After more than 1,000 closed-door interviews and 11 months of secretive work, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will go public in prime-time hearing Thursday night – with never-before-seen video of the riot and testimony of former President Donald Trump’s family members.
Led by Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the panel will lay out a roadmap for a series of hearings in June it says are designed to show how former President Donald Trump led allies in a comprehensive effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“We’re going to lay out for the American people in a way that they haven’t been asked before about this multi-step, coordinated attempt to overturn a presidential election and stop the transfer of power,” a committee aide said Wednesday. “What the select committee is also going to lay out is clear indication of ongoing threats to American democracy.”
Thursday’s hearing, set to begin at 8 p.m. EDT, is expected to include previously unseen videos and images of the Capitol attack, along with excerpts of videotaped testimony the committee obtained from ex-Trump aides and members of the former president’s family – including his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“We’re ready to tell the story of what led up to Jan. 6, and what happened after it,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said Wednesday.
The hearing will feature testimony from filmmaker Nick Quested, who was embedded with the Proud Boys on Jan. 6 and witnessed the role that some members of the far-right extremist group played in the Capitol attack.
The committee will utilize some of the graphic video Quested and his camera crew filmed of the Capitol riot from the front lines, which captured the first violent clashes on the West Front of the Capitol and rioters roaming the halls of the House looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a traumatic brain injury during the attack when rioters pushed her to the ground outside the Capitol, will also appear before the committee.
Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who said that the hearings would “blow the roof off the House” at an event in May, said earlier this week that the committee “is in the business of trying to communicate to the American people the gravity and the immensity of these events.”
“We’re not looking for anything other than the transmission of truth,” he said.
A month of hearings
The series of hearings will explore different elements of the committee’s inquiry, which was divided up among roughly half-a-dozen color-coded investigative teams that focused on various themes of the effort – from Trump’s pressure campaign on local officials, to extremist groups, the “Stop the Steal” movement and fundraising efforts.
Different members of the committee are expected to take the lead in guiding and narrating the presentations on various hearing days.
Beyond reconstructing events for the historical record, Democrats – and the two Republican members of the committee – plan to argue that Trump and his GOP allies still pose a threat to democracy and future elections.
They’ve enlisted the help of former ABC News president James Goldston to help produce and compress the swaths of information gathered during the investigation into digestible, timed-out hearings. (A committee aide declined to comment on Goldston’s role with the panel.)
“The information presented needs to be truthful and accurate, but it needs to be sharp and gripping,” Norm Eisen, who served as a special counsel for House Democrats during the first Trump impeachment, told ABC News. “This will be the Watergate hearings for the streaming era.”
The committee has not yet finalized witnesses for the remainder of the hearings, though they could include state election officials, ex-Trump Justice Department officials who pushed back on attempts to investigate voter fraud, and even White House lawyers familiar with Trump’s attempts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results on Jan. 6.
Videotaped depositions of administration aides – such as Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short, and aides who worked closely with Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows – could also feature into the presentations, along with emails obtained by the committee and the text messages Meadows shared with investigators before he withdrew his cooperation.
Republicans plan to push back
Trump and top House Republicans have dismissed the committee’s work, and accused the Democrat-led panel of targeting Trump and other top GOP figures at a time when they should be focused on economic issues like gas prices, baby formula shortages and inflation. The former president huddled with some lawmakers to plot a strategy for responding to the hearing earlier this week.
“House Republicans will be setting the record straight and telling the truth,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who will lead GOP rapid response efforts, said Wednesday. “Most importantly, we will continue to focus on the important issues that matter.”
Other Republicans, including some of Trump’s staunchest defenders in the House, told ABC News they would ignore the hearings entirely and not tune in for the primetime session Thursday.
Reframing the midterms
Months away from the midterms and facing historic headwinds in keeping their majorities, Democrats believe the hearings could provide the party with an opportunity to sharpen the contrast with Republicans who did not stop – and in some cases, participated in – Trump’s efforts to challenge the election results.
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who worked with President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and has surveyed swing voters, argued that the hearings could present Democrats with an opportunity to energize unmotivated voters in the midterms, and give others a reason not to support Republicans in the key House and Senate races that will decide control of Congress.
“The economy is the number one issue for people, but I don’t think it’s an issue that’s going to draw a clear contrast that will benefit Democrats,” she said. “”This is a clear distinction. We’ve got to make this election a choice, not a referendum.”
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who represents a swing district won by Trump in 2016 and 2020, said it wasn’t clear how much of an impact the hearings would have on her constituents heading into the fall. But she said it was important for the committee to put forward a historical record of the riot.
“It depends on what they have and it depends on what kind of teeth the evidence really has,” she said. “I see really positive signs at least in my district and in my state that people are absolutely sick of extremes … and they want a government that just actually works.”
The committee plans to release a final report with its conclusions, and legislative recommendations, in the fall. That could include proposed changes to the Electoral Count Act that Republicans used to register objections to the counting of electoral votes in key states on Jan. 6.
“We’re just going to tell the truth as we know it, and see what happens,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., told ABC News.