During the course of the January 6th House Select Committee’s work, investigative staff received dozens of statements from leading experts in law, academia, and other research. Although only some of these expert statements were ultimately cited in the Select Committee’s hearings and final report, many others helped to contextualize our work as we sought to uncover the full truth behind the attack on our democracy. The individuals and organizations who submitted these statements came from a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds, and therefore approached the events of January 6, 2021 from vastly different angles. Nevertheless, their statements coalesce in a single, frightening call to alarm, which warns us that former President Donald Trump’s attack on the rule of law and the ensuing insurrection was not an isolated event. Instead, the experts show that it should be seen as an inflection point in a violent, anti-democratic movement that has deep roots in America’s own history of racist violence and far-right extremism and fits within global patterns of political violence and lurches toward authoritarianism.

In collecting some of these statements and launching this collection, Just Security is providing an invaluable resource to all Americans, and others beyond, who still seek a more holistic understanding of January 6th, and who want to explore what the sobering conclusions of the Select Committee might mean for the future of our democracy. 

First and foremost, these statements help to place the insurrection as part of a dark, American tradition of mob violence that has repeatedly tried to nullify the electoral triumph of multiracial coalitions and attack governments that support equal rights for Black Americans. Statements such as those from Professors Carol Anderson, Kellie Carter Jackson, Kate Masur, Gregory Downs, and Kathleen Belew, provide historical analysis and specific examples—ranging from Reconstruction to the modern white power movement—that demonstrates the continuity between January 6th and previous vigilante attempts to beat back progress toward a more inclusive and racially equitable America.

Other statements, like those from leaders at prominent, nonpartisan institutes like the NAACP Legal Defense FundBrennan CenterStates United Democracy Center, and Campaign Legal Center, explain how this history of racial violence and disenfranchisement is intimately bound up in President Trump’s Big Lie, which singles out largely non-white cities as centers of voter fraud and has since been used as a justification for further restrictions on voting rights that disproportionately impact Black and Brown citizens. Related analyses we received explained how key actors in the insurrection were motivated by a toxic brew of racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, and conspiracy – the same beliefs that continue to motivate acts of mass violence and intimidation across the country. In a statement from the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (where I now work), Professor Mary McCord explains how January 6th also fits into a yearslong trend of increased mobilization by unlawful private paramilitary groups, which have continued to evolve since the attack. 

Even more broadly, these assorted statements give a global perspective on the anti-democratic coalition that burst forth on January 6th. Leading experts on authoritarianism and fascism, such as Professors Ruth Ben-GhiatJason Stanley, and Federico Finchelstein, remind us of the stakes of January 6th as a moment when vigilante violence and authoritarian schemes converged to assert control over democratic society, as we have seen replicated, in one form or another, throughout history to catastrophic effect. This moment of autocratic consolidation was enabled by a broader acceptance of political violence by mainstream politicians and their supporters, a phenomenon that is elucidated by experts like Rachel Kleinfeld and Professors Liliana Hall Mason and Nathan Kalmoe.

These statements can also help to shine a light on some of the less-examined elements of the broader story of January 6th, such as explanations of the role of Christian Nationalism and anti-government extremism in the attack, the FBI’s persistent failures to adequately address the threat of far-right violence, the crisis of extremist radicalization within the U.S. military, and the proliferation of violent, conspiratorial content on alternative social media platforms like Parler. Taken together, these expert analyses should help us reject narrow explanations for the insurrection, especially the kind that  attempts to whitewash the violent extremism we saw on that day and try to sweep over the true, violent potential of the movements that fueled it.

The legacy of January 6th remains a fiercely contested issue, and it is vitally important that supporters of American democracy still speak loudly and clearly about the realities of that day. This collection will help us do just that, by providing explanations about why the insurrectionist forces have lingered on in our national life, through continued threats of political violence and anti-democratic instability. Over two years after the attack, groups like the Proud Boys continue to menace local governments and LGBTQ+ individuals, while an openly vengeful Trump embraces the insurrectionists and demonizes the same minority communities that are now in their crosshairs. 

Seen in this light, January 6th never ended. 

