The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob will have what’s likely to be its final televised hearing.
The committee plans to show video footage and Secret Service emails that demonstrate how President Donald Trump egged on the unrest that day, even though he was warned there might be violence, report The Post’s Carol D. Leonnig and Jacqueline Alemany.
The committee live-streams its hearings, and most major TV news stations have been airing all of the hearings in full, except for Fox News. (“In the past, Fox News does play our hearings if the hearing is in the daytime,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told CNN on Sunday.)
The Washington Post will have anchored coverage and analysis before the hearings on YouTube and washingtonpost.com. C-SPAN will air the hearing in full.
What to watch for
Despite more than a year of investigation and interviews with thousands of witnesses, there are still some major unanswered questions about the attack, and how to prevent a similar one in the future. Like:
Will the committee conclude that Trump committed a crime by intentionally trying to stop Congress’s confirmation of Joe Biden’s win on Jan. 6, 2021? Congress’s power is limited here: Ultimately, the Justice Department would have to decide whether to prosecute. But Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said he thinks the committee should formally accuse Trump of crimes in the attack, noting that a federal judge said it’s likely that the former president broke several laws as he tried to overturn his election loss. But Schiff also told CNN on Sunday that the committee should come to such a decision unanimously, and it’s not clear there’s consensus on this — a referral could further inflame political tensions ahead of the midterm elections. Plus, the Justice Department is already investigating aspects of Trump’s involvement in at least the lead-up to the attack.
Will the committee talk to former vice president Mike Pence or Trump? Pence’s top aide has testified, as have many of Trump’s White House aides. Pence also recently said he would be open to talking to the committee. But as time goes on, that seems less and less likely. If Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, they are unlikely to continue the investigation.
How can we keep an attack like this from happening again? For all its looking back, the committee knows it needs to look forward to legislation or practices that could stop another attack or attempt to overturn a legitimate election. A bill to reform the Electoral Count Act, led by Jan. 6 committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and member Lofgren, has passed in the House; the Senate also seems on track to pass its version of the bill.
Can the committee make the public care about an attack that’s more than a year old? Cheney has repeatedly said that Trump’s actions posed a threat to the republic; so has President Biden, talking on the campaign trail.
“When a president fails to take the steps necessary to preserve our union, or worse, causes a constitutional crisis,” Cheney said, “we’re at a moment of maximum danger for our republic.” She recently said she wouldn’t be a Republican if Trump won his party’s nomination in 2024.
“Threats to democracy” is now a top voter concern, above even “cost of living” and “jobs and the economy,” according to an August NBC poll. Yet as Republican leaders defend Trump and downplay the attack — several House Republicans have ignored subpoenas from the committee requesting that they talk about their conversations with the White House around Jan. 6 — many Republican voters now think what happened on Jan. 6 was a legitimate protest.
What has the committee uncovered so far?
It made the case that Trump was responsible for the attack: He knew protesters came to his “Stop the Steal” rally armed — with “knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears and flagpoles,” said former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson — and he urged them to go to the Capitol anyway. He even tried to wrangle Secret Service agents to allow him to march with them, she testified. (The committee is still trying to sort out the Secret Service’s involvement in all this.)
It laid out Trump’s pressure campaign on government officials to overturn legitimate results: Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R) described conversations with Trump and Giuliani in which they asked him to convene the state legislature and somehow determine that Trump won Arizona. “I said, ‘Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath,’ ” Bowers pushed back. Top Justice Department officials under Trump also testified about how the president and his aides tried to replace the attorney general with election deniers.
It held up Pence as a hero for withstanding the pressure and certifying the results: During the attack, the committee revealed that Pence came within 40 feet of the rioters, who, egged on by a Trump tweet accusing the vice president of lacking courage, streamed into the Capitol shouting, “Hang Mike Pence.” Pence’s resolve hardened as he hid from the mob in a parking garage, along with his family and top aides. Earlier that day, he privately said that confirming Biden’s win “may be the most important thing I ever say,” his aide testified.
It shared evidence of the Republican Party’s big role in lifting up Trump’s fraud claims: Just one example uncovered by the committee: On the morning of Jan. 6, the top aide for Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) inquired about giving Pence’s staff a list of fake electors declaring Trump won Wisconsin and Michigan. (“Do not give that to him,” a Pence aide warned.) The committee also alleged that a number of Republican lawmakers and aides requested pardons for themselves and others after the attack.
What happens next?
This is probably going to be the committee’s final televised hearing — unless the committee uncovers something else it wants to quickly bring to the public’s attention.
The committee is also working on a report about what happened on Jan. 6 and how to prevent it from happening again. It could also release thousands of pages of transcripts of their interviews, which would let the public sort through its findings.
Also, after this year, the committee’s only two Republicans, Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), won’t have jobs in Congress anymore. Cheney lost a primary to a Trump-backed election denier, and Kinzinger is retiring.
This post has been updated with the latest news.