The congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol is set to hold what will likely be its final public hearing on Thursday, with members pledging new revelations about former President Donald Trump’s role in the events that led up to the attack.
The televised hearing, House of Representatives committee members say, will be sweeping and thematic, offering a broad overview of the panel’s findings to date while airing recently unearthed evidence tying Trump and his associates to the far-right groups that plotted the riot.
“We’re going to be going through really some of what we’ve already found but augmenting [it] with new material that we discovered through our work throughout this summer — what the president’s intentions were, what he knew, what he did, what others did,” Representative Zoe Lofgren, one of the committee’s seven Democratic members, said in a CNN interview on Tuesday.
“Obviously, there’s close ties between people in Trumpworld and some of these extremist groups. We will touch upon that,” Lofgren said, declining to say whom the circle encompassed. “There is some new material that I found, as we got into it, pretty surprising.”
The hearing was initially scheduled for September 29 before Congress recessed for the midterm elections, but it was canceled as Hurricane Ian smashed into Florida and South Carolina.
To date, the panel has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and reviewed over 130,000 documents as part of its investigation.
While the investigation will not stop after Thursday’s hearing, the committee’s focus will shift over the coming months to completing a report of its findings and recommendations for policy changes to Congress by the end of the year.
Trump has called the congressional investigation “a unilateral, completely partisan, political witch hunt.”
The committee is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, both of whom are ardent Trump critics and won’t be returning to Congress next term.
Here is what you need to know about the investigation and the committee’s last hearing.
What the hearing will showcase
The bipartisan panel held eight televised public hearings in June and July. With the exception of the first hearing, each had a thematic focus.
The eighth hearing, held on July 21, focused on Trump’s “dereliction of duty” — the 187 minutes on the afternoon of January 6, during which he allegedly refused to condemn the riot or ask his supporters to go home.
Thursday’s hearing, set for 1 p.m. EDT, will continue in that vein, according to Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the panel.
“It will be the usual mix of information in the public domain and new information woven to tell the story about one key thematic element of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election,” Schiff said September 25 on CNN.
Declining to be more specific, Schiff added that as the last hearing of its kind, Thursday’s session “will be potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings, but it, too, will be very thematic.”
The committee will also likely air some of the previously unused “substantial footage” and “significant witness testimony” it has gathered, according to Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, committee chairman.
“So, this is an opportunity to use some of that material,” Thompson said last month.
In the two months since its last hearing in July, the committee has interviewed several high-profile witnesses, including Mike Pompeo, who was secretary of state for period during the Trump administration, and Elaine Chao, Trump’s secretary of transportation.
While the panel is likely to air excerpts of those interviews, it’s not clear if it will feature testimony from another sought-after witness: Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a Republican activist and wife of conservative Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
Earlier this year, Ginni Thomas disclosed that she had attended the pro-Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol but said she “played no role with those who were planning and leading the January 6 events.”
It was later revealed that the January 6 committee had obtained text messages between Ginni Thomas and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in which she wrote that Trump should not “concede” his loss in the presidential election to Joe Biden.
“The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History,” Ginni Thomas texted on November 10, 2020.
Last month, the panel interviewed Ginni Thomas, whom Lofgren said was “not a key figure” in the events leading up to January 6.
Though the interview was not videotaped, Lofgren told MSNBC on Sunday that the committee “may” use a transcript, “but we have plenty of other information, as well.”
Secret Service communications
Among the new information the committee will be showcasing is a massive cache of Secret Service communications it recently received.
Last month, Representative Liz Cheney, the panel’s Republican vice chair, disclosed that the panel had obtained about 800,000 pages of communications material from the Secret Service.
The presidential protection service has come under scrutiny ever since information emerged this summer that text messages exchanged between agents had been erased.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in June that Trump knew his supporters gathered in Washington were armed and that he was so intent on joining them at the Capitol that he lunged at the head of his security detail in the presidential vehicle when they instead drove him to the White House.
Speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival last month, Cheney said that while Secret Service agents “were playing a hugely important and very courageous role” on January 6, “there are some that have not been forthcoming with the committee, and you’ll hear more about that.”
What’s next for the committee?
As a House “select” committee, the January 6 panel is set to expire at the end of the current congressional term on January 3, 2023. But before its term ends, the panel is mandated to present a report of its findings and policy recommendations to Congress. That report is expected to be released by the end of the year, according to committee members.
One legislative proposal the panel was expected to recommend has already been pushed through Congress.
The proposed legislation seeks to overhaul the Electoral Count Act, a 19th-century law that Republican supporters of Trump argued gave Vice President Mike Pence the power to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.
Last month, the House passed a version of the legislation. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has thrown his support behind a Senate version, raising the prospects of its enactment into law.
Will there be any consequences for Trump?
While the committee does not have the power to bring criminal charges, it can refer Trump and others to the Justice Department for prosecution.
The Justice Department has been investigating the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the investigation will continue, regardless of a congressional referral.
Still, on the question of whether to make any criminal referrals to the Justice Department, committee members appear divided.
While some members such as Schiff favor making criminal referrals, others such as Thompson have said the panel lacks the authority to do so.
Among Trump’s actions in the lead-up to January 6, Democrats say his pressure on Pence to overturn the electoral count was both “illegal and unconstitutional.”