The Emerging Story Of January 6th

Like many people who read this blog, I receive the daily Substack newsletters issued by Heather Cox Richardson. They are always informative, but Richardson is especially good at two things: concisely summarizing important news, and providing historical context for it.

Her October 31st newsletter focused on in-depth reporting from The Washington Post–and did so in a way that illuminated the importance of that reporting.

The Post’s report was a “deep dive” into January 6th–the events leading up to the insurrection, an in-depth description of that event, and the machinations that followed it. It involved a team of 75, including more than 25 reporters;  they “reviewed video and court transcripts, followed social media posts, and interviewed more than 230 people.” The report, which can be found in its entirety here, concluded that Trump was to blame.

It also uncovered what I can only call an “intentionality” that surprised me.

Like most of my friends, I have blamed Trump for the uprising, but not in the intentional, purposeful, planned way disclosed by the Post’s investigation. His presidency was so inept, his lack of intellect and discipline so pronounced, his complete ignorance of the way government worked so debilitating, that it simply never occurred to me that he might be capable of actually planning a coup. Riling up his supporters, sure–egging them on, sure. Taking satisfaction from the mob’s “acting out,” absolutely. But deliberately engaging in planning to overturn an election seemed beyond his limited abilities.

Evidently, I was wrong. (That has been happening a lot…) As Richardson summarized,

The report concludes: “Trump was the driving force at every turn as he orchestrated what would become an attempted political coup in the months leading up to Jan. 6, calling his supporters to Washington, encouraging the mob to march on the Capitol and freezing in place key federal agencies whose job it was to investigate and stop threats to national security.” It notes that the former president did not make any effort to stop the attacks until it was clear they wouldn’t succeed, and that lawmakers assumed he was backing the rioters….

The Washington Post report places the insurrection into context: “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. It was a battle in a broader war over the truth and over the future of American democracy,” it says. “Since then, the forces behind the attack remain potent and growing.”

There is much more detail in the linked Letter, and it is chilling; I encourage you to click through and read it.

Although the Letter didn’t address it, I think these new revelations explain something I’ve been unable to understand: the persistence of Trump’s repetition of, and his base’s professed belief in, The Big Lie.  Given the utter lack of any probative evidence of voter fraud or other “rigging,” why the constant insistence that Trump “really” won an election he clearly lost by over 8 million votes?

Here’s my theory: If someone is mounting a coup–especially in a country with a historical commitment to democracy and majority rule–the question of legitimacy looms large. Had Trump been successful (or if he ultimately succeeds in reclaiming the White House) think how much better–how much more self-serving and legitimizing–it would be to claim that he is being “restored” to a position to which he was really entitled.

The effort on January 6th to subvert a democratic election failed, but we aren’t out of the woods by a long shot. A frightening number of our fellow-Americans have imbibed the Kool Ade and joined this cult, aided and abetted by a pretty sophisticated disinformation industry. Worse, most of the rest of us continue to discount the clear and present danger they pose. We continue to believe that coups happen elsewhere.

The Washington Post concluded that America is in a fight for the survival of democracy. We need to listen, because it can happen here.

On January 6th, it almost did.


  1. And this story gets ZERO air time on the local TV News. Most voters are unaware of this story and will remain so. “And now…sports “

  2. Well Pat, be careful what you wish for on the local news front. The “Facebook whistleblower” has a solution for you in the very near future. More later…

    As for 1/6’s insurrection, let me remind you it’s November 2.

    The planning started before the election and was funded by several Oligarchs around the USA and organized on FBI/CIA/NSA monitored social media websites. The truth is, every social media site is monitored inside the USA – see Wikileaks and Edward Snowden.

    Our Intelligentsia knew what was coming, but didn’t stop it. In fact, they set up the Capitol police to fail. The “why” will lead you to the Truth which we had months ago. 😉

    Here is my warning, there is a revolving door at the Washington Post, the CIA, and Amazon. I’d be very careful about relying on the WaPo. Their job is to manufacture consent or tell stories approved by the State’s Intelligence Apparatus.

    The Truth will get you a prison sentence or torture – see Reality Weiner, Daniel Hale, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and more…

  3. I just finished the first of three sections of the WaPo article covering the run-up to the morning of Jan. 6. It is spellbinding. Listening to moderates and conservatives say that we should “move on and begin the healing process” reminds me of the same playbook used after Reconstruction was gutted and reversed in the late 1870’s, and again 100 years later with the emergence of Reagan’s “morning in America”.

    That cannot be allowed to keep happening over and over and over until our democratic republic is no more.

  4. And now the Democrats are doing everything in their power to give the government back to the Republicans, aided and abetted by Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema, whose delaying tactics remind me of the same way the Republicans tried to delay the ACA during the Obama administration.
    America was attacked on January 6, and we are still under attack by the same forces.

  5. I saw it coming 5k miles away! I’m not a fan anymore, but Bill Maher kept asking last year “What if 45 won’t step down when he loses?” And everyone laughed until January 6th.

