The best books on the January 6th Capitol attack

Who am I?

I was born in Washington, D.C., in a hospital not far from the U.S. Capitol. I remember being awestruck walking through its halls on tours as a kid. As a journalist, I covered some hearings and interviewed Congress representatives and staff there. The attack on January 6, 2021, was more than a breach of a landmark, historic building representing the top legislative body in the country; it was an assault on the fabric of democracy itself. A tragic crime occurred there that left several people dead and many injured, both physically and emotionally. We must hold everyone involved, especially those at the top who planned this invasion, accountable for what occurred that day.


I wrote...

Operation Chaos: The Capitol Attack and the Campaign to Erode Democracy

By Kevin James Shay,

Book cover of Operation Chaos: The Capitol Attack and the Campaign to Erode Democracy

What is my book about?

In early 2020, Team Trump executed Operation Chaos, a little-known dirty trick ploy to disrupt Democratic Party primaries.

After the election was called for Joe Biden, Trump and allies put pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to overturn election results through Operation Pence Card, where Pence would send results back to states when he oversaw the ratification in Congress on January 6, 2021. Operation Occupy the Capitol, where Proud Boys, militias, party activists, top Trump advisers, and even Trump himself conspired to stop the legal process in Congress by taking over the building while Trump lawyers attempted to force state legislators to change election results. Trump and his operatives liked to use military-style, code names for their dirty campaigns. But no matter what they called it, the result was chaos.

The books I picked & why

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Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy

By Jamie Raskin,

Book cover of Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy

Why this book?

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin was not only inside the Capitol on January 6 when it was stormed, he had just tragically buried his 25-year-old son the previous day. His book, a cathartic exercise for himself and a shocked nation, drills down to the heart of what happened, showing in graphic detail how violent and terrifying that day was from an insider’s perspective. 

As a former constitutional law professor at American University who later became a Trump impeachment manager and member of the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the attack, Raskin eloquently explains the underlying events and issues that led to the violent breach. He argues forcefully why the former president himself must be held accountable before the country can begin a crucial, difficult healing process.


Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show

By Jonathan Karl,

Book cover of Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show

Why this book?

There are numerous books out about Donald Trump’s final year as president. This one by veteran ABC News Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl provides the most detailed insider account of what led up to the Capitol attack and what exactly occurred that day. Karl gets key administration officials and even Trump himself to talk on the record about what happened from their perspective. There aren’t many interviews from unnamed sources, which leads to a more accountable and authoritative work.


Peril

By Bob Woodward, Robert Costa,

Book cover of Peril

Why this book?

There is probably no journalist in Washington more revered and connected than Bob Woodward. From his Watergate fame five decades earlier, the Washington Post legendary reporter and editor has continued his eye-opening, impressive work. Peril is his final book in a trilogy on the Trump administration. He and fellow Post journalist Robert Costa interviewed more than 200 administrative players who provide this account with the deep-sourced material that Woodward fans have come to expect. 

While numerous interviews are off the record and the focus of the book is more on officials than foot soldiers who carried out the attack, the result is a revealing tome that does not disappoint.


I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year

By Carol Leonnig, Philip Rucker,

Book cover of I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year

Why this book?

This book by two Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters contains even more behind-the-scenes looks than most at what happened during Donald Trump’s last year in the White House. Leonnig, a national investigative reporter, and Rucker, senior Washington correspondent, details nuggets such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham telling Trump a couple of days before January 6 that Pence couldn’t change the result and pointing out how Al Gore hadn’t tried doing that when he actually won the popular vote - but lost the Electoral College - in 2000. Trump replied that Gore wasn’t smart enough to pull such a move.

The authors journeyed to Mar-a-Lago a few months after the Capitol attack for a surreal interview with the former president. That alone is worth the read.


Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump

By Seth Abramson,

Book cover of Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump

Why this book?

Though this book was released a few months before the Capitol attack, it provides important details on key trends and events that many missed leading up to January 6. Seth Abramson, a former criminal defense attorney and journalism professor, shows how Trump not only tried to entice foreign leaders of Ukraine to discredit Joe Biden, but conspired with officials in China, Russia, Hungary, and other nations to help him win re-election. Abramson has continued to write ground-breaking articles on his Substack blog, Proof, such as how Trump allegedly worked with planners of Operation Occupy the Capitol to use the occupation to lobby state legislators to change election results.


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