We are in the midst of the latest retelling of a very old, very dangerous story of authoritarianism and violence that both America and the world has seen before. That makes it all the more important for us to push for accountability whenever and wherever we can, and to guard against the resurgence of political violence as the next national election looms ever closer.

I hope that experts will continue to submit their statements to Just Security (email address) so that it can create as complete a repository as possible. Although they were not all incorporated into the work of the Select Committee, these statements give essential context to complement the factual narrative contained in the committee’s final report and underlying documents. As shocking as that narrative remains, it is even more terrifying when examined in this wider lens. Because of this, I know the collection will foster a deeper understanding of the insurrection and illuminate its most difficult lessons, which is the best way to ensure that January 6th is remembered as a wake-up call to the bipartisan alliance that saved American democracy, and not as the triumphant first chapter of an extreme coalition eager to destroy it.

Editor’s note: The expert statements on this topic are listed below and also available at Just Security’s January 6th Clearinghouse

  1. Carol Anderson (Charles Howard Candler Professor, African American Studies, Emory University)
    “The Role of White Rage and Voter Suppression in the Insurrection on January 6, 2021″
    Expert Statement
  2. Anti Defamation League
    Extremist Movements and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection”
    Expert Statement 
  3. Heidi Beirich (Co-Founder and Executive Vice President, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism)
    “The Role of the Proud Boys in the January 6th Capitol Attack and Beyond”
    Expert Statement
  4. Kathleen Belew (Associate Professor of History, University of Chicago)
    Expert Statement
  5. Ruth Ben-Ghiat (Professor of History, New York University)
    “Strongmen Don’t Accept Defeat: The January 6th, 2021, Assault on the Capitol as an Outcome of Donald J. Trump’s Authoritarian Presidency”
    Expert Statement
  6. Bright Line Watch
    John Carey (John Wentworth Professor in the Social Sciences, Dartmouth College), Gretchen Helmke (Thomas H. Jackson Distinguished University Professor, University of Rochester), Brendan Nyhan (James O. Freedman Presidential Professor, Dartmouth College) and Susan Stokes (Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago)
    “The Destructive Effects of President Trump’s Effort to Overturn the 2020 Election”
    Expert Statement 
  7. Anthea Butler (Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania)
    “What is White Christian Nationalism?”
    Expert Statement
  8. Kellie Carter Jackson (Michael and Denise Kellen ‘68 Associate Professor of Africana Studies, Wellesley College)
    “Understanding the Historical Context for White Supremacist Violence in America in Tandem with the Events of January 6, 2021”
    Expert Statement 
  9. Katherine Clayton (Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford University), Nicholas T. Davis (Assistant Professor, The University of Alabama), Brendan Nyhan (James O. Freedman Presidential Professor, Dartmouth College), Ethan Porter (Assistant Professor, George Washington University), Timothy J. Ryan (Associate Professor, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Thomas J. Wood (Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University)
    “President Trump’s Rhetoric Undermined Confidence in Elections Among His Supporters”
    Expert Statement
  10. Michael German (Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law)
    “Why the FBI Failed to Anticipate Violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, and How to Prevent it From Happening Again”
    Expert Statement 
  11. Philip Gorski (Frederick and Laura Goff Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies, Yale University)
    “White Christian Nationalism: The What, When, How and Where.”
    Expert Statement 
  12. Jared Holt (Resident Fellow, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Atlantic Council)
    Expert Statement
  13. Aziz Huq (Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School) and Tom Ginsburg (Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School)
    “Statement on the January 6, 2021 Attacks and the Threat to American Democracy”
    Expert Statement
  14. Michael Jensen (Associate Research Scientist, START), Elizabeth Yates (Assistant Research Scientist, START) and Sheehan Kane (Senior Researcher, START)
    “Radicalization in the Ranks: An Assessment of the Scope and Nature of Criminal Extremism in the United States Military”
    Expert Statement 
  15. Rachel Kleinfeld (Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
