What the January 6 committee did and what’s next

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The United States House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021, uprising on the nation’s Capitol is approaching a more public phase of its work. A series of eight prime-time television ratings will begin on June 9. Thereafter, the committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans will report its findings sometime before the November 8 midterm elections. Former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies continue to call the investigation a witch hunt aimed at scoring political points.

1. What did the committee do?

He conducted over 1,000 interviews and collected over 100,000 documents, including emails and text messages. He held a public hearing in July 2021 to hear testimony from Capitol police officers who were attacked. He issued at least 99 subpoenas for witness testimony and document production; in four cases where the recipient did not comply, the Democratic-controlled House voted to pursue contempt of Congress charges.

2. What does the committee hope to learn?

Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said the panel’s work is to “find out the facts, tell the American people the whole story of Jan. 6, and make sure nothing like that day ever happens.” reproduce”. One aim is to find out what role Trump and his advisers played in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results – which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden – or in shaping the events leading up to the taking of the Capitol while Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 election. Another is what explains the 187 minutes of inaction before National Guard troops and additional police were dispatched to the Capitol. Other areas of inquiry include why the Capitol and federal and local law enforcement agencies weren’t better prepared, if a lawmaker gave a tour of the Capitol on Jan. 5 to members of the public who were packing the building. for the foray the next day, and whether there were any crimes or violations of campaign finance law in funding events to promote allegations that the presidential election was stolen.

3. What did the committee learn?

Much of this is private, for now. Some of the biggest early committee headlines came from text messages sent or received by Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, on or before January 6. The texts, provided to the committee by Meadows, include messages addressed to him by members of Congress and others imploring Trump to call on his supporters to stop the assault. Other texts show Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arguing for the invalidation of the results of the 2020 presidential election. The committee revealed in March that it had discovered one more loophole seven hours in the White House phone logs of calls from Trump during the riot — a time when lawmakers were urgently trying to get him to quell the mob.

4. Could the work of the committee lead to criminal charges?

Lawmakers are not law enforcement, 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 says shows additional criminal acts, via 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 papers March 2, the committee suggested it may have evidence that Trump and his associates committed crimes — including obstruction of official process, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison – attempting to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election. Committee investigators have information on the strategies of Trump advisers to audit or confiscate voting machines in key 2020 election states , for example.

5. How close could this relate 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 on the panel — said Jan. 2, 2022, that the committee had “first-hand testimony now that it’s sitting in the room at eating next to the Oval Office watching the attack on TV as the assault on the Capitol unfolded She said Trump “could have, at any time, taken those few steps in the briefing room, go on live television and tell his supporters who were attacking the Capitol to stop.” Failure to do so, she said, was a “gross dereliction of duty.”

6. Who disrespected the committee?

Former White House deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino, former trade adviser Peter Navarro and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon refused to comply with subpoenas seeking their testimony. Meadows did the same, even though he initially complied with the committee’s SMS request. Their cases were referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution. Bannon has been charged and is expected to stand trial in July on two counts of contempt, which carries a sentence of up to a year in prison plus a fine. More recently, the committee announced it was subpoenaing five Republican House members. These include Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke to Trump by phone during the Capitol riot. McCarthy resisted complying with his subpoena, challenging the committee’s legal status. Trying to compel sitting members of Congress to testify is legally complicated and underscores a key aspect of the case: lawmakers participated in some of the January 6 events and have information relevant to the investigation.

7. Why the lack of cooperation?

In remarks echoed by other Republicans, McCarthy says the committee is partisan and “not conducting a legitimate investigation.” Some of those who refused to cooperate cited Trump’s claim of executive privilege, a president’s limited right to refuse requests from Congress and the courts for information about internal White House talks and deliberations. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone has invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he invoked attorney-client privilege to refuse to answer certain questions. Part of what might be motivating the resistance is the desire to delay the progress of the committee. 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 take control of the House in early 2023, they will end an investigation they see as a partisan waste of taxpayers’ money.

8. Why is the committee dominated by Democrats?

The Democratic-controlled House 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 September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Then, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to seat two of McCarthy’s picks for the panel, he withdrew his other picks. The two Pelosi Republicans named to the panel, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are both Trump critics who have become regular targets of attack within their own party.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com

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