Jun 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The Jan. 6 committee's plan to prove Trump’s culpability

Liz Cheney and Bennie Thompson first jan 6 hearing

Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Liz Cheney at the Jan. 6 committee hearing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Jan. 6 committee hearing on Thursday promised to prove former President Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Driving the news: “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame,” Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said, before laying out a seven-point plan for how the panel will publicly show Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election and prevent the transition of power to President-elect Biden.

  • The last hearing, likely to be the most explosive, will center on Trump's specific actions as the violence was underway.

Between the lines: It’s intentional that Cheney delivered the most damning evidence against the former president.

  • The committee wants Americans to see not only a Republican, but the daughter of a former Republican vice president, detailing Trump's involvement and directly connecting him to the Capitol attack.

The Jan. 6 committee plan is to argue:

  1. Trump spread false information about the 2020 election.
  2. Trump tried to install loyalists at the DOJ so the department would "support his fake election claims."
  3. Trump pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to help overturn the election.
  4. Trump urged on state election officials and legislators to change the election results.
  5. Trump’s legal team "instructed Republicans in multiple states to create false electoral slates and transmit those slates to Congress and the National Archive."
  6. Trump summoned and assembled the mob in D.C. and directed them to march on the Capitol.
  7. Trump ignored pleas for assistance from his team and failed to take action to stop the violence.

What to watch ... Cheney and Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) also previewed new information about the actions of Trump and his inner circle, including:

  • Testimony from Trump administration aides that the former president "did not really want" to call off the rioters, yelled at aides who urged him to take action and said protesters who called to "hang Mike Pence" may have had "the right idea."
  • Evidence that Trump's aides knew he was "too dangerous to be left alone" and needed to be "cut off" from those encouraging his stolen election claims.
  • Video footage and audio recordings of closed-door depositions of former Attorney General Bill Barr, former White House aides Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign aide Jason Miller, who said Trump was repeatedly told the election was not stolen, including by his own campaign.
  • Evidence showing how members of Trump's cabinet considered invoking the 25th Amendment in the aftermath of Jan. 6 to remove him from office.

Key moments at Jan. 6 committee hearing

Pardons: Cheney said multiple House Republicans sought pardons from Trump for their roles seeking to overturn election.

  • She singled out Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.), who has refused to comply with the committee's subpoena to testify.

Depositions: Barr was shown detailing three discussions he had with Trump after Nov. 3, 2020. “I told the president [his claims of fraud] was bullshit and I didn't want to be a part of it. ... That's one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did."

  • Ivanka Trump: "I respected Attorney General Barr. I accepted what he was saying.”
  • Kushner said he viewed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone's threats to resign over Trump's calls to overturn the election "to just be whining."
  • Trump's then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley detailed a conversation with Trump's then-chief of staff Mark Meadows: “He said we have to kill the narrative that the Vice President is making all of the decisions, we need to establish the narrative that the president is still in charge.”
  • Miller detailed how Trump was told "in pretty blunt terms" by his data experts that "he was going to lose."

Witnesses: U.S. Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a traumatic brain injury on Jan. 6, described being stampeded by the violent mob, having her head thrown into the steps of the Capitol, being knocked unconscious, pepper sprayed and tear gassed.

  • "I was slipping in people's blood" Edwards recounted. "It was carnage. It was chaos. I can't even describe what I saw."
  • British filmmaker Nick Quested, who was embedded with the far-right Proud Boys on Jan. 6, said he was “confused” that "a couple of hundred of Proud Boys were marching toward the Capitol" before Trump's Jan. 6 speech even began, since that what his team was there to cover.
  • The committee implied that reveals the group went to scout the premises of the Capitol — showing premeditation of the attack.

What they're saying:

  • “Although certain former Trump officials have argued that they did not anticipate violence on January 6, the evidence suggests otherwise, as you will see ... the White House was receiving specific reports in the days leading up to January 6," Cheney said.
  • Cheney also issued a warning to her fellow GOP members: "I say this to my Republican colleagues: There will come a time when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.

The big question: What type of legislative actions the committee ultimately pursues, and who the Biden Justice Department decides to prosecute.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Axios and other reporters there "absolutely" should be a criminal referral against Trump and others "involved in the conspiracy."
  • “Anybody that was a part of this conspiracy, that was pushing for presidential pardons, that knew exactly what was happening and were part of facilitating it should be brought to justice. They should be criminally prosecuted.”

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