Several questions remain after the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill met again last week for what was likely its final public hearing. And with less than three months to go before he has to complete his investigation, time is running out.
After a months-long break from public events when the committee took its investigation behind closed doors, last week’s hearing swung between refreshing the public’s memory of previously revealed evidence and introducing new revelations, to round out its image of the “part multiple” of former President Donald Trump. plan” to nullify the 2020 elections that “led to an attack on a pillar of our democracy.” But the more than two-hour meeting, which was perhaps expected to serve as the end of the 16-month investigation, left out widely anticipated details and raised new questions along the way.
Conspicuously absent were details of the interview of conservative activist Ginni Thomas, which the committee conducted behind closed doors in recent weeks, after seeking testimony from Thomas, who is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, due to his communications with Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark. Meadows and lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin encouraging efforts to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.
More information from former members of Trump’s cabinet, such as former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom the panel interviewed in recent months, was also absent from last week’s session. People were expected to shed light on Cabinet discussions of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
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Additional information about the Secret Service was also expected from last week’s hearing, after the law enforcement agency became the focus of the committee’s investigation in late July when a government watchdog accused the agency to delete text messages from January 5 and 6. , 2021. The committee presented compelling new evidence about the Secret Service’s advanced knowledge of the threat of violence on Jan. 6 during last week’s hearing, prompting a host of new questions about its conduct.
And the committee members don’t seem to be done with the Secret Service, either. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she hopes to “recall some of the Secret Service officials who have knowledge of what happened and put them under oath this time now that we have additional information, and added that any related recommendations would be included in the panel’s final report.
Meanwhile, other testimony is pending before the committee, including from a handful of Republican lawmakers, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. The committee is now likely to face a decision on whether to enforce subpoenas issued earlier this year as its investigation time runs out.
But the panel’s biggest bombshell at last week’s hearing came in the form of a unanimous vote to subpoena Trump, marking his boldest step yet in the intensive investigation. Still, it remains to be seen whether the former president complies with that subpoena.
“He is the only person at the center of the story of what happened on January 6,” said committee chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. “So we want to hear from him.”
Trump ignored the subpoena in social media posts after the hearing, questioning why the committee decided not to solicit his testimony earlier in its investigation and reiterating his claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. In a 14-page letter to Thompson, he lashed out again at lawmakers and reiterated earlier claims, but notably said nothing about whether he would comply with the subpoena.
The former president has repeatedly called the committee the “unselected committee” of “political hooligans and thugs,” accusing it of launching a “witch hunt” against him. Consequently, it seems unlikely that Trump will comply with the subpoena.
But committee members have remained tight-lipped about how they would handle a potential challenge to Trump’s subpoena since last week’s vote.
In response to a question about whether the Justice Department should hold the former president in criminal contempt if he refuses to respond to the subpoena, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said Sunday, “That’s a bridge we’ll cross if we have to get there.” .
“He has made it clear that he has nothing to hide, that is what he says. So he should come the day we ask him to come,” Kinzinger said on ABC’s “This Week.” “If she goes beyond that, we’ll see what to do next.”
Meanwhile, in a move that could foreshadow Trump’s future, the Justice Department is recommending a six-month prison sentence and a $200,000 fine for Steve Bannon’s contempt of Congress for defying a committee subpoena.
Bannon, a right-wing podcaster and former adviser to Donald Trump, challenged a September 2021 subpoena from the committee. In November, a federal grand jury had indicted him on two counts of contempt of Congress. In July, a jury found Bannon guilty of refusing to provide documents to the select committee and refusing to appear for a plea.
Still, another committee member, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, said the panel expects Trump to honor the subpoena “because he has a legal obligation to show up.”
“Of course, he also had a legal obligation to make sure the laws were faithfully executed, which he completely ignored on January 6,” Lofgren told “CNN Newsroom” on Sunday. “So we’ll see.”
In the meantime, the panel is drafting its final report to be published before the end of the year. But members recognized that some of the work may outlast the committee itself.
“There is so much information out there, and if we were allowed to continue, I think we should,” Murphy said. “Because there are a lot of processes and institutional changes that need to be made so that we can protect ourselves against anyone, regardless of political party, trying to nullify an American election again.”
And it remains to be seen whether the select committee’s final report will include a criminal reference related to Trump’s conduct. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming said during last week’s hearing that the committee has “significant information” to consider criminal referrals for “multiple individuals” and recommended a series of legislative proposals “to guard against another January 6.”
Still, Kinzinger said Sunday that the criminal reference question “doesn’t make a lot of sense because obviously the Justice Department is moving forward on this anyway.”
He noted that going forward, as it searches for new leads, the committee is “putting together in a deeper way exactly what we know,” pointing to a mountain of information that could not be contained in hour-long public hearings.
“Then you’ll see more of those details, we’ll start working on the recommendations, and then again we’ll release that report,” Kinzinger said. “And the torch has really been passed, yes, to the Justice Department, but also to the American people.”