As you watch the House January 6th Committee’s primetime hearings, keep the following top of mind: The committee is not just examining the past. All the conditions that resulted in the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, on Congress while it was discharging a vital constitutional duty, and on more than 140 police officers remain clear and present.
Donald Trump is still the uncontested leader of the Republican party. His base still clings to the idea the 2020 election was stolen and is nominating election-denying candidates to powerful positions in key swing states. Members of extremist groups that led the charge to the Capitol now have footholds in state and local GOP organizations all over the country. And all the affiliated members of Trump’s elite political, advocacy, and media class remain willing to assist Trump in carrying out his desires.
So don’t settle into the hearings thinking about them as a history lesson. They’re an active threat assessment.
On Thursday the committee will reveal what its team of former prosecutors, intelligence officers, and national security experts has learned from interviewing more than 1,000 witnesses and analyzing tens of thousands of documents over the past ten months.
If the committee did its job right, it will be releasing a product more sweeping than any newsroom has to date, in a highly digestible, readily available format designed for mass consumption.
What should we expect?
On paper, the committee was tasked with investigating the events that led up to Jan. 6th and caused the violence to unfold that day, and with proposing legislative solutions to mitigate future threats.
Practically, that means delving into the story of the current state of the Republican party and how far its various actors—from its most powerful leader to his boots on the ground—were willing to go in order to overturn the election and keep Donald Trump in power.
Here’s just a sample platter of the stories the committee has to nail down:
- Trump’s lies.
- How the GOP and its many aligned advocacy organizations fundraised off Trump’s meritless legal challenges to cancel Democratic votes.
- The efforts to squeeze state officials to “find the votes” in swing states Trump lost.
- The schemes inside the Department of Justice to launch sham investigations into voter fraud.
- The wild ideas entertained inside the White House to seize voting machines in order to “rerun” the election.
- The pressure campaign on Republican members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to deny Electoral College votes for Biden.
- How Trump summoned a real-life mob, bearing tactical gear and weapons, that resorted to physical violence to stop Congress from certifying Biden as president.
It’s a lot. Give it time to sink in. And do not let the political junkies rush the process with their relentless questions about whether or not the hearings will “work” in changing public opinion.
Give the facts a chance to speak for themselves.
Read the room on Thursday. And everything happening outside the room, too.
Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, as is well known, are the only Republicans on the committee. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy won’t be there. That’s because he’s busy leading the coverup. Maybe the other House and Senate Republicans who voted for impeachment will show up sometime to lend some moral support to Cheney and Kinzinger. They probably won’t. Why not, though? They should, at least, be asked. Are we supposed to believe some petty objection about how the committee was created is a reason to ignore the momentous findings that are to be presented? Perhaps they’ll muster up the courage to post some tweets. But it’s something to take note of, either way.
Outside of the political elites, hundreds of people are being held accountable. The Department of Justice has arrested more than 800 suspects in nearly every state for crimes related to the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6th. Yet the GOP, as a political institution, is defending all the methods and means that prompted these alleged criminals to act. Why wouldn’t this happen all over again?
The same lies, conspiracies, and players are still in action.
Steve Bannon, for example, fresh off his fraud pardon from Trump, is busy podcasting his heart out while he awaits trial for contempt of Congress over his refusal to testify to the committee. Meanwhile, Bannon, and all the various campaign committees, lawyers, and advocacy groups that fundraised off “Stop the Steal” lies, are sitting on their piles of money, poised for the next opportunity to rake in more millions.
The leader of the Proud Boys and four other members were indicted in federal court for seditious conspiracy and other offenses on Monday. Last January, the leader of the Oath Keepers and 10 of the group’s members were also indicted for seditious conspiracy and additional charges; two have since pleaded guilty. And yet, today, the Proud Boys have also taken over the Republican party in Miami-Dade County and an Oath Keeper who was present at the Capitol on Jan. 6th is now the leader of Wyoming’s Republican party and is working with Trump to unseat Liz Cheney.
MAGA activists are still demanding audits, recounts, and decertification of the 2020 election. After dragging Arizona officials through months of their fraudit shenanigans, they now view the Cyber Ninja mess as a model to be replicated in other states. The base eats it up. Going into the midterms, the list of election-denying candidates who have already won the GOP nominations for office is startling.
Fox News won’t be carrying the hearings live. Instead, its 8 p.m. hour this week will be anchored, as usual, by Tucker Carlson, who recently produced the film Patriot Purge—which suggested the attack on the Capitol was a “false flag” operation and that conservatives are being unfairly persecuted due to the fallout.
You get the point. To the extent that conditions in the Republican ecosystem have changed since Jan. 6th, they’ve mostly gotten worse. Trump is out of office, but the Republican political and media classes, which were initially shocked and outraged by the insurrection, have made their peace with his anti-democratic posture.
Enough with the depressing stuff. Here is what is going to be compelling about the hearings:
Essentially, the investigation is a GOP drama. That means all of the best witnesses will be Republicans. The Jan. 6th Committee has video depositions of senior White House aides and campaign officials. It should know how to use them. And there are signals that video testimony from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner will be deployed.
Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger don’t have to lecture anyone about what happened. Trump’s supporters and former employees will. Therein lies the hope.
The hearings will show the violence and expose the schemes. An exposition of facts should also show that Trump did not prevail because there were enough Republicans—just barely—who resisted.
The hearings, after all the evidence is laid out, should provide reason for more Republicans to go on record rejecting Trump and his tactics. We’ll have plenty of time to have those conversations over the summer and fall.
The material will be available to make the case. And we will have to try. It may be our last chance to dial down the threat.