    Well, imagine me that day around 8 pm asking my spouse to turn to CNN so that we could watch the electoral count in the joint session and instead we have video outside of the mob attacking the Capital! I’m jumping up and down asking where is the military? Why isn’t the naval jets that protect the DC area deployed?

    And then it hit me! They were told to stand down! That has to be why !

    Folks, I’m so disgusted with the lack of arrests for the instigators of 1/6/21 that I’ve nearly stopped reading the news. Thank goodness for Heather Cox Richardson because her daily reports keep me up to date. Like you do Professor. Thanks.

  6. This may sound crazy and even a bit conspirstorial, but I believe Trump, with intent, did not tell the American people about Covid in order to deepen the divide between Americans. Their insistance that it came from China, is probably true because it was purchased and released for thesole reason to sew division and pandemonium. Just my thought!

  7. The ability of the Washington Post to assign 75 reporters on this story illustrates how important independent news media are.

  8. And don’t forget that Mark Meadows was Trump’s chief-of-staff. I’d bet good money that he was the concert master for January 6. Meadows is truly evil.

  9. President Biden’s poll numbers have been dropping because Manchin has replaced McConnell and Sinema has replaced Taylor-Greene in the media controlling any progress on current bills before Congress and Senate. Manchin, primarily, and Sinema are the two names in the news proving “While the cat’s away the rats will play.” and they are keeping the divisiveness alive and forcing the removal of Climate Change control alive as President Biden is in Europe apologizing for Trump’s removal of the U.S. from the Paris Accord. McConnell and Taylor-Greene are in the shadows continuing their support of overturning the election alive and being aided by Manchin and Sinema who are in the majority position of stopping passage of President Biden’s progressive bills. Where do they stand on the January 6th investigation and did they play a part in the insurrection on that day? Manchin voted 50.4% for Trump during his squatting in the Oval Office and since the election has admitted he has considered leaving the Democratic party. It appears tome that he has already vacated his seat among the Democrats.

    “The Washington Post report places the insurrection into context: “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. It was a battle in a broader war over the truth and over the future of American democracy,” it says. “Since then, the forces behind the attack remain potent and growing.”

    As a nation, we sat in our homes and watched the action of January 6th as it happened and are now expected to deny the reality of Trump’s attempted coup to overturn the election results by demanding his own Vice President be hung on the noose ready and waiting in the courtyard and the removal of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, next in line for the presidency.

  10. Admittedly 45 lacks intellect and discipline. What he does have is a single-minded focus on his own primacy. If any of this came as a real shock, you may not have been paying close enough attention.

  11. Two dates that all Americans remember. January 6 and 9/11. They both succeeded in damaging the enemies of the perpetrators. The former was an attack on our intentions of self government, the latter on our economy. Fortunately, at least so far, neither was completely successful but wars are fought by successive battles and these were battles in wars yet undecided.

  12. The design contest I have been running to imagine a monument at the Capital to 1/6 has closed with 23 entries, including 18 from current college students. Judging has begun. Hope to be able to share a link to the winner(s) in the future. Winner to be announced just before 1/6/22…

  13. I think Todd is off his meds again. 🙂

    I’m glad you wrote this column Sheila. I have been trying so hard to get people more concerned about what Trump attempted to do in 2020 and what he’ll pull in 2024 if given the chance. Our Republic and its democratic institutions are under full assault and too often members of the Democratic Party seem oblivious to the threat.

    The 12th Amendment (setting forth the modern day Electoral College) and the Electoral Count Act have so many legal holes in them that it would be nothing for GOP-controlled state legislatures to throw out state election results based on manufactured election fraud claims or GOP-controlled Congress to not count electors from those states if their legislatures don’t act. I heard one commentator say that people need to stop complaining and just VOTE. The point is voting won’t matter. The honest Republicans who conducted the vote counting and certification of those votes are being ousted one by one and replaced by officials who have no commitment to American democracy or fair and free elections.

  14. Pete: I would add December 7, 1941, which I well remember, to your list.

    As for the today’s topic, I have written elsewhere that Trump (however bumbling) was and is the reason we suffered (and continue to suffer) the 1/6 attempt to overthrow our government. Why? Because without him there would have been no 1/6. His narcissistic self (you never lose) drove him to make the attempt, and his delay of three hours before calling off the dogs was done only after he saw that the attempt was a failure, all while not so secretly vowing to reinstate himself in the Oval Office via a propaganda poisoning (the Big Lie) of his base and Republican politicians afraid to cross him. He is a sick and ignorant man concerned only with self, and no expense (including the fall of our democracy) is too great a price to pay for his drive for power and money.

    We have seen other such power-hungry heads of state within the lifetime of many readers of this blog, i.e., Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin et al. None of them hesitated to kill their own citizens in their lust for power, nor, with the excuse of an epidemic and Trump’s criminal negligence in handling the pandemic, has Trump, even going so far on 1/6 to attempt to kill the next two in the line of presidential accession, Pence and Pelosi.

