What to know about Thursday’s public hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol
Police confront pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Alex Kent).
The U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol will launch the first in a series of public hearings Thursday night in the hopes of drawing a major prime-time national television audience.
The Democratic-led committee, which includes two Republicans who defied their party leadership to join, has been tight-lipped about what ground its public presentation will cover.
Leaders have promised in general to unveil new material, introduce a summary of findings gathered over a nearly yearlong investigation and preview further hearings about the mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump who sought to overturn the 2020 election results.
Here are some questions and answers about the committee and its plans:
What has the investigation found?
The evidence suggests a “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power,” according to a committee release Tuesday.
“This week, [the committee] starts sharing evidence of the chilling inside plan to overturn the 2020 election and block the constitutional transfer of power,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who sits on the panel, tweeted Tuesday. “America will see footage and records we have documenting the dangerous extremist assault on our constitutional order.”
The nine-member committee has been working toward two objectives: the public hearings and a final report. The hearings will inform the final report, but could also capture the attention of the general public, said Jon Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University’s program on extremism who has researched the Capitol attack.
“The role of these hearings in the next couple of weeks is partially laying the groundwork for that report, but also telling the story to the American people,” Lewis said in an interview. “It’s the committee showing their work.”
The panel cannot prosecute suspects on its own, but may make criminal referrals to the U.S. Justice Department.
What will the hearings cover?
Chairman Bennie G. Thompson tweeted a Washington Post article Tuesday that reported the panel would hold as many as eight public hearings, each one with a theme.
The panel has conducted more than 1,000 interviews since it formed in July 2021, according to the Post article. It has subpoenaed so-called fake electors from seven states — Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
“A lot of it is to remind the American people that there is a clear and present danger to democracy,” Lewis said.
The upcoming series of hearings could document some “connective tissue” between the Trump White House, outside groups and other supporters, Lewis said.
Denver Riggleman, a Republican former U.S. House member from Virginia who advised the committee, said in a recent CNN appearance that text messages to and from then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina, showed connections among members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches who were involved in planning to overturn the election results.
Meadows’ text messages provided “a roadmap” for the investigation, Riggleman said.
“I think Mark Meadows is the MVP for the committee,” he said. “I think they should pay him. The data that we got from there actually allowed us to really structure an effective investigation.”
How can viewers watch it?
The first hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Thursday and is supposed to last about 90 minutes. The major television networks and news channels will carry it live, except for Fox News, which plans to air its normal prime-time programming. Fox Business will broadcast the hearing live. The committee usually also livestreams its meetings.
Who’s on the committee?
Seven Democrats and two Republicans comprise the House Select Committee Investigating the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol:
Chairman Thompson, D-Miss.: First elected to the House in 1992, he has been the Democratic leader of the House Homeland Security Committee since 2005, including two stints as chairman.
Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.: The No. 3 House Republican until last year, she was ousted for voting to impeach Trump for his role in provoking the Jan. 6 attack.
Elaine Luria, D-Va.: A second-term lawmaker who served two decades in the Navy, she is the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee.
Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.: A centrist Democrat, she announced late last year she will not be running for reelection to a fourth term.
Raskin, D-Md.: A former constitutional law professor, he was the lead impeachment manager for Trump’s second impeachment.
Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.: The vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, he is the only member of Democratic leadership on the panel.
Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.: Like Cheney, he is a Republican critical of Trump. Both were appointed to the panel by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — not Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose slate of Republican members Pelosi rejected.
Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.: The chair of the House Administration Committee, she is a longtime House Judiciary Committee member and served as a manager for Trump’s first impeachment trial in the Senate.
Adam Schiff, D-Calif.: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he was the leader of the investigation that resulted in the first impeachment of Trump and the lead impeachment manager.
Who will testify?
The committee has announced two witnesses for Thursday night.
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards was the first law enforcement officer injured by rioters on Jan. 6. Edwards patrolled the West Plaza of the Capitol the day of the attack and sustained “a traumatic brain injury,” according to the panel.
Documentary filmmaker Nick Quested recorded “the movements around the Capitol that morning, the first moments of violence against U.S. Capitol Police, and the chaos that ensued,” according to the committee.
Quested also reportedly taped a Jan. 5, 2021, meeting between the leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, two violent right-wing groups with members who have been charged with seditious conspiracy related to the Capitol attack. He previously met with the Justice Department and the House committee privately, which he said he led through a detailed explanation of his footage.
The committee will hold another public hearing at 10 a.m. ET on Monday, June 13. The panel has not released information about the witnesses or content of that hearing.
The committee is expected to hold six to eight public hearings through June, with a final one in September.
McCarthy has continually questioned the panel’s legitimacy and Republicans are likely to disband the committee if they retake the House majority in this fall’s elections.
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