When the Jan. 6 committee wrapped its eighth public hearing on July 21, the plan was for the committee to break through August while its investigators continued their inquiry. The members would return after the congressional recess for a final slate of hearings that were expected to conclude the investigation before the panel released its report.
“Our committee will spend August pursuing emerging information on multiple fronts,” Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and vice chair of the panel, said during the last hearing. At the end of the session, she added, “See you in September.”
But now, September is here and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is still working out its next moves, including how many more hearings to hold and when.
“I don’t think we know for sure yet,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the panel, tells TIME. “My guess would be that it’s in the neighborhood of two or three.”
While it seemed over the summer that the final hearings would all take place in September, the uncertainty over the schedule and the deliberations over how to factor in new information means the final hearings could bleed into October, when Congress will be focused on campaigning for the midterm elections.
Most of the final hearings, which will be the first since Cheney lost her primary bid for reelection, will follow the same style of the previous eight, in which the members reveal selected portions of the committee’s findings and take public testimony from key witnesses. According to the members, they will include significant revelations. “We will complete the investigative hearings to try to fill in some gaps that have been left even though the basic storylines are well understood,” Raskin says.
One hearing, the former constitutional law professor adds, will focus on the committee’s recommendations for how to prevent anything like the Jan. 6 Capitol assault from ever happening again—and to block any attempts to overturn a presidential election.
“I would expect at least one hearing on the continuing threats to democracy in America and what needs to be done legislatively at the federal level and at other levels of government in order to fortify ourselves against coups, insurrections, political violence, and attempts to sabotage elections,” Raskin says. “I would hope that we have as thorough a discussion about these structural problems as we have had about the individual dangers created by Donald Trump and his movement.”
The members will meet on Tuesday to discuss the plan for the upcoming hearings and to hear an update from the committee’s staff investigators about the progress of their probe, according to sources familiar with the matter. That meeting is expected to include discussion on whether former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will testify before the committee wraps up its work.
Earlier this month, the Jan. 6 panel asked Gingrich to sit for a voluntary interview regarding his efforts to help Trump overthrow the 2020 election. In a letter to the Georgia Republican, the committee said it had obtained evidence that he had been in contact with senior White House officials both before and after Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, and that he pressed them to block the transfer of power to Joe Biden. Last spring, the committee obtained text messages from Thomas to senior Trump administration officials, including then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, in which she zealously pushed for overturning the election. Thus far, she has not complied with a request for testimony, and the panel has weighed issuing a subpoena to compel her cooperation.
Another key issue at play in the committee’s final months is how it intends to release its full findings. Last July, committee members had suggested that a preliminary report would first be published in September, and that a final report would come out at the end of the year. But according to multiple sources familiar with the matter, it’s not clear that the panel will unveil a preliminary report this month.
The final report will lay out the committee’s investigative findings in narrative detail, incorporating details that never made it into the public hearings. It will be the culmination of more than a year of investigatory work, including the collection of more than 130,000 documents and testimony from more than 1,000 witnesses. It is expected to draw interest akin to the Mueller report, which summarized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether former President Donald Trump had tried to meddle with the federal government’s investigation into it. The committee has made clear, however, that it wants its report to be a far more engaging and lively read, closer in style to the 9/11 Commission Report, which became an immediate bestseller.
The upcoming proceedings follow a series of breakthrough public hearings this summer, when the Jan. 6 committee painted a devastating picture of Trump’s attempts to hold onto to power, leading multiple former federal prosecutors to assert that the former President was at greater risk of criminal prosecution. A federal grand jury investigation into the events that led to the riot is ongoing; it recently subpoenaed William Russell, a former personal aide to Trump, according to The New York Times.
Read more: Trump’s FBI Saga May Crowd Out Jan. 6 News
But with the midterm elections in November, the panel is on the clock to finish its investigation and release its report, as Republicans are expected to win back control of the House of Representatives under most election forecasts. If Republicans are in control when the next Congress is sworn in come January, they are all but certain to shut down the committee. (The House resolution establishing the select committee says it’s to be terminated 30 days after issuing its final report.)
“Obviously, if the Republicans win the midterms, the committee is going to be folded up,” Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, tells TIME. “They’re under some time pressure to get that out. It’s obvious that there’s a Democratic strategy to make Trump front and center because that’s politically helpful.” He adds, “If this had been a normal investigation, rather than one that had been on a compressed time frame, then I think they would have done a lot of things differently. The pace would be different.”
Committee members insist their aim is not to make the case for a criminal prosecution against the former President. Rather, the House panel’s job is to tell the full story of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and the days and weeks leading up to it, and to identify steps that should be taken to prevent such an event from happening again.
The members feel they have already accomplished a considerable feat with its initial hearings, which captivated millions of Americans and revived discussion of the Capitol riot and the ways Trump and his allies helped bring it about. An NBC survey last month, for instance, found that “threats to democracy” had overtaken inflation or the economy as the top concern of respondents.
“I think our major breakthrough has been that the country now understands with striking detail how these extraordinary events took place,” Raskin says.
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