After nearly a year of interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack held the first of six public hearings on Thursday. Over the course of two hours, the panel started laying out what it has learned, with its vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), saying former President Donald Trump oversaw a "sophisticated, seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election." Here's everything you need to know:
Why is the committee holding public hearings?
The committee said it wants to provide Americans with "an initial summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power." During the course of its investigation, the panel has interviewed at least 1,000 witnesses and collected 140,000 documents. One of the committee's tasks is to write a final report on its findings, providing recommendations on how to prevent another Jan. 6 from happening in the future.
What were some of the major bombshells revealed during the hearing?
Several revelations were made, including that former Attorney General William Barr told Trump his claims of the 2020 election being stolen were "bulls--t." In addition to playing a clip of Barr's recorded testimony, the committee showed a snippet of Ivanka Trump's testimony, during which she was asked about Barr's assessment of the situation and whether she agreed with him. "I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying," Ivanka responded.
The committee said multiple witnesses were able to prove that Trump was told — many times and by different people — that the election was not stolen from him. A brief portion of Jason Miller's testimony was played, with the former Trump campaign spokesman saying an internal data expert spoke to Trump in the Oval Office after the election and "delivered to the president in pretty blunt terms that he was going to lose."
Cheney also said in the wake of the Capitol attack, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.) and several other GOP lawmakers sought pardons from Trump, but she did not go into detail as to why they made this request. Additionally, the committee heard testimony that Trump knew some members of the mob at the Capitol were chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" and he responded that "maybe our supporters have the right idea" about the then-vice president.
What else did members of the committee say?
During Thursday's hearing, only two members of the committee spoke: Thompson and Cheney. Thompson started the hearing off by calling the assault on the Capitol the "culmination of an attempted coup," and Cheney said Trump "summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack." She also encouraged "all Americans" to read what U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote in March, as part of a civil suit involving John Eastman, the lawyer who helped Trump in his efforts to overturn the election. Carter wrote that "based on the evidence, the court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021."
Who testified during the hearing?
Caroline Edwards, a U.S. Capitol Police officer injured during the Jan. 6 attack, and documentary filmmaker Nick Quested both testified. Edwards was stationed at the edge of the Capitol lawn, and footage was played showing a bike rack being thrown at her. She fell and was briefly unconscious; after coming to, she returned to duty. "It was carnage, it was chaos, I can't even describe what I saw," Edwards said. Nothing prepared her for the Capitol attack and the "hours of hand-to-hand combat, hours of dealing with things that were way beyond what any law enforcement officer had trained for," she added. "I remember that moment of stepping behind the line and seeing the absolute war zone that the west front had become."
On Jan. 6, Quested was following members of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys, and told the committee he "documented the crowd turn from protesters to rioters to insurrectionists. I was surprised by the size of the group, the anger, and the profanity. For anyone who didn't understand how violent the event was, I saw it, I documented it, and I experienced it. I heard incredibly aggressive chanting and I subsequently shared that footage with the authorities."
What video was shown during the hearing?
Some never-before-seen footage shot by Quested was featured during a video montage setting up a timeline for the Capitol attack. The presentation included a clip of a woman on the National Mall, who spoke a few hours before the riot. "I am not allowed to say what is going on today, everyone is going to have to watch for themselves, but it's going to happen," she said. "Something is going to happen."
Quested's footage was spliced together with video of other events unfolding at the same time, including Trump speaking at a "Stop the Steal" rally; officers with the Metropolitan Police Department saying over the radio that backup was desperately needed at the Capitol; and a Trump supporter using a megaphone to read a tweet Trump sent at 2:24 p.m. about Pence not having the "courage" to overturn the election results. The video ended with audio from a July 11, 2021, Trump interview, during which he talked about the "love" shown at the Capitol.
What can we expect from the next five hearings?
On the morning of Jan. 6, Trump's intention was to "remain president of the United States, despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his constitutional obligation to relinquish power," Cheney said. The committee will spend the next five hearings presenting evidence of this, she added, going into detail on how Trump and his advisers knew he lost the election but continued to engage in a "massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information."
Trump, she continued, ignored the courts, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and Republican state officials who told Trump the election was fair, choosing to invest "millions of dollars in campaign funds" so he could purposely spread "false information" leading "millions of Americans" to believe the election was "corrupt and he was the true president. As you will see, this misinformation campaign provoked the violence on Jan. 6."
Cheney said the other hearings will focus on Trump's attempts to replace the attorney general with someone who would back up his stolen election claims, with top Justice Department officials having testified Trump asked them to "just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen." There will also be more information presented on Trump's pressure campaign to get Pence to refuse to count the electoral votes on Jan. 6 and GOP state officials to overturn their election results, Cheney said, as well as insight into what it was like to be at the White House with Trump as the violence unfolded at the Capitol, with testimony from more than a dozen White House staffers who were there.
What are the dates for those hearings?
The second hearing will be held on Monday, June 13, at 10 a.m. ET. The rest of the schedule isn't set in stone yet, but some of the hearings could take place in June.