    In my opinion we don’t need congressional committees to tease out the evidence confirming that Trump committed the crimes of incitement, obstruction etc. I think all we need is a prosecutor and a grand jury. I have personally witnessed his commission of these crimes in broad daylight, as have millions of others, and if we are unwilling to prosecute him for reasons within prosecutorial discretion, then perhaps (and as a last resort and if we are members) he can be tried before the World Court in The Hague for Crimes Against Humanity.

  15. Bolsonaro is being tried for crimes against humanity by the legislators of Brazil. He is a Brazilian Trump. Since Trump became POTUS, I have felt we should get rid of any immunity for the POTUS because it allows them to be above the law. If no one is above the law, then the POTUS should not be either.

    Perhaps Meadows planned this failed insurrection at Trump’s command and kept Trump informed of the strategies. It certainly appears that some of the members of Congress were involved. It will be interesting to see the results of that part of the commitee’s investigation.

    I wonder what the FBI and other National Security agencies are doing to ensure that our democracy is not undermined by those who support Trump who wants to be king(dictator) of our country. I hope they have some effective strategies that will ensure our democratic republic survives this horrific onslaught.

    And in the meantime the governors of Florida and Texas are seeking to be the next ones in line for a presidential run.

    Democrats need to get so frightened that we are losing our democracy, that moderates and progressives unite. It’s obvious they have forgotten the old adage “United we stand, divided we fall.”

  16. It seems as though we have now been able to identify the problem. Those who are opposed to democracy have taken the lead. There is a need, in my opinion, to have a concerted effort to support democracy. It is not enough to say that we can see the other side, it is important that the advocates of democracy aggressively display the value of democracy.

  17. Dear Joanne: I agree completely with you. Trump downplayed the pandemic and attacked public health officials for political, not public health, reasons. The pandemic made him look bad, so it just had to be all a hoax, a lie, or someone else’s fault. Anyway, he had a solution: Hydroxychloroquine! Or, maybe, we could wash out our insides with chlorine bleach? Those pesky doctors who said these things aren’t either safe or effective to prevent or treat COVID are liars, just like mainstream media, and his disciples believe these things. They are afraid of vaccination and their fears are based on being lied to. Some are being put on unpaid leave due to their exercise of some perceived “right” to refuse vaccination.

    Trump couldn’t bully President Xi with a trade agreement, so he started blaming China for the virus, even going so far as to say the Chinese deliberately concocted the virus as a form of germ warfare. Everything in his pathetic existence is all about HIM! His disciples continue to attack Drs. Fauci and Birx, the latter of whom testified that at least 130,000 Americans died unnecessarily of COVID just due to Trump’s incompetence alone. The pandemic was allowed to get out of control by Trump’s refusal to go along with public health recommendations, including mask-wearing and quarantining, mostly due to his denial of a serious problem h e had no idea how to handle and which made him look weak and foolish. The result is that the economy was mostly shut down for more than a year. The economy took a nosedive, and until we get a handle on herd immunity, the economy won’t fully recover, which Republicans know and are trying to leverage for political reasons. The Republicans have been successful in totally blaming Joe Biden for the slow recovery, and they continue to do everything they can to keep the virus from being eliminated, including Governors like DeSantis putting out Executive Orders to over-ride mask requirements and mandatory vaccination. The lies put out by Trump’s media enablers have caused the disciples to question the safety and efficacy of not only vaccines, but wearing masks and quarantining. They spread fear, lies and conspiracy theories, and the shocking part is that significant numbers of Americans believe the lies. Where are local media on these issues? Nowhere, that’s where. Local media are nothing but free advertising for the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. They don’t speak out against the Big Lie or do anything that counts as “journalism” in the sense of speaking truth to power. Instead, they run childrens’ coloring contests for the Downtown Christmas lights, report on the latest attractions at the Zoo or Childrens’ Museum or Newfields or promote the next new Downtown restaurant. Meanwhile, Hoosiers keep dying and Trump keeps on lying.

  18. Two thoughts – I grew up in the era where we were constantly warned of “slippery slopes” toward “communism”, so —

    We went from Nixon dog whistles (tsk, tsk – no biggie) to Reagan in Philadelphia MS (hardly noticed) to Trump’s out and out racism and embrace of the crazies (well, some “adults” will restrain him and maybe he’ll change).

    We went from the Brooks Brothers riot (tsk, tsk – no biggie) to the tea party shouting down all civil discourse (oh well) to January 6 — and we are afraid to prosecute anyone because it might “look political”

    We don’t draw lines (or we create lines like Obama’s famous Syrian line that meant nothing) – we get what we allow — with a bonus

    Second thought – Trump can be dumb and ineffective and still do all of this – Trump’s niece said that he is incapable of accepting loss – add that to his love of autocrats, and yes, he planned this, but again, perhaps a competent would-be autocrat could have succeeded

    Bonus thought – I don’t know the results, but is seems that Virginia may be so disappointed in the lack of quick action by the Democrats in Congress, that they will turn Virginia into yet another Trump state that will mistreat all non-straight, no-cis, non-WASPs and become a bastion of the big lie — and perhaps, as Paul warns us, pass a law saying that only the Legislature or Governor (whichever is pro-Trump) gets to determine the outcome of the election.

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