The first hearing of the select committee on January 6 lived up to the great hype surrounding it and delivered a compelling case – with compelling new details — for blaming Donald Trump for the violent attempt to overthrow the 2020 election.
The thesis of the committee’s case – that “January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup” – was set out by Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) at the very beginning of the hearing. It was supported by a somber presentation, broadcast live on radio and most cable networks, previewing the seven additional hearings the committee will hold in the coming weeks.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, a committee staffer said the aim is to “present new details showing that violence was the result of a coordinated, multi-pronged effort to overthrow the 2020 election and halt the transfer of power, and that Donald Trump was at the center of that effort.” Despite questions about whether the committee could provide new information — there have already been extensive reports, let alone an entire impeachment hearing — about it — it did.
A short summary
This wasn’t your normal congressional hearing. There was minimal cleaning or highlighting of members. In fact, only two, Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), spoke during the two-hour hearings. The others remained silent and sat down on the podium.
Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee, presented a cold, prosecutorial case and wove in video testimonies showing former President Trump was repeatedly told he had lost the election. Among them was former Attorney General Bill Barr, who testified that he specifically told Trump that the former president’s allegations of voter fraud were “bullshit.”
“I remember telling the President quite bluntly that he was going to lose.” – Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign spokesman pic.twitter.com/F8uxTV9cyt
— January 6 Committee (@January6thCmte) June 10, 2022
The aim was to make it clear that Trump did not really believe his false claims of voter fraud. Instead, Cheney said, “Donald Trump has overseen and coordinated an elaborate seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”
It followed a 10 minute video Explicitly record the events of January 6th with new footage, including police body cameras, to show the brutality of the attack that day. Bystanders in the hearing room — including a number of congressmen and law enforcement officials who responded to the attacks — seemed to have trouble containing their emotions. Afterwards, Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), who was in the House gallery when the Capitol was breached, told Vox, “It’s hard because it brings it back very viscerally, but much worse for me is my fear of it.” our country. ”
Sandra Garza, partner of the late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, and US Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn weep as they attend a US House of Representatives hearing to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Reuters photo by Jonathan Ernst pic.twitter.com/cxoIqzZHJZ
— Jim Bourg (@jimbourg) June 10, 2022
Using clips from the more than 1,000 testimonies and interviews it conducted over the past year, a compilation of footage from the attack on the Capitol, and live testimony from two witnesses, the committee outlined the case against the former president, who in a video presentation culminated rioter after rioter specifically saying they stormed the Capitol because Donald Trump ordered them to.
what was new
The hearing was packed with new information about the attack on the Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The most audible reaction in the room came when Cheney testified that Trump had said, “And maybe our supporters have the right idea, Mike Pence deserves it” after hearing the mob chant “hang Mike Pence.” It had previously been reported that Trump had responded to the chants with approval, but not so blatantly.
Cheney also revealed that following the Jan. 6 events, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) specifically asked Trump for a clemency to avoid prosecution for his efforts to overturn the election. She added that several other unnamed members did the same.
In a recorded statement, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, described an attempt by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to cover for Trump as the former president raged chaos in the Capitol. “We need to end the narrative that the vice president makes all the decisions,” Meadows told Milley. “We need to establish the narrative that the President is still in charge and that things are stable or stable.”
The committee also used videos for outlining the extraordinary level of planning and coordination by extremist groups, notably the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers, on January 6. Nick Quested, a documentary filmmaker who is part of the Proud Boys, testified that even before Trump’s now infamous march to the Capitol, the group began a rally on the Ellipse that day, indicating a deliberate plan to storm the building from the start .
What happens next?
The tension in Washington was whether these hearings would be more like those in Watergate or Benghazi. The former became a sight-seeing as Americans tuned into the hearings in droves, making many of the attendees household names. The latter was a wet squib that still served to motivate partisans but had little long-term effect. So far, these are more similar to the former in terms of substance and resonance potential.
The committee offered appetizers from the 1,000 statements it recorded, showing short clips of statements by key Trump officials, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, as well as snippets of text messages between Sean Hannity and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany after the attack . and They made it clear that more was to come as they outlined future hearings.
The next one on Monday will demonstrate that Trump knew he had lost the election and did not have a sincere belief that he had somehow been the victim of voter fraud. The second, on Wednesday, will outline Trump’s alleged conspiracy to install Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official, as acting attorney general to use federal law enforcement agencies to advance efforts to overthrow the election. The third will focus on efforts to pressure Pence to overturn the election. Later hearings will focus on Trump’s attempts to pressure state officials and how he “raised a violent mob and illegally ordered them to march on the United States Capitol.”
The question is what long-term effects these will have. Although Thursday’s hearing was broadcast on most major networks, Fox News did not broadcast it. Instead, Tucker Carlson featured guests like Darren Beattie, a former Trump White House aide who spent Jan. 6 tweeting that various prominent African Americans needed to “take a knee to MAGA.”
It is unlikely that any revelation, no matter how shocking or grotesque, could find its way into the right-wing echo chamber and pierce Trump’s support there. But it doesn’t have to be, and that’s not the goal either. The goal is not just to look back, but to reach out to those who were initially appalled by the attack and have since moved on, reminding them that, as Thompson said, “the cause of our democracy remains in jeopardy.” The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over yet.”
It’s too early to say if these people have been watching and if this effort will be successful. But if the committee fails, it will not be for lack of effort or preparation.