Months after its summer series concluded, backed by prime-time audiences in an eight-part progression that told the radical story of the lead-up, the brutal moments and the aftermath of the 2021 attack on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives on January 6. The committee set a hearing for Thursday with no live witness testimony and no clear path.
But the committee had closely guarded one unfinished business: the bold and historic public subpoena of a former president.
“We have left no doubt, no doubt, that Donald Trump led an effort to change American democracy that directly resulted in the violence on January 6,” said committee chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. “He is the only person at the center of the story of what happened on January 6. So we want to hear from him.”
The panel argued that while its investigation is drawing to a close, the threat Donald Trump poses to the nation, exposed in the Jan. 6 attack, remains.
“We are compelled to seek answers directly from the man who set this whole thing in motion,” Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the committee’s vice chair, said as she delivered the subpoena resolution Thursday. “And all Americans are entitled to those answers, so we can act now to protect our republic.”
After a months-long break from public events, Thursday’s hearing oscillated between refreshing the public’s memory of previously revealed evidence and introducing new revelations, to complete its picture of Trump’s “multi-part plan” to nullify the 2020 election. that “led to an attack on a pillar of our democracy.”
The committee drove home the idea it had previously tried to make clear: that Trump knew he had lost the election.
He pointed to Trump’s decision to withdraw troops abroad in the final days of his presidency in an apparent attempt to achieve military objectives as evidence that he knew he had lost the election, along with testimony from people close to him who sometimes he mentioned his loss to President Joe Biden privately, while publicly denying it. In recorded testimony, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson characterized Trump’s comments to Meadows as: “I don’t want people to know we’ve lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Find out. She also recalled Meadows telling her that Trump “knows it’s over. He knows that he lost, but we are going to keep trying.”
Furthermore, he painted the efforts to say that Trump had won the election as premeditated.
The committee disclosed an Oct. 31, 2020, memo from the head of a conservative Judicial Watch group, Tom Fitton, who suggested Trump should declare victory on election night, before mail-in and absentee ballots are counted.
It pointed to footage of former Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Roger Stone in the days leading up to the 2020 election, detailing Trump’s plan to declare himself the winner.
“This big lie, President Trump’s effort to convince Americans that he had won the 2020 election, began even before the election results came in,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. “It was intentional, it was premeditated, it was not based on the election results or any evidence of actual fraud affecting the results or any actual problem with the voting machines. It was a plan invented beforehand to convince his followers that he won.”
The committee presented text messages from a rally organizer who wrote days before the Jan. 6 attack that “POTUS will have us march there/to the Capitol,” explaining that the president would call for the move “out of the blue.” Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida said the text messages, along with the “pressure campaign” against state officials, the Justice Department and the vice president, which were brought up in earlier hearings, demonstrate “the president’s personal and substantial role in Trump in the plot to nullify the election.
“He was intimately involved,” Murphy said. “He was the central player.”
Cheney agreed, saying, “The mass of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of January 6 was one man, Donald Trump, who was followed by many others.”
“None of this would have happened without him,” he said. “He was personally and substantially involved in all of that.”
The panel, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, acknowledged that some have criticized the committee for being partisan, including Trump himself, who regularly refers to the select committee as the “unselected committee” of “political hooligans and thugs,” accusing him of start a “witch hunt” against him.
But committee members pointed out that the mountain of evidence they have gathered over more than 15 months has been primarily from Republicans, from Trump aides to state officials, lawmakers, constituents and Trump’s own family.
“This investigation is not about politics,” Thompson said. “It’s about the facts, plain and simple, and it’s about making sure that our government operates under the rule of law, as our Constitution requires.”
Still, Thursday’s hearing came just weeks before the midterm elections, and it portrayed Trump and supporters within the GOP as a threat to democracy.
That threat, as a problem, isn’t shaping up to be as big in the midterms as others, like inflation. but the public attitude towards the subject seemed to take a turn this summer, multiple polls revealed, as voters became more concerned amid a series of Jan. 6 committee hearings this summer and as an investigation into the handling of government records by Trump.
The panel seeks to publish a report after the midterm elections. But a preliminary report or publication of specific findings is apparently not out of the question in the interim, while some committee members have expressed interest in holding another hearing later this year to present their findings to Congress.
It remains to be seen whether the select committee’s final report will include a criminal reference related to Trump’s conduct. Cheney said Thursday 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.”
But Thursday’s subpoena marked the committee’s boldest move to date. With a subpoena from Congress, the former president would have to sit before lawmakers for an interview, as have hundreds of people who have appeared before the committee since its investigation began. A small number have not cooperated with the subpoenas, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who was convicted of contempt of Congress for move in July.
Trump objected to the subpoena in a post on his social media account Thursday, asking why the committee didn’t ask him to testify sooner. And he stopped short of offering his cooperation.
“Why did you wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting?” Trump wrote. “Because the Committee is a total ‘BUST’ that has only served to further divide our Country which, by the way, is doing very poorly. A laughingstock around the world?
A group of Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, was also subpoenaed and refused to cooperate. It’s unclear whether the committee will enforce those subpoenas. Thompson told reporters Thursday that the committee has no plans to subpoena former Vice President Mike Pence.
New footage released Thursday also included footage of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, during the attack on Capitol Hill. . Lawmakers could be heard trying to coordinate law enforcement from surrounding jurisdictions to secure the Capitol.
“Congressional leadership recognized in a bipartisan manner that President Trump was the only person who could get the mob to end its violent siege on Congress, leave Capitol Hill and go home,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, detailing how Trump “did nothing to stop the deadly violence” on January 6. New evidence about the Secret Service’s advanced knowledge of the threat of violence on Jan. 6 was also presented at Thursday’s session.
Through its series of hearings beginning in June, the select committee prominently highlighted an effort to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn election results, in addition to putting pressure on the Justice Department, state election officials and the ballot counters, a scheme to create fraud. electoral rolls in the states and, ultimately, an effort to spread falsehoods about the 2020 election and summon a mob to Washington. At the center of it all, the committee has argued, is Trump.
Thursday’s hearing had a different tone: no live testimony from witnesses, but full of presentations from each committee member, as they covered most of the issues they had brought up since the hearings began, and a resounding unanimous vote. of the panel crowned the public side of its investigation with a bang.
But an undercurrent of Trump’s remaining influence was hard to deny Thursday, as Cheney led the hearing for the first time as a lame lawmaker after losing her primary earlier this year. Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the only two Republicans on the panel, condemned Trump’s actions and voted to impeach him after the Jan. 6 attack. Neither will return to the camera next year.