Second, despite efforts on the right to cast the investigation in those terms, the focus is falling heavily on the motives and conduct of potential organizers of the assault, as distinct from rallygoers outside those groups who might have gotten swept up in the passions of the moment.
The letters that the select committee sent to the new subpoena targets do not say exactly what was subpoenaed. But you can glean a sense of general intent: It appears investigators want to determine the degree of coordination that went into the assault.
For instance, the letter to Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the head of the far-right Proud Boys, declares that Tarrio posted online days before Jan. 6 that the group will be showing up “incognito” without their “traditional black and yellow.”
The letter also notes that “at least 34 individuals affiliated with the Proud Boys” have been indicted in relation to the attack, and says the indictments “describe prior planning and coordination.” The letter cites indications to this effect on social media in the run-up to Jan. 6. And as Politico’s Kyle Cheney has reported, indictments also allege a carefully coordinated assault on weak points in the Capitol.
All this comes after the committee subpoenaed longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, noting explicitly in its letter that Stone both helped organize the rally that culminated in the attack and that he had relied on the Oath Keepers to provide personal security.
Clearly, the committee is focusing on gaining as much insight as possible into how preplanned the attack was and the degree to which its express intent was to disrupt the transfer of power to keep Trump in office illegitimately.
“One of the things we need to report about was whether the violence that took place was a spontaneous eruption or whether it was planned by different groups and forces involved,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told me. “We also are trying to determine the level of coordination among the different violent elements.”
It was not obvious the committee would go this route. Right-wing media have been pushing hard on the narrative that as retribution for Jan. 6, a massive and jackbooted persecution is underway against conservatives everywhere. Tucker Carlson’s suggestion that Jan. 6 was a false flag pretext for this is what prompted two high-profile conservatives to quit Fox News.
So it’s notable that, despite this, the committee is not refraining from going aggressively at far-right groups over their involvement.
I asked Raskin whether targeting groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers could give right-wing media grist to argue that conservatives are being persecuted.
“We are certainly investigating groups that were involved in the violence on Jan. 6, regardless of whatever the content of their ideology is,” Raskin told me. “We’re interested in the groups that participated in smashing our windows, attacking our officers and storming the Capitol.”
“Our investigation is not into the ideological particulars of any group that decided to set upon the Capitol,” Raskin continued.
Indeed, all this suggests an evolving understanding of Jan. 6. It differentiates between the mob of people drawn to the Capitol by Trump’s exhortations who just happened to get caught up in the violence, and groups that may have actively planned an assault for the express purpose of thwarting the election’s peaceful conclusion, which Trump had urged his vice president to use his powers to execute.
“You basically had a mass demonstration on the outside that turned into a riot, surrounding a violent insurrection in the middle, which was a cover and a diversion for the coup that was taking place at the red-hot center of the action,” Raskin told me.
All of which suggests, yet again, that the committee is casting a very wide net, one that will go far beyond merely piecing together the events of that one horrible day.