Live witnesses, previously unseen videos and recordings of interviews with Donald Trump’s family. That’s what the special US congressional committee into the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol is set to present at its inaugural hearing on Thursday.
The prime-time broadcast will start at 8pm (ET) and be televised live by most networks, but not Fox News which has sought to downplay the events of January 6. At the inaugural session on Thursday, the House select committee – which is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans – will share their findings on the key moments of the Capitol attack. These conclusions have been reached following a nearly 11-month investigation, which interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and gathered 140,000 documents.
The panel’s chairman Bennie G. Thompson (a Democrat for the State of Missouri) and vice chair Liz Cheney (Republican for the state of Wyoming) will lead the hearings, which are set to run for six days. “The committee will present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, preview additional hearings, and provide the American people a summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power,” it said in a press release last week.
The committee seeks to clarify what happened on January 6, when then-president Donald Trump called a rally in Washington to coincide with the session to count the votes that would formalize Joe Biden’s election victory – a victory that Trump continues to contest without basis. Trump then encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol, which the protesters took by force, while chanting slogans such as: “Hang Mike Pence,” in reference to Trump’s vice president, who was tasked with certifying the election results. As the pro-Trump mob stormed the building, senators and House members had to be evacuated and spent several hours hiding in the labyrinthine Capitol complex. When the siege was over, the lawmakers resumed the session and certified Biden’s victory.
The conclusions that come out of the House committee will have limited legal consequences. Although the panel can refer cases for prosecution, it is the US Justice Department that will ultimately decide whether to file charges based on that information. At the moment, the Justice Department continues to investigate those involved with the insurrection in what has become the largest probe in US history: more than 800 people from almost all 50 states have been charged with crimes in the Capitol attack. Authorities continue to arrest suspects nearly every week. And among the list of defendants are former police and military officers, a swimmer who won five Olympic medals and the son of a New York judge.
On Monday, Enrique Tarrio, the head of the far-right group Proud Boys and four of his associates were charged with seditious conspiracy – an accusation that has also been levied against 11 members of another far-right organization, the Oath Keepers. Meanwhile, former Trump adviser Peter Navarro was charged last week with two counts of contempt for refusing to appear before the January 6 committee.
The committee is counting on James Goldston, who was president of ABC News from 2014 to early 2021, to turn the hearing into a primetime hit. Goldston, who also served as a producer for successful news programs such as Good Morning America and Nightline, is shaping the event to be a “blockbuster investigative special,” according to Axios.
Based on what some of the committee members have said in the leadup to the hearing, it is believed that the panel will argue that Trump’s false allegations that the election had been stolen – which is still believed by more than two-thirds of Republican voters – laid the groundwork for the January 6 insurrection.
In an interview with EL PAÍS, James Raskin, a Democratic lawmaker from Maryland who has become one of the most visible faces of the committee, shared his thoughts about what happened. “There was a mass demonstration that became a mob riot, and that gave cover to a violent insurrection made up of extremist groups like Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Aryan Nations, First Amendment Praetorians,” he said. “A number of these groups came to Washington with the idea of leading an assault on the Capitol, and they stormed the Capitol, they broke our windows, they attacked our police officers, but that insurrection surrounded a coup.” Raskin also recently noted that the hearings on the January 6 attack coincide with the 50th anniversary of Watergate, the political scandal that ended in 1974 with the resignation of president Richard Nixon.
Meanwhile, Cheney – one of two Republicans on the committee – said the attack was “extremely well-organized,” in an interview with CBS News. “It’s really chilling.”
The hearings will include excerpts from recorded interviews with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who appeared at the committee’s request between late March and early April. Ivanka Trump testified for eight hours and her husband for six.
The inaugural hearing is also expected to call on Caroline Edwards, a Capitol Police officer, who was assaulted during the attack, and Nick Quested, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker who was documenting the rally that morning. All eyes will also be on former judge Michael Luttig, who was an adviser to Pence in the weeks prior to January 6. Trump pressured Pence, as president of the Senate, to annul the ratification of the presidential results, a power that he did not have, according to most US legal experts.