Jan. 6 hearings: What we’ve learned, and what’s next
WASHINGTON (AP) — Through seven hearings this summer, the House Jan. 6 panel has maintained two consistent themes: Donald Trump’s stubborn resistance to advisers who told him that Joe Biden won the election, and the former president’s role in inciting the Capitol insurrection.
Each hearing has had a separate focus — this week’s was domestic extremism — but the nine-member panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack has not strayed from its central findings: that Trump made historically unprecedented moves to overturn his 2020 election defeat and then turned a blind eye as his supporters beat police and broke into the Capitol to defend him.
A rundown of what we’ve learned so far from the public hearings of the select Jan. 6 committee — and what’s next:
TRUMP IGNORED HIS ADVISERS
At every hearing, the panel has played video testimony from White House aides and Trump associates who said they told Trump that Biden won the election and advised him to drop his false claims of widespread voter fraud. Many were emboldened by former Attorney General Bill Barr’s declaration in early December 2020 that there was no evidence of mass fraud that could change the election outcome.
Among those aides was Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, who told the panel that she accepted Barr’s conclusions. Eugene Scalia, Trump’s labor secretary, said he told Trump it was time for him to say Biden had won after states certified the electors on Dec. 14. Barr, who told Trump to his face that the fraud claims were “b—–t,” said he feared the president was becoming “detached from reality.”
But Trump ignored those advisers. Instead he listened to a small group of allies outside the White House who were pushing the fraud claims, sometimes in fantastical ways.
At Tuesday’s hearing, video testimony from White House lawyers described theories pushed by lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell that they thought were “nuts,” including compromised voting machines and thermostats. A Dec. 18 meeting in the White House lasted for six hours and devolved into “screaming” and profanity, several participants said, as the two sides clashed over Trump’s next steps.
Trump’s White House counsel, Pat Cipollone told the committee in a videotaped interview that the lawyers kept asking Powell and Giuliani for evidence, but never received any good answers.
THE PRESIDENT’S CALLS TO ACTION
Rebuffed by many of those closest to him, Trump turned toward a much wider audience on social media. Hours after the Dec. 18 meeting, he tweeted that his supporters should come to a “big protest” on Jan. 6, when Congress would certify Biden’s win.
Trump tweeted: “Be there, will be wild!”
The committee showed a montage of videos and social media posts after the tweet as supporters reacted and planned trips to Washington, some of them using violent rhetoric and talking about killing police officers. Far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers mobilized their members to come to Washington and protest, and members of those groups descended on the Capitol before Trump had even finished his fiery speech outside the White House that morning.
At a hearing last month, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Trump knew that some of his supporters gathered for the event were armed because they had been turned away at security checkpoints. But she quoted Trump as directing his staff, in profane terms, to take away the metal-detecting magnetometers if their presence meant fewer people would be at the rally. He then took the stage and urged the entire crowd to march to the Capitol.
Stephen Ayres, who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6 and pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct, testified in person at Tuesday’s hearing. He talked about how he believed Trump’s lies as they were amplified on social media, and said he came to Washington at the behest of his president.
His arrest changed his life for the worse, Ayres said, and he’s angry he believed the claims of fraud.
A MISSED MARCH TO THE CAPITOL
The committee has focused in particular on Trump’s efforts to go to the Capitol with his supporters after his speech. Hutchinson said that many of Trump’s aides, and even House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, were aware of his plan and tried to stop it. She also described Trump’s anger as security officials refused to take him there after his speech.
On Tuesday, the committee revealed more evidence that Trump had planned to call for his supporters to march to the Capitol, and that he would go with them. The panel showed a draft tweet, undated and never sent, that said “Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!” The draft tweet was stamped, “president has seen.”
They also showed texts and email exchanges between planners and White House aides about a secret plan for the march.
“This stays only between us, we are having a second stage at the Supreme Court” after Trump’s rally, wrote one of the rally’s organizers, Kylie Kremer, to a Trump confidant. “POTUS is going to have us march there/the Capitol.” People will try to “sabotage” it if they found out, she said.
PRESSURE TO OVERTURN THE ELECTION
The committee’s first few hearings focused on Trump’s pressure campaign to thwart Biden’s victory – aimed at state election officials, at the Justice Department and finally at Vice President Mike Pence. The president’s pressure ramped up as courts rejected dozens of lawsuits and after the states certified the electors in mid-December.
At a hearing with state officials, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, told of Trump’s phone call in which he asked him to “find 11,780 votes” that could give him a win. Rusty Bowers, Arizona’s GOP House speaker, testified about a call from Trump in which the president proposed that his chamber reject the slate of electors for Biden, who had won the state. Both Raffensperger and Bowers testified in person.
In a separate hearing, Justice Department officials described Trump’s effort to not only have them declare the election “corrupt” but to replace the acting attorney general with an ally of his in the department who sympathized with his false claims.
And Greg Jacob, a lawyer to Pence, testified about scheming within the White House to try and convince Pence to object to the results or delay the certification in his traditional ceremonial role presiding over the count. But Jacob said that as he and Pence reviewed the constitution, the law, “and frankly just common sense,” they confirmed that Pence did not have that authority.
On Jan. 6, hours after Trump’s supporters broke in and interrupted the proceedings, Pence declared Biden the winner.
The committee is planning to hold its eighth hearing next week. That hearing is expected to feature the testimony of White House aides and center on what Trump was doing during the hours that his supporters were violently breaking into the Capitol.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee, said the hearing “will be a profound moment of reckoning for America.”
Once the hearings are over, the panel is expected to issue a final report. That could come before the November midterm election, said the committee’s chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, in an interview on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
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