The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol happened in Washington, D.C. but, not surprisingly, Florida came up repeatedly in the executive summary of the long-awaited House committee report on the insurrection. (The report is expected to be released in full on Dec. 21.)
On Monday, wrapping up a year-and-a-half long inquiry, the House committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans referred criminal charges to the U.S. Justice Department against former President Donald Trump and associates who helped him carry out an alleged multifaceted campaign to overturn the presidential election Trump lost in 2020.
It now falls to federal prosecutors to decide whether to bring charges.
Meanwhile, here are seven instances in which the report cites Florida residents or happenings connected to the House Jan. 6 committee’s exhaustive investigation.
1. Florida’s election laws got a thumbs up. Then state lawmakers changed them, of course.
The COVID-19 pandemic set in just before the 2020 Florida presidential primary, which was held on March 17 of that tumultuous year. After virus fears partly upended primaries in Florida and other states, political operatives began extolling the virtues of mail-in voting ahead of the November vote. That was advice then-President Donald Trump received, the report said, from his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, along with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, son-in-law Jared Kushner and White House Counselor Hope Hicks. Hicks, in fact, cited the the mail-in voting process in a state Trump was especially familiar with. “I think he [President Trump] understood that a lot of people vote via absentee ballot in places like Florida and have for a long time and that it’s worked fine,” the committee quoted Hicks as saying. Trump never complained about mail-in voting in these states that offered “no-excuse absentee voting in 2020,” including Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming,” the report said.
2. Florida militant leader figured prominently in the Jan. 6 violence at U.S. Capitol
Florida has led the nation in the number of arrests related to the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol that day. So it’s not surprising the committee’s executive summary cited militant and far-right groups in the Sunshine State. The report notes the guilty verdict against Kelly Meggs, the leader of the Florida Oath Keepers chapter, for seditious conspiracy. The committee at a hearing earlier this year had noted that Meggs “celebrated” Trump’s call for a massive protest on Jan. 6 in Washington in a Dec. 19 (2021) tweet. On Monday, the report reiterated how Meggs sent “an encrypted Signal message to Florida Oath Keepers that President Trump ‘wants us to make it WILD … He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! … Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!”
3. Other Florida far-right extremist groups said to have created a Jan. 6 alliance
The report also mentioned “members of the Florida Guardians of Freedom,” which it said sent a flyer on Dec. 24, in response to a “call from President Donald J. Trump to assist in the security, protection, and support of the people as we all protest the fraudulent election and re-establish liberty for our nation.” Meggs’ organization, as well as other extremist groups, “were not operating in silos,” the report went on. The committee said Meggs had “bragged on Facebook” that he had established an “alliance between the Oath Keepers, the Florida Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys” with the understanding they would “work together to shut this s*** down.” The report suggested that alliance was the purpose of a Dec. 19 (2021) call between Meggs and Florida Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who is currently on trial for seditious conspiracy.
4. Vocal, fiery in speeches and podcasts. Not so much when testifying.
Many of the people who were involved in the Jan. 6 events, or who backed Trump’s false assertions of election fraud, have been publicly vocal and outspoken in their views. But some of these individuals became tight-lipped when given the opportunity to challenge the committee’s narrative while testifying. The report noted that “more than 30 witnesses” that were interviewed by the committee “exercised their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused on that basis to provide testimony.” They included two Florida men, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. On Flynn, who now lives in Sarasota, the committee noted:
“We do note that certain witness assertions of the Fifth Amendment were particularly troubling, including this: Vice Chair Cheney: General Flynn, do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified? Counsel for the Witness: Can I get clarification, is that a moral question or are you asking a legal question? Vice Chair Cheney: I’m asking both. General Flynn: The Fifth.
Vice Chair Cheney: Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified morally? General Flynn: Take the Fifth.
Vice Chair Cheney: Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified legally? General Flynn: Fifth.
Vice Chair Cheney: General Flynn, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America? General Flynn: The Fifth.'”
5. Did Matt Gaetz seek a “broader” pardon than Richard Nixon?
The report said that Trump’s personnel director, Johnny McEntee, “confirmed that he was personally asked for a pardon by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).” In testimony, one of Trump’s White House counsels, Eric Herschmann, said he recalled that Gaetz “asked for a very, very broad pardon.… And I said Nixon’s pardon was never nearly that broad.” The report said the pardon requests “suggest that the members identified above were conscious of the potential legal jeopardy arising from their conduct.” Gaetz, however, was not among the committee’s criminal referrals to the U.S. Justice Department, nor did the committee refer his case to the House ethics panel.
6. A parallel between Jan. 6, Mar-a-Lago documents probes?
The Jan. 6 attack predated the seizure of documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club by roughly 18 months. But the report cited a parallel, specifically potential efforts to influence witnesses in both in cases. The report said the basis for that concern is “published accounts” that the Justice Department is scrutinizing “the conduct of counsel for certain witnesses” in its Mar-a-Lago investigation. Namely, the conduct of those lawyers being paid by Trump’s Save America Political Action Committee. The report said: “The public report implies the Department is concerned that such individuals are seeking to influence the testimony of the witnesses they represent. This Committee also has these concerns, including that lawyers who are receiving such payments have specific incentives to defend President Trump rather than zealously represent their own clients. The Department of Justice and the Fulton County District Attorney have been provided with certain information related to this topic.”
Legal issues mount for former Presidnt Trump
Adding to the former president’s slew of legal challenges, the Department of Justice regained access to the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, and the New York Attorney General is accusing him for fraud. (Sept. 22)
7. Trump’s 2020 Christmas vacation at Mar-a-Lago central to one big piece of Jan. 6 puzzle
As The Palm Beach Post reported at the time, Trump stayed out of public view during his abbreviated 2020 Christmas stay at his Palm Beach club. The committee’s report appears to pull back the veil on that week or so between the time Trump arrived at Mar-a-Lago on Dec. 23 and his hastily announced Dec. 31 departure. Specifically, the report said Trump sought to “corrupt” the Justice Department and planned “to use the Justice Department to aid in his efforts to overturn the election outcome.” In a six-page section, the report details what a mid-summer committee hearing first disclosed: That Trump badgered top Justice Department officials throughout that Christmas holiday to support his baseless election fraud allegations, and then sought to fire them when they didn’t. The campaign included Trump allegedly telling one of the Justice officials to: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.” The officials reported they were also consistently peppered with debunked and frivolous election fraud allegations by Trump and others throughout the week. Trump also pressed Justice Department leaders to sign a letter to Georgia officials citing untrue “irregularities” in voting, and suggesting state lawmakers “call a special session to evaluate” the non-existent fraud. The pressure campaign failed even after Trump flew back to Washington on New Year’s Eve precisely to seek capitulation from Justice officials.
For his part, Trump has issued a series of posts on his Truth Social platform blasting the Jan. 6 committee’s executive summary. On Monday, he wrote, “The Fake charges by the highly partisan Unselect Committee of January 6th have already been submitted, prosecuted and tried in the form of Impeachment Hoax #2,” Trump said in reference to the post-Jan. 6 impeachment trial in early 2021. “I WON convincingly. Double Jeopardy anyone!” (The former president was twice impeached by the Democrat-led U.S. House, but the Republican-led Senate twice voted not to remove him from office.)
Trump also posted: “These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”