With what may be the final leg in a series of high-profile hearings concluded, the Jan. 6 House Special Committee has the remaining weeks to make decisions that could have profound implications for years to come.
The committee must consider whether it will have a role in the Justice Department’s investigation and determine how the raw information gathered will be retained and disseminated. But ultimately the key decisions of the panel will be what recommendations to make and what information to include in its final report.
Republican leaders had campaigned against the creation of an independent commission to review the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and what led up to it. The House panel is the only government agency charged with the investigation, and is compiling what is likely to be the definitive historical record of what led to the riot.
What the committee produces will likely become the foundational evidence in criminal and civil cases, and will be examined by historians and studied in schools, much like the 9/11 Commission report, said Grant Tudor, a political attorney with Protect Democracy.
“These types of evidence-gathering and truth-telling exercises have implications for other accountability efforts long after they are completed,” Tudor said.
Prosecutors, journalists and government watch groups are clamoring for access to the more than 1,000 statements, hundreds of hours of video footage and hundreds of thousands of pages of documents collected in the probe. The committee was wary of how much material might be released.
“While we are obviously anticipating this final report, this is not the same as anticipating access to the vast body of evidence collected and the analysis of that evidence,” Tudor said. “It seems very likely that it would take a fairly deliberate editorial hand to decide what should and shouldn’t be included. The committee has assembled this amazing body of records and troves of testimonies.”
The report will almost certainly contain more detail than was possible in a hearing format.
Despite early indications of what the panel wanted to investigate, such as who was behind the fundraising for the rally at which then-President Trump addressed the attack, the committee ultimately focused on Trump’s role in the events and his mindset around May 6 .January, urging some problems to fade into the background. Issues raised in hearings were often not fully followed.
The committee’s hearings touched little on information it had collected on several issues vital to understanding the events on and about January 6, including what failures in intelligence gathering enabled the insurgency, who led the effort funded finding evidence of election fraud, and who paid some Trump supporters to travel to Washington to march on the Capitol.
“There’s potentially a huge body of evidence that could come out,” Debra Perlin, political director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told reporters Friday.
Along with a report on the plans to keep Trump in power that led to the Jan. 6 violence, the report is expected to include recommendations for legislation or action by federal agencies and possibly state and local governments.
But the possible outcome most are looking to is whether the committee will propose criminal charges against Trump or others.
Its members are divided on whether it is appropriate to recommend criminal charges to the Department of Justice, or whether the panel should refrain from doing so to avoid any appearance of politicizing a decision that the Department should make based solely on facts. The panel has so far stayed aloof from prosecutors’ efforts, including declining requests to share testimony and other evidence with them.
“We believe that by the end of this hearing series, we have proved the case very, very convincingly,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told Politico. “And now, honestly, on the criminal side, because we’re not the Criminal Committee, it’s up to the [Justice Department]. … They have the torch, and we’ll see where they go with it.”
Committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said at Thursday’s hearing that multiple criminal referrals were likely, but didn’t elaborate.
During the spring and summer, members of the House Committee publicly criticized US Atty. General Merrick Garland said he was moving cautiously compared to their procedure. But the Justice Department has taken increasingly aggressive moves over the summer and appears to be running multiple investigations at once.
Agents have confiscated cellphones, brought dozens of top Trump associates before a grand jury, and conducted court-authorized searches of private homes, including executing a warrant at the home of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, whom they left outside handcuffed with no pants .
The department has been careful not to say whether indictments are coming, and traditionally takes no steps in the weeks leading up to an election so as not to potentially influence the outcome. Many legal experts have expressed confidence that indictments will be brought after next month’s midterm elections.
Duke University Professor Asher Hildebrand, a former senior Capitol Hill staffer, said whether or not a criminal referral comes from the committee, the hearings show the committee did its job.
“It feels like the January 6th Committee’s contribution to a broader consideration of what happened on January 6th and what crimes the President committed leading up to it…that contribution is kinda safe. And that’s really a question at this point of whether, when, and how the Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies will act on all of this information,” he said.
With the report poised to take center stage, the committee’s investigation is ongoing. On Thursday, its members voted unanimously to subpoena Trump for documents and testimony, saying he has a duty to answer for his actions.
In a rambling 14-page response Friday, Trump did not commit to an interview or sharing documents. Instead, he repeated unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and shared photos of the crowd at his rally that day.
“You were not going after the people who caused the fraud, but great American patriots who questioned it as is their constitutional right,” he wrote. “These people’s lives have been ruined while your committee sits back and basks in the glow.”
Trump is likely to resist the subpoena or ignore it entirely. With just over two months left before the committee is scheduled to disband, it must decide how much time to spend urging compliance with Trump, or whether to consider the subpoena largely symbolic.
The panel will also need to determine which ongoing battles over records and testimonies are worth pursuing. More than a dozen witnesses have sued to prevent the committee from gaining access to cellphone or email recordings, and others are fighting subpoenas to testify in court. Some of the cases have been ongoing for more than a year, in part because the committee has sought more time to develop a strategy.
How the committee will present its final report is unclear. All that is required to issue it is a vote by its members, but some sort of visual presentation is expected after nine carefully orchestrated hearings this year.
“It seems unlikely that it would just drop a big hardback book and say nothing about it, or not use it as a public platform to also make a set of closing arguments,” Tudor said. “Even if it’s outside the context of a formal hearing.”
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-10-15/whats-next-after-thursdays-jan-6-committee-hearing Will Trump comply with subpoena? What’s next for Jan. 6 panel