With only three months left in the year, the US House of Representatives’s January 6 committee is eyeing a close to its work and a final report laying out its findings about the United States Capitol riot. But the investigation is not over.
The committee has already revealed much of its work at eight hearings during midyear, showing in detail how former President Donald Trump ignored many of his closest advisers and amplified his false claims of election fraud after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.
Witnesses interviewed by the panel — some of them Trump’s closest allies — recounted in videotaped testimony how the former president declined to act when hundreds of his supporters violently attacked the Capitol as US Congress certified Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021.
Lawmakers have said there is more to come. The nine-member panel — seven Democrats and two Republicans — interviewed witnesses throughout all of August, and they are planning at least one hearing this month.
Members are expected to meet and discuss some of their next steps on Tuesday.
Because the January 6 panel is a temporary, or “select”, committee, it expires at the end of the current Congress. If Republicans take the majority in November’s elections, as they are favoured to do, they are expected to dissolve the committee in January. So the panel is planning to issue a final report by the end of December.
Here’s a look at what’s left for the committee in 2022:
The committee is expected to hold at least one hearing, maybe more, before the end of the month. Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chairwoman, said the committee “has far more evidence to share with the American people and more to gather”.
“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued and the dam has begun to break,” Cheney said at a July 21 hearing that was held in primetime and watched by 17.7 million people. “We have considerably more to do.”
It is unclear if the next hearings will provide a general overview of what the panel has learned or if they will be focused on new information and evidence.
The committee conducted several interviews at the end of July and into August with Trump’s cabinet secretaries, some of whom had discussed invoking the constitutional process in the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office after the riot.
The panel has already interviewed more than 1,000 people, but lawmakers and staff are still pursuing new threads. The committee just recently spoke to several of the cabinet secretaries, including former Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in July and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in August.
The committee also wants to get to the bottom of missing Secret Service texts from January 5 and 6, 2021, which could shed further light on Trump’s actions during the riot, particularly after earlier testimony about his confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol.
“We anticipate talking to additional members of the president’s Cabinet,” Cheney said at the beginning of August. “We anticipate talking to additional members of his campaign. Certainly, we’re very focused, as well on the Secret Service.”
The committee has also pursued an interview with conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, who is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Lawmakers want to know more about her role in trying to help Trump overturn the election. She contacted legislators in Arizona and Wisconsin as part of that effort.
The committee must shut down within a month after issuing a final report, per its rules.
But legislators could issue some smaller reports before then, perhaps even before the November elections. Representative Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairman, has said there may be an interim report in the fall.
The release of the final report will likely come close to the end of the year so the panel can maximise its time. While much of the findings will already be known, the report is expected to thread the story together in a definitive way that lays out the committee’s conclusions for history.
Trump and Pence
Members of the committee are still debating how aggressively to pursue testimony from Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Some have questioned whether calling Pence — he resisted Trump’s pressure to try and block Biden’s certification on January 6 — is needed since many of his closest aides have already testified. His top lawyer at the White House, Greg Jacob, testified at one of the committee’s hearings in June and characterised much of Pence’s thought process during the time when Trump was pressuring him.
The panel has been in discussions with Pence’s lawyers for months, without any discernible progress. Still, the committee could invite Pence for closed-door testimony or ask him to answer written questions.
The calculation is different for the former president. Members have debated whether they need to call Trump, who is the focus of their probe but also a witness who has railed against the investigation, denied much of the evidence, and floated the idea of presidential pardons for January 6 rioters. He is also facing scrutiny in several other investigations, including at the Department of Justice over the classified documents he took to his private club.
Another bit of unfinished business is the committee’s subpoenas to five House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
In May, the panel subpoenaed McCarthy and Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama. The panel has investigated McCarthy’s conversations with Trump the day of the attack and meetings the four other lawmakers had with the White House beforehand as Trump and his aides worked to overturn his election defeat.
“The Select Committee has developed a massive body of evidence… It hasn’t always been easy… because the same people who drove the former President’s pressure campaign to overturn the election are now trying to cover up the truth about January 6th.”
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) September 12, 2022
The five Republicans, all of whom have repeatedly downplayed the investigation’s legitimacy, have simply ignored the request to testify.
But the January 6 committee seems unlikely to meet their defiance with contempt charges, as they have with other witnesses, in the weeks before the November elections. Not only would it be a politically risky move, but it is unclear what eventual recourse the panel would have against its own colleagues.
Meanwhile, the committee is expected to weigh in on possible legislative changes to the Electoral Count Act, which governs how a presidential election is certified by Congress.
A bipartisan group of senators released proposed changes earlier this year that would clarify the way states submit electors and the vice president tallies the votes. Trump and his allies tried to find loopholes in that law ahead of January 6 as the former president worked to overturn his defeat to Biden and unsuccessfully pressured Pence to go along.
The January 6 panel’s final report is expected to include a larger swath of legislative recommendations.
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