January 6th Committee members this week began teasing sneak peeks into what the public can expect when the House panel reboots its televised hearings on the attack on the U.S. Capitol. There’s still no exact date for the next hearing, but Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), said she expects at least one televised hearing in the month of September, possibly more. And back on July 21 when the ninth hearing wrapped, Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) promised to return in September, saying the Committee would spend the month of August “pursuing information on multiple fronts.”
The second hearing, which was held on June 13th, focused on what the Committee called, “the big rip-off.” The panel put forth the argument that Donald Trump knew he had lost the 2020 Presidential election, yet he still used “The Big Lie” to swindle hundreds of millions of dollars from small donors with the false claim it would be used to fund his legal fight. Instead, the money allegedly went to finance Trump’s inner circle. Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said the panel will be digging deeper into those post-election fundraising claims. “A vast majority of this money was raised under, quote-unquote, ‘Stop the Steal,’ with no intention of doing anything to so-called, ‘stop a steal.’ It was all about just raising money. And people were abused that way. So there’s going to be a lot more of that,” he said.
Kinzinger also said he expects to “get answers” to the deleted Secret Service text messages—although he admits, the Committee is still pursuing that issue at the moment. “We’re still sitting around like, ‘Why don’t we have some of these text messages? Why was some of this stuff hidden?'” His Sunday remarks came one day before the news broke that a top Secret Service official embroiled in the January 6 investigation, Tony Ornato, was retiring—two days before Ornato was scheduled to be interviewed by Department of Homeland Security investigators. Ornato was at the center of Trump White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s controversial testimony regarding a scuffle that took place inside the Presidential limo over whether Trump would be driven to the Capitol to accompany the rioters. He has reportedly met with the January 6th Committee twice, but Lofgren said Wednesday she has “no idea” whether Ornato will be called to testify in the coming weeks.
During the Committee’s August break, it interviewed former Trump Cabinet members, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as well as former Trump National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, about discussions in the wake of the January 6 riots regarding the 25th Amendment. Section 1 of the 25th Amendment states, “In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.” DeVos said she did indeed raise the question of whether the Cabinet should consider invoking the 25th with then-Vice President Mike Pence, whom she said refused to back the idea. DeVos resigned her Cabinet post later that same day, which was January 7.
The exchange between DeVos and Pence occurred roughly within one day of rioters calling for him to be hanged. During its first round of hearings, the Committee revealed that the rioters got within 40 feet of Pence as the Secret Service moved him to safety. But Pence only trusted his own Service detail so far, famously saying, “I’m not getting in that car“—a statement January 6th Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) referred to as, “six of the most chilling words in American history.” Of late, Pence has been making the political rounds. A couple of weeks ago at a breakfast in New Hampshire, he answered a question about the January 6th Committee’s hearings by saying, “If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it.” No one from the Committee commented on Pence’s remarks.
It was as dramatic as real-life court room exchanges get when the attorney for the plaintiffs—in this case, parents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre—revealed that the attorney for defendant Alex Jones, the internet conspiracy theorist they were suing for slander, had inadvertently handed over two years’ worth of Jones’ cell phone records. By August 8, those digital phone records had been given to the January 6th Committee. The panel had subpoenaed Jones back in November of 2021, requesting all documents related to his involvement in the rally at the Ellipse and the march to the Capitol, as well as his furthering Trump’s claims of election fraud through his InfoWars website. According to Jones, he’d exercised his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent “almost 100 times” when the Committee deposed him in January. The cell phone data could potentially end that silence.
“I think we will certainly have a hearing or hearings on our recommendations,” Committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said on MSNBC Thursday. He noted that it was the panel’s duty to “do the oversight, expose the malfeasance, and then propose corrective action, generally in the form of legislation,” and added that he expected a hearing or hearings on reforms to “how the powers of the Presidency can be abused” or reforms to the Electoral Count Act (ECA). The ECA was enacted in 1887. Since January 6, 2021, there have been bipartisan groups in both the House and Senate working to update its language, which provided much of the basis for Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 Presidential election. In fact, Lofgren said Wednesday that she and Cheney were meeting that afternoon to discuss the House version of ECA reform. “We are almost at the end point, and I think we’ve got a pretty good work product, and we’ll be collaborating with our Senate partners to see if we can meld different versions.” A bipartisan group of Senators formally introduced their version of the ECA reform in July.
Time magazine Washington Correspondent Philip Elliot noted this week that the January 6th reboot will be competing for headlines with the Mar-a-Lago documents scandal, adding, “Having the spotlight bounce back and forth between Mar-a-Lago and the Capitol insurrection is a good way for most Americans to lose interest in both storylines…That is, unless it becomes clear that the two acts are one in the same.” He then suggested that the National Archives, which has already been providing the January 6th Committee with materials, may find more records among those retrieved from Mar-a-Lago that might also prove helpful. And in the wake of the FBI search warrant on the President’s Florida resort, Lofgren notes that Trump is “stoking grievance again among his supporters and allowing some of his stand-ins, such as Senator Graham, to float the idea of violence.” With the January 6 hearings set to resume roughly two months before the American people vote in the 2022 midterm elections, a poll out this week from NBC found that “threats to democracy” had overtaken “cost of living” as the number one critical matter facing the country. The poll also asked voters about the investigations into Trump’s alleged misconduct. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters said the investigations should continue versus 40% who wanted them to stop.
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