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January 6th Committee Tackled Unprecedented Attack With Time-Tested Inquiry

After 18 months, more than 1,200 interviews and 10 public hearings that presented 70 witnesses’ testimony, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack, led by Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, released its 845-page final report late on Dec. 22, 2022. The report recommended that the Department of Justice prosecute former President Donald Trump on four criminal charges, including conspiracy and incitement of insurrection. It also contained several legislative recommendations, including reform of the process to count electoral votes in presidential elections. The committee also notably recommended that Congress bar Trump and other officials involved in the insurrection from running for office again under the 14th amendment.

The committee’s recommendation to prosecute a former president was unprecedented. But its investigation of the events of Jan. 6, 2021 fell squarely within Congress’ power, and added a new chapter to a centuries-long history of congressional investigations into government scandals and failures.

Regular Oversight

Congress has broad investigative powers. Its standing and special committees, known as select committees, regularly conduct both preemptive oversight and retroactive investigations. Their aim: to identify specific cases of wrongdoing both inside and outside government.

Committee investigative reports, released at the end of focused probes, often serve as valuable historical documents. They provide detailed chronicles of the events that motivated the inquiries. For instance, the final report released by the House Select Committee on Benghazi offered a minute-by-minute accounting of events leading to the deadly terrorist attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

U.S. House January 6th Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., voted with the committee’s eight other members to refer ex-President Donald Trump to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution on four criminal charges, including incitement of insurrection. Thompson, top right, sat in the House gallery on Jan. 6 where he and fellow members sheltered while rioters attempted to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The reports typically reiterate the questions that prompted the investigation, explain how the committee conducted its work and delineate the relevant evidence and progression of events. Finally,

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