Jan. 6 panel’s likely final hearing to focus on Trump’s ‘state of mind’

The House committee investigating last year’s attack on the Capitol will assemble Thursday for what could be its final public hearing ahead of the midterms, promising to delve into former President Trump’s state of mind in a presentation designed to tie up a host of loose ends before the panel dissolves at the end of the year.

Through eight hearings in June and July, the committee had aired damning evidence revealing the extent to which Trump and members of his inner circle had sought to leverage the powers of the presidency to keep him in office despite his election defeat — a campaign that crescendoed in the violent rampage at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But 16 months into the probe, investigators face the daunting task of crunching evidence gleaned from tens of thousands of documents and more than 1,000 witness interviews, packaging it into a concise closing argument and delivering it in the form of a compelling narrative capable of convincing voters that Trump and his supporters pose an ongoing threat to America’s democratic institutions.

For more than two hours on Thursday, they will begin that process.

“We’re going to bring a particular focus on the former president’s state of mind and his involvement in these events as they unfolded,” a committee aide told reporters Wednesday.

“So what you’re going to see is a synthesis of some evidence we’ve already presented with that new, never-before-seen information to illustrate Donald Trump’s centrality from the time prior to the election,” the aide said.

Such information could be key for Trump’s legal culpability, as many potential charges relating to the insurrection rely on demonstrating intent. As a separate matter, the committee still has to decide whether it will make criminal referrals based on its findings to the Justice Department, which is conducting its own wide-ranging investigation.

“We have not reached a conclusion on that at this point,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, told CNN on Friday.

“In June and July, we zeroed in for the most part on a particular topic as we laid out a multistep plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block transfer of power,” the aide said.

“Tomorrow what we’re going to be doing is taking a step back.”

The hearing comes after the panel rescheduled what was originally slated to be a late September event due to Hurricane Ian, delaying by two weeks their presentation and pushing it closer to the midterm elections.

The panel has pledged to offer up details on the evidence they collected throughout the summer, with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) saying the committee was struggling with how to present an “avalanche” of new information.

Among the details the committee is expected to share Thursday are new information gleaned from documents turned over by the Secret Service as well as clips from a documentary crew that followed Trump confidant Roger Stone.

The Secret Service turned over more than a million digital communications to the committee, far exceeding the information the panel requested.

Emails obtained by The Washington Post that were given to the committee by the Secret Service show that the agency was concerned about the armed supporters who were resistant to going through security to enter the Ellipse for Trump’s speech, a detail first revealed during the committee’s hearing with witness Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide.

The emails also reportedly show the extent the White House was warned of the deteriorating situation at the Capitol, including resistance to Trump’s desired plan to make the journey to Capitol Hill alongside his supporters.

Other emails discuss Trump’s anger at being blocked from making the trip, though it is not clear whether the panel will be able to corroborate Hutchinson’s account – recounted to her in the presence of Trump’s lead security officer that day – that he lunged at his security detail on a drive from the Ellipse to the White House.

Additional evidence collected over the summer includes footage obtained following an international journey by investigative staff, who traveled to Denmark in August to meet with a documentary film crew that spent three years following Stone.

The crew was with Stone in Washington on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, capturing some of his phone conversations as he stayed at the Willard Hotel, which the Trump team used as its “war room” ahead of Congress’s vote to certify the election results.

A March report from The Washington Post details how Stone was arranging pardons, and expressed resentment toward “lily-livered, weak-kneed” lawyers in the special counsel’s office for blocking some of them, including preemptive pardons.

Additional footage from the documentary obtained by CNN shows Stone condoning violence and stressing the need to claim victory in the election.

“F— the voting, let’s get right to the violence,” he says in a clip shot the day before the election.

Days earlier, in another clip, Stone had laid out his strategy. “I really do suspect it’ll still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory,” he said. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law. ‘No, we won.’”

That strategy was not limited to the fringes of the GOP, but adopted by Republicans up and down the ranks, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who went on Fox News two days after the election to claim that “Trump won this election.”

According to CNN, the committee secured an agreement with the filmmakers, Christoffer Guldbrandsen and Frederik Marbell, to show some eight minutes of footage at the hearing.

For his part Stone has disputed “the accuracy and the authenticity of these videos and believe they have been manipulated and selectively edited.” He also said the clips “do not prove I had anything to do with the events of Jan. 6.”

The Stone footage could bring the panel one step closer to addressing loose ends. The Trump ally used Oath Keepers as security guards, suggesting at least a tangential connection between the former president and the far-right militia group.

“Different members have been focused on different loose ends that might need to be wrapped up and out so, again, speaking just for myself, I would hope that the hearing would allow us to make some overall synthetic judgments about what took place and why and the culpability of different key actors,” Raskin told reporters in September.

“And I hope that we would be able to speak to the question of the ongoing threats that are still out there. … I think that that is something that we need to address before it’s all over.”

The panel is not, however, expected to release any information from its sit-down interview with Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Lofgren said this week.

Expectations are high for the panel that went on hiatus during August recess after generating significant momentum with their slate of eight hearings earlier this year.

“We need to meet or exceed hearings that we’ve had in the past. … It won’t be a repeat of any earlier hearings, and we’re trying to be as strategic as we can in not repeating ourselves,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters in September.

“Whatever we do will be new information. Some of it we continue to collect on almost a daily basis,” he said.

Via The Hill

Around The Web