Briefing

What to expect during the Jan. 6 hearings

Americans will reportedly learn 'the story about what happened' in the Capitol attack

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack will hold six public hearings this month, with the first one set for June 9. The panel has conducted more than 1,000 interviews and gathered tens of thousands of documents, and its chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said in April the hearings "will tell the story about what happened." Here's everything you need to know:

What is the Jan. 6 committee?  

Officially called the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, the panel was formed in July 2021 through a vote by the House of Representatives. There had first been talk of creating an independent commission similar to the one that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, but this was blocked by Republican lawmakers.

Who is on the committee?

In addition to Thompson, there are six Democrats on the panel: Reps. Pete Aguilar, Zoe Lofgren, and Adam Schiff of California; Rep. Stephanie Murray of Florida; Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland; and Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia. There are also two Republicans: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who serves as vice chair, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) initially picked five different Republican lawmakers to serve on the panel. Two of the people he chose — Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — are allies of former President Donald Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected Banks and Jordan, saying she did so "with respect to the integrity of the investigation." After McCarthy announced a boycott of the committee and accused Pelosi of politicizing the investigation, the Speaker asked Cheney and Kinzinger, two Republican critics of Trump, to join the panel.

What is the scope of their investigation?

Thompson has said the panel aims to "uncover the facts, tell the American people the full story of Jan. 6th, and ensure that nothing like that day ever happens again." It's a wide-ranging investigation, and The Washington Post's Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger wrote in January that there's so much information and evidence for the panel's 40 or so staffers to go through that they have been divided into five teams.

The teams are focused on: investigating attempts to pressure Department of Justice and state officials into overturning the November 2020 presidential election results; understanding how federal agencies and law enforcement prepared for and responded to the events of Jan. 6; examining the funding for rallies held to protest the election results; looking into the organizers of those demonstrations; and exploring online misinformation and extremist activity.

Raskin told the Post that after the panel assembles "a complete documentary record of what happened on Jan. 6 and what caused it, the main purpose of the Jan. 6 committee is to make recommendations as to policy changes that will prevent any further close calls with violent and lawless attacks on our government. So we have to look at fortifying our defenses against both inside political coup attempts and violent insurrectionary challenges to the government."

What evidence and testimony has the committee collected?

Since July 2021, the committee has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and gathered 100,000 documents, including emails, phone records, and text messages. After a legal battle that reached the Supreme Court, the National Archives turned over 700 documents from the Trump White House to the committee. Last summer, the committee held a public hearing where several law enforcement officers who were injured during the Capitol riot testified about what happened that day. In recent months, several Trump relatives have testified remotely before the panel, including his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Who haven't they interviewed?

Three people close to Trump refused to cooperate with subpoenas issued by the committee: Trump's former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, former White House deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino, and Trump's former trade adviser Peter Navarro. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows did give the panel text messages it requested, and then abruptly stopped cooperating. All were referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution, and Bannon has been indicted on two counts of contempt; his trial is set to begin in July.

Navarro appeared on MSNBC in January and explained to anchor Ari Melber that he concocted a plan with Bannon to overturn the election results. He called the strategy the "Green Bay Sweep," and declared that more than 100 congressmen and senators were on board to "challenge the results of the election in six battleground states." All was going according to plan, he said, until the rioting began. On Tuesday, Navarro filed a lawsuit against the House select committee and Pelosi, revealing in the filing that he has been subpoenaed by the Justice Department as part of its probe into the Capitol attack.

How is the committee preparing for the hearings?

The committee has kept most of its work under wraps and will reveal many key findings for the first time during the hearings. In March, people with knowledge of the matter told CNN that the committee was working on putting together a written report and a multimedia presentation, and hired a writer to make sure everything is clear and easy for the public to understand. "We don't want it to read like a clunky committee effort," Raskin told CNN. "We want it to have an authorial voice that tells the story of what happened."

What will happen during the hearings?

It's expected that the first public hearing will give an overview of what the committee did during the duration of its investigation, laying the groundwork for the seven future hearings, and it's almost guaranteed there will be videos shown of the Capitol attack. All nine panel members will take an active role in the hearings, CNN reports, with each one leading at least one presentation. "There will be a combination of exhibits, staff testimony, and outside witnesses," Thompson told CNN in early May. "Some of them will be people that people have not heard from before, and I think their testimony will be on point as to why this investigation was so important."

What will happen after the hearings?

The committee's final report, containing recommendations on how to keep another Jan. 6 from happening again, will be published before the November midterm elections. The Justice Department has already charged more than 800 people in connection with the Capitol attack, and the House select committee has the ability to send the DOJ additional evidence it thinks shows criminal activity. In April, Cheney said the committee has enough evidence to refer Trump for criminal charges, but the panel had yet to decide how to proceed. "It's absolutely clear that what President Trump was doing, what a number of people around him were doing, that they knew it was unlawful," she said on CNN's State of the Union. "I think what we have seen is a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election."

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