The House Select Committee to Investigate the January sixth hearing hearken to a video of President Donald Trump within the Cannon House Office Constructing on Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
In its first public hearing, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot delivered an unambiguous message: There was a calculated effort to overturn the 2020 election results and former President Donald Trump is in charge.
“Donald Trump was at the middle of that conspiracy,” the committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said bluntly in his opening statement. “Ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the US — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Structure to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.”
The tightly scripted two-hour hearing, which aired live in prime time Thursday night, was interspersed with recent video and audio clips from investigators’ interviews with witnesses, comparable to former Attorney General William Barr, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.
Two other witnesses, a U.S. Capitol Police officer and a documentary filmmaker, spoke in person to recount the “carnage” they saw firsthand in the course of the riot. And the committee played a harrowing montage of latest footage from the riot itself, showing perspectives on the pro-Trump mob because it rushed toward the Capitol, swarmed law enforcement officials and attacked them with weapons.
The nine-member panel also made clear that it has way more to share from the greater than 1,000 witness interviews and 140,000 documents amassed over the course of the investigation thus far. It emphasized that the probe is ongoing and that the Justice Department has much more evidence, including encrypted materials, it hasn’t yet reviewed.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the committee’s vice chair and considered one of its two Republican members, laid out a framework for a way the following six hearings will unfold. Her opening statement Thursday night suggested each hearing will deal with a separate piece of what she called “a complicated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and forestall the transfer of presidential power.”
Trump himself oversaw and coordinated that multi-pronged plan, Cheney said.
“As you will note within the hearings to return, President Trump believed his supporters on the Capitol, and I quote, ‘were doing what they needs to be doing,’ ” Cheney said. “That is what he told his staff as they pleaded with him to call off the mob, to instruct his supporters to depart.”
Trump on Thursday night and Friday morning railed against the committee in a series of posts on conservative social media platform Truth Social, accusing the lawmakers of not showing “the numerous positive witnesses and statements” and playing “only negative footage.”
The primary hearing served to set the table for the following presentations, that are expected to happen over the approaching weeks. At the very least three more days of hearings, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, have been officially scheduled.
Evidence during Monday’s hearing will show that Trump and his advisors knew full well that he lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, Cheney said. “But, despite this, President Trump engaged in an enormous effort to spread false and fraudulent information, to persuade huge portions of the U.S. population that fraud had stolen the election from him. This was not true,” Cheney said.
She then played a clip from a witness interview by which former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller described Trump being told “in pretty blunt terms” by a campaign data expert shortly after Election Day that he would lose to Biden.
She also played a snippet from an interview with Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon, who recalled telling then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in mid-to-late November that he was unable to search out any evidence of election fraud “that might be sufficient to um change the ends in any of the important thing states.”
Meadows’ response was to conclude that “there is no there there,” Cannon testified.
After playing a clip of Barr calling one particular election-fraud conspiracy “complete nonsense,” Cheney played a clip of Ivanka Trump telling the committee that she “accepted” Barr’s conclusion that the Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread fraud.
The hearing, which is ready for Monday at 10 a.m. ET, may even feature testimony from Chris Stirewalt, the previous Fox News political editor who got here under fire from Trump’s supporters after Fox called Arizona for Biden before other outlets on Election Day 2020. Stirewalt, who was fired from Fox in January 2021, revealed his plan to testify Friday morning on the NewsNation cable network.
Within the third hearing, Cheney said the committee will show that Trump “corruptly planned to switch the attorney general so the U.S. Justice Department would spread his false stolen election claims.”
She touched on Trump’s try and install Jeffrey Clark, a DOJ lawyer, as acting attorney general and have him send letters to key states claiming that the federal government has “identified significant concerns which will have impacted the final result of the election.”
“This letter is a lie,” Cheney said, noting the DOJ had told Trump “exactly the other” of what Clark wrote.
The third hearing will reveal firsthand how top officials within the DOJ threatened to resign and confronted Trump and Clark within the Oval Office, Cheney said.
She also said that “multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for his or her roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.” For one, she named Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., who allegedly tried to get Clark promoted and has refused to testify before the committee.
The fourth hearing will center on how Trump tried to get his own vice chairman, Mike Pence, to reject key Electoral College votes when he presided over Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
“You’ll hear this in great detail from the vice chairman’s former general counsel. Witnesses in these hearings will explain how the previous vice chairman and his staff informed President Trump over and once more that what he was pressuring Mike Pence to do was illegal,” Cheney said.
That hearing may even delve into the actions of John Eastman, an attorney who was involved in Trump’s efforts, Cheney said. She also displayed a letter to Eastman from Pence’s chief counsel, Greg Jacob, who wrote on the day of the riot: “Due to your bullshit, we at the moment are under siege.”
Within the fifth hearing, the committee will parse how Trump “corruptly pressured state legislators and election officials to alter election results,” Cheney said. That features Trump’s call to Georgia election officials, asking them to “find” 11,780 votes, the number that Trump thought he needed to win the state.
The ultimate two hearings will deal with how Trump “summoned a violent mob and directed them, illegally, to march on the U.S. Capitol,” after which “didn’t take immediate motion to stop the violence” once it was underway, Cheney said.
The hearings represent the initial findings from the committee’s investigation. The panel is required to issue a final report and make recommendations on its findings. Thompson has indicated that report may arrive by the autumn.