    “The Rise in Political Violence in the United States and Damage to Our Democracy”
    Expert Statement
  16. Samantha Kutner (Proud Boys Research Lead, Khalifa Ihler Institute), Bjørn Ihler (Co-Founder, Khalifa Ihler Institute), and C.L. Murray (Khalifa Ihler Institute and Lecturer in Criminology, University of North Carolina Wilmington)
    “Function Over Appearance; Examining the Role of the Proud Boys in American Politics Before and After January 6th”
    Expert Statement
  17. Liliana Mason (Associate Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University), Nathan Kalmoe (Associate Professor of Political Communication, Louisiana State University), Julie Wronski (Associate Professor of American Politics, University of Mississippi) and John Kane (Clinical Assistant Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University)
    Expert Statement
  18. Kate Masur (Professor of History, Northwestern University) and Gregory Downs (Professor of History, University of California, Davis)
    “Our Fragile Democracy: Political Violence, White Supremacy, and Disenfranchisement in American History”
    Expert Statement
  19. Mary McCord (Executive Director and Visiting Professor of Law, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Georgetown University Law Center)
    Expert Statement
  20. Jennifer Mercieca (Professor, Department of Communication, Texas A&M University)
    Expert Statement
  21. Suzanne Mettler (John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions, Cornell University) and Robert C. Lieberman (Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University)
    “How Four Historic Threats to Democracy Fueled the January 6, 2021 Attack on the United States Capitol”
    Expert Statement 
  22. Janai Nelson (President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.)
    Expert Statement
  23. Trevor Potter (Founder and President, Campaign Legal Center)
    Expert Statement
  24. Candace Rondeaux (Director, Future Frontlines, New America), Ben Dalton (Open Source Fellow, Future Frontlines, New America), Cuong Nguyen (Social Science and Data Analytics Fellow, Future Frontlines, New America), Michael Simeone (Associate Research Professor, School for Complex Adaptive Systems, Arizona State University), Thomas Taylor (Senior Fellow, New America) and Shawn Walker (Senior Research Fellow, Future Frontlines, New America)
    “Investigating Alt-Tech Ties to January 6”
    Expert Statement
  25. Mike Rothschild (Journalist and Author)
    “Regarding The Role of QAnon in the Events of January 6th and Beyond”
    Expert Statement
  26. Andrew Seidel (Constitutional Attorney, Freedom From Religion Foundation)
    “Events, People, and Networks Leading Up to January 6” and “Attack on the Capitol: Evidence of the Role of White Christian Nationalism”
    Expert Statement
  27. Peter Simi (Professor of Sociology, Chapman University)
    “Understanding Far-Right Extremism: The Roots of the January 6th Attack and Why More is Coming”
    Expert Statement
  28. Southern Poverty Law Center
    Michael Edison Hayden (Senior Investigative Reporter and Spokesperson, Intelligence Project), Megan Squire (Senior Fellow, Intelligence Project) Hannah Gais (Senior Research Analyst, Intelligence Project) and Susan Corke (Director, Intelligence Project)
    Expert Statement 1
    Cassie Miller (Senior Research Analyst, Intelligence Project) and Susan Corke (Director, Intelligence Project)
    Expert Statement 2
    Michael Edison Hayden (Senior Investigative Reporter and Spokesperson, Intelligence Project) and Megan Squire (Deputy Director for Data Analytics and OSINT, Intelligence Project)
    Expert Statement 3
  29. Jason Stanley (Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy, Yale University) and Federico Finchelstein (Professor of History, The New School)
    “The Fascist Danger to Democracy Represented by the Events of January 6, 2021”
    Expert Statement
  30. Amanda Tyler et al (Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and Leader, Christians Against Christian Nationalism Initiative)
    “Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection” – Report
    Expert Statement
  31. Wendy Weiser (Vice President for Democracy, Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law)
    Expert Statement
  32. Andrew Whitehead (Associate Professor of Sociology, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis) and Samuel Perry (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Oklahoma)
    “What is Christian Nationalism?”
    Expert Statement
  33. Christine Whitman (Former Governor, New Jersey), Steve Bullock (Former Governor, Montana), Jim Hood (Former Attorney General, Mississippi), Tom Rath (Former Attorney General, New Hampshire), Trey Grayson (Former Secretary of State, Kentucky) and Frankie Sue Del Papa (Former Secretary of State, Nevada)
    Expert Statement
IMAGE: Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)