Jan. 6 committee prepares to go public as findings mount |

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WASHINGTON – They interviewed more than 300 witnesses, collected tens of thousands of documents and traveled across the country to speak to election officials who came under pressure from Donald Trump.

Today, after six months of intense work, the House committee investigating the January 6 insurgency is preparing to go public.

Over the next few months, panelists will begin revealing their findings against the backdrop of the ex-president and his allies’ persistent efforts to whitewash the riots and dismiss suggestions he helped provoke them. The committee also has the burden of trying to persuade the American public that its conclusions are factual and credible.

But all nine lawmakers – seven Democrats and two Republicans – are united in their commitment to tell the whole story of January 6, and they are planning televised hearings and reports that will bring their findings to light.

Their goal is not only to show the seriousness of the riot, but also to make a clear connection between the attack and Trump’s brazen pressure on States and Congress to overturn Joe Biden’s legitimate election to the Presidency.

“The full picture is emerging, despite President Trump’s continued efforts to hide the picture,” said Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee and one of its two Republican members.

“I don’t think there is an area of ​​this larger story where we don’t learn new things,” she said.

While the basic facts of January 6 are known, the committee says that the extraordinary treasure house of documents they have collected – 35,000 pages of documents so far, including texts, emails and telephone records from people close to Trump – flesh out the critical details of the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries, which took place live on television.

They hope to fill the voids in pre-attack preparations, funding for the Jan. 6 rally that preceded it, and the White House’s sweeping campaign to overthrow the 2020 election. They are also investigating what Trump himself was doing as his supporters made their way to the Capitol.

Real responsibility can be fleeting. Congressional inquiries are not criminal matters and lawmakers cannot impose penalties. Even as the committee works, Trump and his allies continue to spread lies about voter fraud while working to place like-minded officials at all levels of state and local government.

“I think the challenge we face is that the attacks on our democracy continue – they did not end on January 6,” said another panel member, Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also president. of the House Intelligence Committee.

Still, lawmakers hope they can present the public with thorough accounting that captures what could have been “an even more serious and deeper constitutional crisis,” as Cheney put it.

“I think this is one of the most important congressional inquiries in history,” Cheney said.

The committee is against the clock. Republicans could dissolve the inquiry if they win a majority in the House in the November 2022 election. The committee’s final report is expected by then, with a possible interim report in the spring or summer.

At the hearings, which could begin in the coming weeks, the committee wants to “bring the people who led the election to Washington and tell their story,” said panel chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. Their testimony, he said, will further debunk Trump’s election fraud allegations.

The committee questioned several election officials in battlefield states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, about Trump’s lobbying campaign. In some cases, staff have traveled to these states to gather more information.

The panel is also focusing on preparations for the Jan. 6 rally near the White House where Trump told his supporters to ‘fight like hell’ – and how the rioters might have planned to block the electoral count if they had. were able to get their hands on the ballots.

They must explain to the public, said Thompson, “that this was an organized effort to change the outcome of the election by bringing people to Washington … and ultimately, if all else fails, arming the people who came sending them to the Capitol. “

About 90% of the witnesses called by the committee cooperated, Thompson said, despite the challenge from prominent Trump allies such as Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Lawmakers said they were successful in collecting information from other sources in part because they shared a unity of purpose rarely seen in a congressional investigation.

Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a close ally of Trump, decided not to appoint any GOP members to the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rejected two of his choice last summer.

Pelosi, who created the select committee after Republican senators rejected an equally bipartisan foreign commission, later named Republicans Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Trump critics who shared the Democrats’ desire to investigate the attack.

“I think you can see Kevin made an epic mistake,” Kinzinger said. “I think part of the reason we’ve gone so fast and been so effective so far is that we’ve decided and we have the capacity to do it as a non-partisan investigation.”

Kinzinger said the investigation would be “a very different scene” if Republicans allied with Trump were involved and could hinder some of their work.

“I think in five or 10 years when the school kids learn on January 6, they’ll get the exact story,” Kinzinger said. “And I think it’s going to depend on what we’re doing here.”

Democrats say having two Republicans working with them has been an asset, especially as they try to reach a conservative audience that can still believe Trump’s lies about a stolen election.

“They bring perspective and an ability to translate a bit of what is reflected in conservative media, or how it might be seen through a conservative lens,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. “And that was really helpful.”

There is “no division, no hostility, no partisan bickering – it’s like, let’s just do this job,” said California Representative Zoe Lofgren, another member and veteran of congressional inquiries dating back to. Watergate’s investigation of President Richard Nixon when she was a staff member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The nine-member group has bonded through a friendly text chain where they discuss business and sometimes their personal lives. There are messages wishing a happy birthday, for example, or congratulating another on the marriage of a child.

“This is good, this is how Congress should be,” said Representative Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.

Aguilar says the biggest challenges for the committee are the timing and the small group of Trump followers who are trying to run out of time by blocking or chasing them. Ultimately, he said, he believes the committee’s final report will stand the test of time, much like the investigations into the 9/11 attacks and Watergate.

For now, however, “we’re still in the eye of the hurricane,” Aguilar said.

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