What to expect from the final 6 January hearing

House select committee promises ‘sweeping’ last instalment of blockbuster sessions examining causes of deadly attempted insurrection at US Capitol

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 27 September 2022 13:31 BST
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Related video: January 6 committee adviser Denver Riggleman says someone at White House called one of the Capitol rioters

The House select committee investigating the attempted insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 will convene for what is widely expected to be its final public hearing on Wednesday 28 September.

Once the panel concludes its proceedings – which have seen Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson’s bipartisan team interview over 1,000 people and examine 130,000 documents over the course of the last year – it will retire to complete a report on its findings, which is expected to be published once November’s midterm elections have concluded.

That dossier will detail precisely how a mob of conspiracy-minded Donald Trump supporters came to storm the legislative complex in the heart of Washington DC, in a misguided protest against the 2020 presidential election result, a dark day for American democracy in which five people were killed and hundreds injured.

It could include a criminal referral against Mr Trump, although the committee has indicated this would only happen if all of its members were in complete agreement about the necessity of doing so based on the evidence accumulated.

Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union on Sunday morning, committee member and California Democrat Adam Schiff offered a rather cagey preview of Wednesday’s hearing in which he said only: “We’re not disclosing yet what the focus will be. I can say that, as this may be the last hearing of this nature – that is, one that is focused on sort of the factual record – I think it’ll be potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings.

“But it too will be very thematic. It will tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the election. And the public will certainly learn things it hasn’t seen before, but it will also understand information it already has in a different context by seeing how it relates to other elements of this plot.”

Mr Thompson had previously told reporters the hearing would be the last (“but it’s not in stone because things happen,” he added) and that it would incorporate “substantial footage of what occurred” as well as “significant witness testimony that we haven’t used in other hearings”.

Three key contributors who would make for box office witnesses on Wednesday would be Ginni Thomas, the pro-Trump activist wife of US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas; former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon; and ex-House speaker Newt Gingrich, a godfather to Republican populism.

However, it is not yet clear whether any of those three will take part or in what form.

Asked about the possibility of Mr Gingrich appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, committee member and Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin answered: “I doubt that. But I think that there is an agreement in place with Ginni Thomas to come and talk and I know the committee is very interested.”

Also in play are the 800,000 pages of relevant communications the committee has received from the Secret Service after issuing a subpoena, some of which are reportedly still being reviewed, while deleted messages from key participants in the riot and the suggestion that White House switchboard might have connected to one of the rioter’s phones are other potentially fruitful avenues of inquiry.

In addition to what material it might feature, the hearing will also be significant as it will mark the final involvement of the two Republicans on the panel – Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

The House select committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol holding a prime-time hearing in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC

The Wyoming congresswoman and committee vice chair lost her seat in a Republican primary election in August to Harriet Hageman, a candidate backed by Mr Trump, while Mr Kinzinger, an Illinois representative increasingly at odds with the GOP, is retiring.

The House committee’s hearings this summer have repeatedly sought to illustrate with witness testimony and video evidence that the 45th president was actively involved in orchestrating the events of that day, not merely by overruling close advisers like attorney general Bill Barr and pushing his “big lie” that the election had been “stolen” by a nationwide Democrat-led conspiracy to rig the outcome for Joe Biden.

One of the most memorable witnesses was Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to vice president Mike Pence, who testified that Mr Trump knew that members of the crowd at the Ellipse – which turned out to include members of violent groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as well as QAnon zealots – had lethal weapons about their person and wanted them waved through metal detectors unchallenged.

She also described him attempting to wrestle the wheel of his limousine out of the hands of Secret Service personnel when they insisted on driving him home to the White House rather than towards the Capitol to join in the demonstration.

The committee also heard from legal aides to Mr Pence about Mr Trump’s campaign to pressure his deputy into subverting his ceremonial role in the Senate in order to invalidate the results, a step the veep refused to take, earning the lifelong enmity of his former boss.

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