The House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol will present new evidence at Watergate-style public hearings this week showing that Donald Trump and top aides acted with corrupt intent to stop Joe Biden’s certification , according to sources close to the investigation.
The panel intends to use the hearings as the main way to uncover potential crimes by Trump in his attempt to overturn the 2020 election results, the sources said, in a potentially treacherous legal and political moment for the former president.
As the Justice Department conducts parallel investigations into the attack on the Capitol, the select committee hopes the previously unseen evidence will leave an indelible mark on the American public as to the extent of Trump’s attempt to return to the Oval Office.
“They are important to set a record for posterity, but they are also important to make the American public aware of what a direct threat we had from the highest levels of government to illegitimately install a president who lost,” said Norman Ornstein. a political scientist and emeritus scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute said of the hearings.
The panel has two ambitions for the hearings, the sources said: to present the basis for allegations that Trump broke the law, and to place the attack on the Capitol in the broader context of efforts to overthrow the election, with involvement of the ex-president as the central thread.
At its core, the hearings are about distilling thousands of communications between top White House aides and activists outside of administration and the Trump campaign into a compelling narrative of events about the Jan. 6 events, the sources said.
To tell this story, the sources say, the select committee intends for its senior investigative advisers to unveil previously classified White House recordings, photos and videos, which will be presented in real time to clearly illustrate the testimonies.
On Thursday evening, at the opening hearing at 8 p.m., Panel Chair Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney are expected to deliver opening statements, outline a roadmap for the hearings and provide an overview of the events of January 6 and the weeks before.
The panel is likely to focus on broad issues at the next four hearings, such as how Trump used false allegations of voter fraud to undermine the 2020 election and future races, and how he attempted to use fake voters to fool Congress to bring him back to office .
House investigators are also likely to focus on how Trump swung straight to the Jan. 6 congressional certification — rather than the December deadlines for states to certify their constituents — as a tipping point, and how his actions tied directly to militias and right-wing extremist groups. covert maneuvers.
The panel is then likely to save its most explosive revelations for the final prime-time hearing, where select committee members Adam Kinzinger and Elaine Luria are expected to review Trump’s actions and inactions during the Jan. 6 attack.
The list of witnesses is not yet finalized, the sources said, but is expected to include top advisers to former Vice President Mike Pence, advisers to Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and people with direct knowledge of militia groups’ activities Jan. 6.
From a legal standpoint, the panel has already alleged in court filings that Trump and his outside counsel, John Eastman, broke several federal laws to overturn the 2020 election result, including obstructing Congress and defrauding the United States.
The select committee hopes that by unveiling new evidence at hearings, it can convince the American public, and possibly the Justice Department, beyond a reasonable doubt that the former president broke laws to reverse his 2020 election defeat.
Highlights of the evidence already released include the revelation that Eastman, Trump’s outside counsel, admitted to Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, that his plan to obstruct Congress on Jan. 6 was unlawful, but went ahead anyway .
The internal White House schedule for Jan. 6, obtained by the Special Committee on the National Archives, meanwhile, showed that Trump would have known he did not plan to march to the Capitol with the crowd when he did so at the Ellipse rally falsely promised.
House investigators are bringing their case to the American public in many ways, the sources said, as it is not certain the panel will make criminal references to federal prosecutors since they are not binding on the Justice Department, which has sole authority to do so bring charges.
But that search will come with its own set of challenges, and perhaps the panel’s biggest challenge is not so much whether they can prove wrongdoing by Trump and his top advisers as whether it can get Republican and independent voters to care To take care of.
Repeated delays in conducting the hearings have meant that House investigators have been able to complete most of the evidence they intend to take (the committee originally expected to do it sometime in the “Spring, then April, then May and now held in June ).
According to two sources familiar with the investigation, the committee’s attorney recently told a witness who had been assisting the investigation for months that he did not expect to seek further assistance. “We’re pretty much done,” the attorney told this particular witness.
But the implication of the decision to delay the start of public hearings, and the steady flow of news from the inquiry, is that it may have led to some “January 6 fatigue” – which Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill want to weaponize, to defend Trump.
The former president’s most ardent defenders in Congress and top Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are plotting aggressive counter-programs to the public hearings, which the panel has labeled partisan, party officials say.
The Republican National Committee has also circulated a one-page memo with talking points, Vox previously reported, urging Trump’s deputy to attack the investigation as “rigged” — despite multiple federal courts ruling that the investigation is entirely legitimate.
Overcoming the counter-programming to penetrate Republican and Independent voters could pose a challenge, panel members have discussed privately. Finally, the sources said, the panel is not trying to convince Democrats of Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol.
The prospect of collective public exhaustion in the face of January 6-related news, with each new disclosure seemingly more shocking than the last, also appears to have pushed the select committee to revise its hearing schedule for June from eight to now six hearings to shorten.
According to a draft timetable examined by the Guardian and first reported last week, the panel expects to hold only the first and final hearings – on June 9 and June 23 – in prime time at 8pm. The other four – on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 21st – will be at 10am.
However, the target group of the select committee are not Republicans, but swing voters, Ornstein said. “I have no expectation that Republicans who believe the election was stolen will change their minds. But it’s about the other voters and whether it will shake up the democratic base to understand what’s at stake.”