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Gearing up for next hearing, Jan. 6 group to dig at root of insurrection for first time

After a 10-month investigation, the panel will share some if its findings with the public next week.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol Attack is set to resume public hearings next week with the expectation that the panel will reveal new details about last year’s deadly insurrection. 

Details about the hearing scheduled for an 8 p.m. prime-time slot on national television Thursday are sparse, and the witness list has yet to be released, but the committee has said it will present "previously unseen material," witness testimony, and a summary of its investigatory findings about the "coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power." 

“The hearings will tell a story that will really blow the roof off the House,” Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said at a Georgetown University event in April. 

The Jan. 6 committee held its first public hearing last summer, which focused on the police response to the Capitol siege. The probe has since reached new depths, with interviews of more than 1,000 witnesses, including Trump supporters who physically stormed the Capitol, as well as members of the former president’s administration, legal team and family. 

The nine-member panel, which contains only two Republicans, has focused efforts on security failures by Capitol Police and federal officers responding to the insurrection, the "Stop the Steal" rally at the Ellipse that preceded the attack, and the legal effort by Trump and his team to halt the certification of the 2020 election results. 

In recent weeks, the panel has increasingly homed in on members of Trump's inner circle, indicating Thursday's hearing will likely probe the goings-on in the White House leading up to and during the insurrection as well as why Trump did not intervene immediately upon learning that a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol, intent on preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory.  

Just this week, former Attorney General William Barr, who publicly rejected Trump's claims of election fraud and left the administration before the attack, was seen meeting with the panel.  

Trump pressured Barr's replacement, Jeffrey Rosen, to contest the election and toyed with handing the department over to then-Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, a vocal proponent of Trump’s lie that the election was stolen through voter fraud. 

The government used this photo of Jenny Cudd (front) in their case against her for her role in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot. (Image via Courthouse News)

In public comments over the last few months, committee members have repeatedly asserted that there is a connection between the motivation of rioters who stormed the Capitol and the rhetoric of Trump, as well as the legal strategy to prevent the certification of the election that was concocted by those in the upper echelons of Washington. 

Lawmakers on the panel face the lofty task of making a public case about the insurrection at a time when inflation, frequent mass shootings and the ongoing pandemic have driven the events of a year and a half ago to the back of many Americans’ minds. 

The committee has also faced partisan criticism since its inception. Lawmakers initially tried to form a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6, but after fierce opposition from Republicans unwilling to reject Trump's election-conspiracy lie, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi formed the nine-member select committee, made up primarily of Democrats. 

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois are the sole Republicans on the committee and have faced blowback from their party over their involvement in the investigation. 

With the prospect of a 2024 Trump bid for the presidency on the horizon, the hearings are a critical opportunity for the panel to provide new information about the his actions, or lack thereof, as president in the hours leading up to, after and during the Capitol attack. 

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Some details from the panel's investigation have come to light in court filings that show series of text messages between then-chief of staff Mark Meadows and lawmakers, Fox media personalities, and members of Trump's own family. Though just a fraction of the texts and documents are in the committee's possession, those that could become public next week could paint a picture of a president refusing to act while people close to him pushed for a response. 

According to court documents, Laura Ingraham at Fox texted Meadows on Jan. 6: “The President needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” and "This is hurting all of us." 

Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, pleaded to Meadows: “He’s got to condemn this shit. Asap." To which Meadows replied, “I am pushing it hard. I agree."

Whether the panel's investigation will argue Trump incited the mob that attacked the Capitol or that he was derelict in his duty as president, a claim Cheney has espoused, will be critical points of contention in the hearings that could indicate potential criminal ramifications for the former president and those closest to him. 

Members of the committee have hinted that there is evidence indicating that Trump and his allies may have committed crimes in trying to delay the certification of votes from the Electoral College. Because of the riot, the tally had to be pushed to Jan. 7. A federal judge said this past March that Trump "more likely than not" committed federal crimes by obstructing the congressional proceedings on Jan. 6. 

That ruling came in a Central District of California case regarding the refusal of Trump ally John Eastman to turn over documents to the committee. 

Although the committee's investigation and public hearings could lay the foundation for potential charges against Trump and other former officials, whether anyone faces criminal charges will be up to the Department of Justice. 

The department has already played a hand in the committee's investigation, indicting former Trump aides Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas requesting testimony and documents relevant to Jan. 6. 

The department brought two contempt charges against Navarro on Friday for failing to appear for a deposition before the committee and for failing to hand over requested documents. 

The House also approved contempt recommendations for former Trump aide Dan Scavino and chief of staff Mark Meadows, who initially cooperated with a subpoena, turning over emails and the trove of text messages, but later reversed course. The Department of Justice has not indicted Scavino or Meadows. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other House Republicans were also subpoenaed by the committee for information on their communications with Trump and political leaders around the time of the attack. So far, all five lawmakers have declined to comply with the subpoenas. 

Aside from the department serving committee-issued subpoenas and prosecuting those who defy them, the amount of collaboration between the congressional select committee and the federal agency in their dueling investigations into the Capitol riot has been largely unclear. 

The Justice Department has so far charged more than 800 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of May 6, approximately 232 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, 48 have pleaded guilty to felonies, and at least seven people have been sentenced to prison. 

Despite hundreds of arrests, Attorney General Merrick Garland has faced backlash in recent months from critics who argue he is spending too much time going after low-level defendants, rather than potential high-profile perpetrators who are said to have planned the attack.    

But next week's hearing may shed more light on how involved members of Congress were in Trump's fraudulent attempt to stay in office, which could spur the criminal charges that some believe are long overdue. 

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