What to watch as Jan. 6 panel returns to prime time
WASHINGTON – The House Jan. 6 committee is headed back to prime time for its eighth hearing – potentially the final time this summer that lawmakers will lay out evidence about the U.S. Capitol insurrection and President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
Thursday’s hearing is expected to focus on what Trump was doing in the White House as the violence unfolded on Jan. 6, 2021. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who is one of two members leading the hearing, said he expects it will “open people’s eyes in a big way.”
This will be the panel’s second hearing in prime time. The first, on June 9, was watched by more than 20 million people.
What to watch for in Thursday’s hearing:
Trump in the White House
Committee members have said the hearing will be an in-depth look at what Trump was doing in the White House that day as hundreds of his supporters violently pushed past police and broke into the building.
The panel has already revealed some of the Trump evidence in previous hearings, showing clips of multiple White House aides who tried to pressure the president to act, or to publicly call on the rioters to leave, as he watched television in a West Wing dining room.
But there are still questions about what the president was doing, especially because official White House records of Trump’s phone calls included an eight-hour gap, from a little after 11 that morning to about 7 that evening.
The committee has tried to fill in that gap with witness interviews and other sources, such as subpoenaing private phone records. A panel member, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said Trump could have called off the rioters at any time, but he did not. More than three hours, or 187 minutes, passed before he finally did.
“The consequences we’re still dealing with today,” Aguilar said.
“You will hear that Donald Trump never picked up the phone that day to order his administration to help,” Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the committee’s Republican vice chairwoman, said as she previewed the hearing last week.
Two former White House aides who resigned immediately after the insurrection will testify at the hearing. Former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews and former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger will talk about what they saw and heard in the White House as Trump learned about the insurrection and waited hours to tell the rioters to leave the Capitol.
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who will lead the hearing with Kinzinger, said the two witnesses “believed in the work they were doing, but didn’t believe in the stolen election.”
The committee will be “hearing from people who were in the White House, what they observed, what their reactions were,” Luria said.
The whole story
The finale in the committee’s summer series of hearings will seek to wrap up the story the panel has been telling from the start – that Trump was told his claims of widespread fraud were false but pushed them anyway, without regard for democracy or the people who were affected, and that his words and actions incited the riot at the Capitol.
The lawmakers are expected to give a minute-by-minute description of what happened the day of Jan. 6, a capstone to previous hearings that examined the weeks running up to the insurrection.
A Democratic member of the committee, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, said the hearing will be about what happened in three different places on Jan. 6: The White House, inside the Capitol and outside the Capitol, where police officers were beaten and overwhelmed by the rioters.
As the committee wraps up this “season” of hearings, like a television show, there are likely to be some cliffhangers.
Among the questions the committee may leave unanswered: Will the committee call Trump to testify? Or his vice president, Mike Pence? Will there be more hearings? Are they holding back any information for their final report?
At least one hearing is expected in the fall, when the nine-member panel is expected to issue a report on its findings, but more hearings are possible. If Republicans take control of the House in November’s midterm elections, they are expected to shut down the committee.
The panel’s work will also continue to reverberate through other investigations, including at the Justice Department, which has arrested more than 800 suspected rioters and has seized or sought information from some of the politicians and others who were allied with Trump as he tried to overturn the vote. The Justice Department has asked the committee for some of its interview transcripts.
Raskin said before the hearings began that the measure of success would be “whether we are able to preserve American democracy and our institutions – it’s a long-term test.”
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Farnoush Amiri and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.