A photograph of Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, pumping his fist toward the rioters on January 6, 2021, is shown during a hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol on July 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. Credit - Tasos Katopodis—Getty Images
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If the previous eight public hearings of the Jan. 6 committee are any indication, then this week’s potentially final session could turn into quite the finale.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said last week that Wednesday afternoon’s public session stands to be the last time the House committee investigating the deadly Capitol attack of Jan. 6, 2021 presents its findings before issuing a much-anticipated report later this year. (Over the weekend, committee members made conflicting statements on whether an additional fall hearing might come to pass.) The panel also remains undecided on whether that report might include a criminal referral to the Department of Justice over the actions of President Donald Trump and those in his orbit that day. But, as has been the case all along, the committee could gavel into session again at a moment’s notice should more information come to light—and it seems like every week the investigators are finding new evidence that slices at Trump and his crew.
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So far, the panel has done masterful work in crafting a narrative that links Trump and his allies with the violent insurrection that tried to pressure Congress into ignoring the 2020 election results to keep Trump in power. The mob, spurred on by Trump, truly shook the city by breaching the Capitol, sending lawmakers into hiding, and trashing some sacred spaces in American democracy. In the aftermath, temporary security upgrades went up around Capitol Hill, some eventually becoming permanent, including another layer of checkpoints at the doors of the House. Perhaps more durable, though, has been the damage the committee has done to Trump himself, often using the words of his own team against him.
We know that vast numbers inside Trump’s orbit have spoken to the Jan. 6 investigators, and that many of those interviews haven’t yet had their moment in the spotlight as part of the panel’s sophisticated video narratives. We still haven’t seen a full accounting of the real threats posed to Vice President Mike Pence or a full discussion of the simmering Cabinet revolt from that day. Virginia Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has agreed to meet with investigators, although the timing remains unclear. And the constant churn of the criminal probes into Trump’s handling of potentially classified documents and New York’s civil case against Trump’s businesses continue to provide possible threads for the House members to pull.
In other words, there are still plenty of cliffhangers in this unfinished script.
Still, the panel is fighting the clock. The committee is working to finish its final report this year, and is set up to shut down 30 days after its release. Democrats have not ruled out extending the committee’s work into the next Congress, which starts in January. Should Republicans be in charge of the House at that point, work is all but certain to stop. Republican leaders refused to take the panel seriously, put forward Trump apologists to sit on it, and, as a result, were booted entirely. Instead, Speaker Nancy Pelosi exercised her power and placed two Trump-skeptical Republicans on the panel; both will be leaving Congress at the end of this term.
The committee’s express purpose is to report on the causes and consequences of the attempt to subvert democracy and what Congress and the government can do to prevent its sequel. But the implicit impact has been to disqualify Trump from returning to power—so much so that the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney, said in July: “Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?” If the panel’s months of behind-the-scenes labor and public-facing hearings is any indication, and they can stick the landing, there may be sufficient traditional Republicans and swing independents to render that verdict an undeniable no.
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