After a two-month hiatus, the House Jan. 6 committee appears to be winding down an investigation that made and broke political careers among the nine members while providing the fullest account yet of what happened the day the peaceful transfer of power was nearly subverted.
The committee had been planning to hold another hearing on Wednesday but postponed it due to the hurricane approaching Florida. In a statement Tuesday, committee leaders said they would “soon” announce the date of the ninth hearing — the first since July.
Once rescheduled, the hearing is to be a valedictory of sorts, with the committee diverting from a format that leaned heavily on a few members at a time and instead giving all nine a chance to take the microphone and lead various segments.
“Each member will have a section of the hearing to talk about,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the panel’s chairman, told reporters recently. “And so rather than a chair and a vice chair opening and closing, we’ll do our part and each member will have a particular portion of the hearing to lead.”
Members haven’t explicitly said the next hearing will be their last. They still need to produce a written report on their findings over the past 14 months. But with the Justice Department now ramping up its criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, the committee’s relevance has begun to fade, one of its members acknowledged.
“We’re really transitioning here into, ‘We need to get this report written,’” the member said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the panel’s thinking. “I see it as, look, we did a great job and at some point, it’s like, take the victory and now it’s in DOJ’s hands.”
While much of the next hearing will revisit the committee’s revelations during the course of its inquiry, the vice-chairwoman, Rep. Liz Cheney, R., Wyo., said some “new information, new evidence” will be presented “because the investigation goes on.” On Monday, the panel subpoenaed Robin Vos, the Wisconsin Assembly speaker who said former President Donald Trump had tried to pressure him in July to overturn the results of the presidential election that occurred 20 months earlier.
Video clips from a documentary that follows Trump adviser Roger Stone leading up to the Jan. 6 riot will likely be part of a multimedia presentation at the committee’s next hearing, sources told NBC News.
“Nothing provided by the Jan. 6 committee can be considered credible, or unedited or not manipulated,” Stone told NBC News Tuesday. “Nothing that they produce is within context. Their previous testimony provided against me is categorically false.”
The committee has also obtained a trove of Secret Service documents from the period around the Jan. 6 attack. Thompson said some of that information “potentially” could make an appearance in the next hearing. Yet Cheney said that the panel doesn’t have deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, when agents might have discussed an alleged altercation between Trump and his security team as he tried to join rioters at the Capitol. In response to a subpoena, the Secret Service handed over 800,000 pages of information that still might shed light on what was happening during that fraught period.
“Well, the text messages themselves, in many cases, are gone,” Cheney said over the weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival. “There are other forms of communication like Teams messages and emails. And we’ve received, you know, probably about 800,000 pages, at least, of material.”
The committee also recently reached an agreement to interview Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Past hearings have showcased taped testimony from some Trump Cabinet members, including Attorney General Bill Barr and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, who have told the panel they had urged Trump to concede to Joe Biden after it was clear there was no widespread election fraud.
The rescheduled session could feature video of testimony from some other Trump Cabinet members, like Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who both have spoken to the committee but have not appeared in any of the hearings.
Chao, wife of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, sat for a videotaped interview in August; she announced she was resigning her post the day after the Capitol attack, saying it had “deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.” (Trump has been lashing out at the couple. On his Truth Social website last month, he called his former Cabinet secretary “crazy” and her husband a “broken down hack politician.”)
Committee members have been interested in conversations Pompeo reportedly had with other Cabinet members after the attack about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power. Ultimately, a vote was never taken but the discussions underscored the degree to which top Trump officials worried about his behavior.
“I think it’s certainly something that will be explored,” at the hearing, said the committee member who requested anonymity. “We’re kind of changing a little bit — every now and again, but I would certainly think it’s going to come up.”
Few knew just what to expect when the committee held its first public hearing on June 9. So many leaks preceded that prime-time hearing that even Thompson fretted that it could turn out to be a bust. Determined to tell a story that would keep viewers riveted, the panel spooled out a narrative that focused relentlessly on Trump and his efforts to maintain power despite his defeat.
“From what they [the committee] had and the authorities they had, in a short amount of time they sealed their legacy as one of the most dynamic committees in the history of the United States,” said Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who worked as a staff member on the committee until his resignation in April.
At times, the hearings resembled the sort of meticulous impeachment trial that eluded Democrats and a few Republicans when they sought to convict Trump in the weeks after the Jan. 6 riot. With little time to investigate Trump’s role, House impeachment managers couldn’t answer basic questions about Trump’s actions as his supporters breached the Capitol while Congress met to certify Biden’s victory.
But in the Jan. 6 hearings, investigators filled in the blanks. One hearing in July included testimony that Trump did nothing to stop the violence three hours into the riot. Trump, instead, phoned a senator about delaying the vote count and spoke to his outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani. He watched the melee on television in his dining room near the Oval Office and resisted efforts by his aides to get him to make a statement condemning the attack, the committee showed. Trump was reluctant to issue a tweet that used the word “peace,” a former press aide testified. Only after his daughter Ivanka pressed him did he agree to say in a tweet, “Stay peaceful.”
One question coming out of the hearings is the future of various members. Few House members get the sort of prime-time stage that the hearings afforded, but in Cheney’s case, the attention proved double-edged. Her high-profile criticism of Trump no doubt accounted for her lopsided defeat in Wyoming’s Republican primary race last month.
“If she’s rational, which is dubious, she’ll become a Democrat and her future will be in the Democratic Party,” said Newt Gingrich, a former Republican House speaker.
Yet Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, also received widespread praise for risking her congressional career as she dug into Trump’s actions surrounding Jan.. In April, the Kennedy family and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded her their “Profile in Courage” award.
“We all swore the same oath to the Constitution,” Cheney told NBC News in a statement, responding to the GOP criticism she’s faced. “Some of us are abiding by it.”