Was Jan. 6 ‘Christmas’ for the press? 8 ways Jan. 6 changed American politics, policing and voting
Republican attitudes on Jan. 6 have shifted following a year of sustained messaging from Trump, his allies and partisan news outlets
In a year since a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to attempt to overthrow the election, Republican criticism of former President Donald Trump has softened, the U.S. Capitol Police has faced a shortage of officers and “election integrity” has become a top conservative issue.
Here’s eight ways the U.S. has changed since the events of Jan. 6:
1. The percentage of Republicans who believe the attack threatened democracy has fallen.
Although a majority of Americans continue to condemn the attack, the percentage who believe the insurrectionists threatened democracy has fallen due to a steep drop among Republicans.
A Quinnipiac poll taken from Jan. 7-10, 2021, found 80% of Americans believe “the individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were undermining democracy,” including 95% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans.
Nearly a year later, though, an ABC News-Ipsos poll taken from Dec. 27-29, 2021, found 72% of Americans believe those involved in the attack were “threatening democracy,” including 96% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans, a 25% drop in nearly a year.
2. Most elected Republicans who initially condemned Trump for the attack have become less vocal.
Initially, top Republicans were outspoken in their opposition to the attack and criticism towards Trump for instigating it, but that didn’t last.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “former President Trump’s actions that preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty” on Feb. 13, 2021, but weeks later he said he would “absolutely” support Trump for president in 2024 if he won the nomination.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters” on Jan. 13, 2021, but softened his stance within days, saying Trump “had some responsibility” but that “everybody across this country has some responsibility” and there was “a lot more questions, a lot more answers we have to have in the coming future.”
Trump’s administration saw a wave of resignations on and after Jan. 6, but Politico found most that left have either publicly toned down their criticism or reembraced Trump.
3. Hundreds of people have been charged by federal prosecutors.
More than 700 defendants have so far been charged in connection with Jan. 6, according to a CBS News count. That includes more than 600 people accused of entering or remaining in restricted Capitol grounds, and at least 225 people accused of assaulting, impeding, or resisting law enforcement. About 45 people are accused of destruction of government property and more than 40 are accused of a broader conspiracy.
4. The Capitol Police is undergoing a massive overhaul.
The attack has taken its toll on the U.S. Capitol Police. U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was pepper-sprayed during the riot, died due to natural causes after suffering two strokes the day after the attack. In the weeks that followed the riots, two additional officers who responded — Howard Liebengood and Jeffrey Smith — died by suicide. And another two officers who responded that day, Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida, also died by suicide in late July.
Meanwhile, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger told Politico 135 officers have retired or resigned since the attack, and the force has about 400 fewer officers than it should.
President Joe Biden signed a bill last month to streamline Capitol Police emergency response, and Capitol Police board members authored a report for lawmakers that recommends major reforms, including beefing up the agency’s intelligence gathering and expanding wellness and health-related services for employees.
“Unlike agencies that protect the White House, the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency and other buildings, the USCP safeguards a public institution that, but for the restrictions of COVID-19, is regularly open to the public, who can freely access the buildings,” the report reads. “Jan. 6 exposed critical deficiencies with operational planning, intelligence, staffing, and equipment. Those issues have to be addressed.”
5. No widespread voter fraud has been found.
Trump’s claim that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 election catalyzed the Jan. 6 rally that proceeded the violence at the capital. An Associated Press review of every potential voter fraud case in six swing states Trump contested — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — found less than 475 votes out of 25.5 million ballots cast were disputed, a number too small to have tipped the results.
6. Republicans are pushing for new voting laws across the country.
Despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud, Republicans in states across the country have pushed for additional voting laws in the name of election integrity. At least 19 states passed 34 laws regarding voting in 2021, according to the Brennan Center, and at least 13 additional voting bills have been pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session in four states.
7. The Jan. 6 commission is digging into social media companies and extremist groups, and Trump’s response.
Since forming last July, the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol has interviewed more than 300 witnesses. The committee, made up of seven Democrats plus Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, has requested records from 15 social media companies and subpoenaed individuals close to the president as well as rightwing groups like Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told The Washington Post the committee is especially interested in how long it took Trump to call on his supporters to stand down. According to the Post, staff working for the committee is investigating pressure campaigns to overturn election results, extremist activity and online misinformation, and the funding and organizing behind demonstrations against the election results.
8. Some Democrats and Republicans disagree over how big of a deal Jan. 6 is.
In her remarks marking the day, Vice President Kamala Harris compared Jan. 6 to 9/11 and the attack on Pearl Harbor, other historical events known for their dates.
“Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them — where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault,” Harris said.
Meghan McCain and Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 Memorial and Museum Foundation trustee, are among those who have criticized such comparisons.
Other Republicans have gone so far as to diminish the anniversary. Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis called Jan. 6 “Christmas” for the news media, while Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said they would spend Thursday exposing “the truth” about the attack. Not all their Republican colleagues are following suit, however.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, described Jan. 6 as “a violent terrorist attack” and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the attack must be understood so it’s never repeated. In a statement Thursday, Mitt Romney, R-Utah, wrote, “We ignore the lessons of Jan. 6 at our own peril. Democracy is fragile; it cannot survive without leaders of integrity and character who care more about the strength of our Republic than about winning the next election.”