unable to locate him.

“What the Select Committee has determined, however, is that Brown likely delivered the fake electoral college votes to at least one of President Trump’s allies in Congress,” the footnote alleges.

5. Where did the “vice president theory” come from?

A flawed legal theory that the vice president is charged with making judgments if there are conflicting electoral votes was at the center of efforts by Trump and his allies to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

According to the committee’s report, the theory was advanced by Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro in a Dec. 13, 2020, memo to Giuliani at the request of Boris Epshteyn, a Trump campaign attorney. Another Trump election lawyer, John Eastman, also pushed the idea, according to the report.

“Chesebro’s memo set President Trump’s pressure campaign on a course to target the Vice President on January 6,” the report states. Members of the mob chanted “hang Mike Pence” as they entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.

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However, the committee could not determine who originally advanced the flawed legal concept.

“Neither Eastman nor Chesebro provided substantive answers in response to the Select Committee’s questions about the development of this strategy,” the report states. “It is thus difficult to determine who first suggested this concept. Evidence obtained by the Select Committee suggests that key players like Eastman, Giuliani, and Epshteyn were starting to discuss the Vice President’s role at the joint session in late November or early December.”

6. Who is responsible for the pipe bombs left at the RNC and DNC headquarters?

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich received a report at about 1:25 p.m. on Jan. 6 — just as the mob began breaking into the Capitol Building — about pipe bombs at the headquarters of both the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C.

According to the report, “Bowdich testified that the FBI considered the possibility that the DNC and RNC bombs were possible distractions.”

The committee’s report offers no findings about who may have been responsible for the bombs. To date, no arrests have been made in connection with the pipe bombs.

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7. What did Trump know about the prospect of violence at the Capitol?

In its report, the committee said it had “significant concerns about the credibility” of testimony provided by Tony Ornato, the former head of Trump’s Secret Service detail who was serving as deputy chief of staff for operations at the end of the Trump administration.

According to the report, Ornato “had access to intelligence that suggested violence at the Capitol on January 6th, and it was his job to inform Meadows and President Trump of that.”

“Although Ornato told us that he did not recall doing so, the Select Committee found multiple parts of Ornato’s testimony questionable,” the committee’s report states. “The Select Committee finds it difficult to believe that neither Meadows nor Ornato told President Trump, as was their job, about the intelligence that was emerging as the January 6th rally approached.”

The committee’s report cites testimony from other witnesses, including Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, indicating Trump was briefed on the risk of violence prior to appearing at his rally on Jan. 6.

8. Was election disinformation fueled by malign foreign influence?

In an appendix to the report, the committee included an evaluation of the role foreign actors may have played in the 2020 election and its aftermath.

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The committee concluded, based on intelligence community reports, that while “there is no evidence of foreign technical interference in the 2020 election, there is evidence of foreign influence.”

Specifically, the report cites the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized Russian government organizations to engage in influence operations aimed at supporting Trump. Those efforts included the use of “proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives.”

However, the committee states that the extent of the foreign influence effort is ultimately unknowable.

“The success of the proxy depends on shielding its foreign sponsorship,” the report concludes. “For that reason, it can be difficult or impossible to determine conclusively whether someone parroting a foreign government adversary’s point of view to a U.S. audience is that government’s controlled proxy or a volunteer taking full advantage of U.S. First Amendment freedoms.”

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.

  • Steve Reilly
    Steve Reilly

    Investigative Reporter

    Steve Reilly is an investigative reporter for Grid focusing on threats to democracy.