What the Committee of January 6 has done and what follows

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The US House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol is nearing a more public phase of its work. On June 9, a series of eight televised hearings will begin in prime time. The committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans will then report its findings sometime before the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies continue to call the probe a witch hunt focused on scoring political points.

1. What has the committee done?

He has conducted more than 1,000 interviews and collected more than 100,000 documents, including emails and text messages. She held a public hearing in July 2021 to hear testimony from the police officers on Capitol Hill who were attacked. At least 99 subpoenas are issued for witness statements and document production; in four cases where the beneficiary did not comply, the Democratic-controlled House voted to bring contempt charges to Congress.

2. What does the committee hope to learn?

Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said the panel’s work is to “uncover the facts, tell the American people the full story of January 6, and ensure that nothing like that day ever happens again.” One focus is what role Trump and his advisers played in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden, or to orchestrate the events that preceded the Capitol takeover as Congress certified the results of the election. the 2020 election. Another is what explains the 187 minutes of inaction before additional National Guard troops and police were sent to Capitol Hill. Other areas of investigation include why the Capitol and federal and local law enforcement agencies were not better prepared, and whether there were crimes or violations of campaign finance law in the financing of rallies and events on January 6 to promote claims that the presidential election had been made. been stolen.

3. What has the committee learned?

Much of that is private, for now. Some of the biggest headlines generated so far have come from text messages sent or received by Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on or in the days leading up to January 6. The texts, provided to the committee by Meadows, include messages from members of Congress and others on Capitol Hill during the assault; of Trump’s son, Donald Jr. (“He has to lead now. He has gone too far and gotten out of hand”); and from Fox News anchors, including Laura Ingraham (“Hey, Mark, the president needs to tell the people on Capitol Hill to go home”). Other texts show Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, advocating invalidating the results of the 2020 presidential election. The committee revealed in March that it had discovered a gap of more than seven hours in the phone records of the White House from Trump’s calls during the riots, a period when lawmakers were urgently trying to get him to quell the mob.

4. Could the committee’s work lead to criminal charges?

Lawmakers don’t enforce the law, and the Justice Department is already separately prosecuting more than 800 people for their actions on Capitol Hill. But the committee could send the Justice Department any evidence it believes shows additional criminal wrongdoing, through a so-called criminal referral. Thompson said on May 17 that the Justice Department had requested access to some of the committee’s interview transcripts. In legal filings on March 2, the committee suggested that it may have evidence that Trump and his associates committed crimes, including obstructing an official proceeding, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, in trying to prevent Congress certifying the results of the 2020 election. The committee’s investigators have information on Trump aides’ strategies to audit or seize voting machines in swing states in the 2020 election, for example.

5. How close could this be to Trump himself?

Trump’s actions and inactions are central to the January 6 timeline. The committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of two Republican members of the panel, said on Jan. 2, 2022, that the committee has “firsthand testimony.” now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television while the assault on the Capitol was happening.” She said Trump “could have, at any time, walked those few steps into the briefing room, gone on live television and told his supporters who were attacking Capitol Hill to stop.” Failure to do so, she said, was a “serious dereliction of duty.”

6. Who has not complied with the committee?

Former White House deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino, former trade adviser Peter Navarro and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon all refused to comply with subpoenas seeking their testimony. Meadows too, even when he initially complied with the committee’s text message request. His matters were referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution. Bannon has been charged and is scheduled to go on trial in July on two counts of contempt, which can potentially carry a sentence of up to a year in jail plus a fine. More recently, the committee announced that it would subpoena five Republican members of the House. Among them is Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke with Trump by phone during the unrest on Capitol Hill. Trying to get testimony from sitting members of Congress is legally tricky and underscores a key facet of the case: Lawmakers participated in some of the Jan. 6 events and have information related to the investigation.

7. Why the lack of cooperation?

In comments echoed by other Republicans, McCarthy argues that the committee is partisan and “does not conduct a legitimate investigation.” Some of those who refused to cooperate cited Trump’s claim of executive privilege, a president’s limited right to reject requests from Congress and the courts for information about internal White House talks and deliberations. Trump’s longtime confidant, Roger Stone, invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Part of what might be motivating the resistance is a desire to delay the committee’s progress. All 435 House seats will be on the ballot in November and Democrats could lose their majority. Republicans have made it clear that if they gain control of the House in early 2023, they would shut down an investigation they see as a partisan waste of taxpayer dollars.

8. Why is the committee dominated by Democrats?

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to create the committee after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an outside commission, independent of Congress, modeled on the one that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Then, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to seat two of McCarthy’s choices for the panel, she withdrew her other picks. The two Republicans Pelosi named to the panel, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are Trump critics who have become regular targets of attacks within their own party.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com

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