Ensuring Accountability for the January 6, 2021 Insurrection

  • October 31, 2022

On January 6, 2021, while Congress was counting electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election, thousands of rioters breached the barriers around the U.S. Capitol and attempted to stop the peaceful transfer of power – directed by then-President Donald Trump, who for months had sought to remain in office despite losing reelection.

A comprehensive investigation into the attack and the multi-pronged conspiracy to overturn the election that precipitated it is necessary for preventing a recurrence, or worse. Just as the 9/11 Commission investigated an earlier attack on our democracy, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has been examining the full series of events and their causes that culminated with the attack: from white supremacist domestic extremism to coordinated election subversion. The Select Committee’s work is vital to establishing a shared and truthful understanding of what occurred, why, and the threats to our democracy that remain.

What’s more, it is vital that those who bear responsibility for the events leading up to and on January 6th face appropriate legal consequences. Parallel to the Select Committee’s work, the U.S. Department of Justice and the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, are conducting criminal investigations of those who both planned and participated in the efforts to subvert the election. In addition, President Trump and his allies are facing civil liability through lawsuits brought by Capitol Police officers and members of Congress injured during the attack.

A Multifaceted Effort to Investigate the January 6th Insurrection and Ensure Accountability

Ensuring accountability for a sprawling conspiracy to overturn a presidential election and obstruct the peaceful transition of power requires bringing a number of tools to bear. Protect Democracy has been employing a variety of strategies for achieving accountability.

A Framework for Accountability

A Framework for Accountability

Countries emerging from periods of autocratic abuses of power grapple with a common question: what can be done to prevent it from happening again? Many pursue accountability for the wrongdoing. But what does it mean to hold wrongdoing to account, and how effective are different approaches at preventing a recurrence of abuses? Protect Democracy reviewed global examples across history to produce Towards Non-Recurrence, a report that assesses and recommends accountability efforts for Trump-era transgressions in service of democratic recovery and reform.

Accountability Through the Courts

Accountability Through the Courts

Nobody is above the law. Those who sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to disrupt the peaceful transition of power must face appropriate consequences. The courts provide one avenue for legal accountability, through both criminal prosecutions and civil litigation. 

Protect Democracy, along with Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C., represents Capitol Police officers James Blassingame, Sidney Hemby, and Marcus Moore in lawsuits alleging that President Trump violated the Klan Act and other laws when he incited an attack on the U.S. Capitol as members of Congress were counting electoral votes. Read more about those cases here

In addition, Protect Democracy provides expert analysis on accountability through criminal prosecutions of those who planned and participated in the conspiracy to subvert the election.

Prosecuting Trump: The Well-Founded Case for Optimism

Just Security, May 23, 2022

By Kristy Parker

The Attorney General’s Choice

NY Review of Books, July 22, 2022

By Ian Bassin and Erica Newland

Accountability Through Oversight

Accountability Through Oversight

The House January 6th Select Committee has played a crucial role in chronicling the conspiracy to subvert the election. By assembling a substantial volume of evidence, and through a series of public hearings, releases, and referrals, the Select Committee has revealed pressing threats to our democracy—and highlighted dangerous shortcomings in existing law, policy, and norms. 

Protect Democracy has been working to promote compliance with the Select Committee’s demands for information, and support the translation of the Committee’s facts and findings for the public across national, state, and local media.

Citizens Guide to January 6th and Ongoing Threats to Democracy

Just Security and Protect Democracy, Sept. 2022

The Atlantic Logo

January 6 Is a Dangerous Shorthand

The Atlantic, June 8, 2022

By Grant Tudor

New York Times Logo

We Are Retired Generals and Admirals. Trump’s Actions on Jan. 6 Were a Dereliction of Duty.

New York Times, July 21, 2022

By Steve Abbot, Peter Chiarelli, John Jumper, James Loy, John Nathman, William Owens, and Johnnie Wilson

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Current United States Authoritarian Threat Index score: 2/5 Significant Threat

The Score Breakdown

  • Civil Violence 2.1/5 • Significant Threat
  • Elections 2.5/5 • Significant Threat