January 6 Committee Updates as Midterms Loom

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack is under pressure as it prepares for the start of public hearings in June. Findings from the committee could play a vital role in shaping public opinion in the months leading up to midterm elections in November.

The purpose of the select committee is to investigate the facts of the attack on the Capitol on January 6th and the role former President Trump played in attempting to obstruct the process of counting the electoral college votes. The committee consists of nine members: seven Democrats and two Republicans. It is chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MI), with Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) serving as Vice Chair. The congressional committee holds no powers of indictment and cannot bring forth criminal charges. However, the U.S. Department of Justice under Attorney General Merrick Garland is conducting its own investigation into the attack and could potentially charge Trump and his allies, though whether it will remains unclear. The committee may give a criminal referral to the DOJ that they press charges against Trump, but the question of whether Trump’s involvement in orchestrating the attack to incur liability remains murky and the committee hasn’t yet reached a consensus.

Mark Meadows, a former White House chief of staff under Trump, has been subpoenaed by the committee to turn over his communication records. Meadows has sued the committee in response in an attempt to block the release of the documents. Counsel for the committee filed a Summary Judgment motion with the D.C. District Court last Friday in the hopes of forcing a release of the documents. Information in the filing reveals that Meadows likely knew about the potential for violence at the January 6th rally ahead of time. The motion also contains testimony from a White House aide who asserted that Meadows was advised by White House legal counsel that the plan to have then Vice President Pence reject electoral college votes was unconstitutional, yet Trump still pressured Pence to do so on election certification day.

According to Representative Lofgren (D-CA), a member of the panel, the committee has already interviewed over 800 people since it began its investigation. However, the committee is still looking to call forward some key witnesses. Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, and Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, have both been invited to appear but have not been subpoenaed. Texts exchanged with Mark Meadows hint at the extent of their involvement. In one message, Thomas pushed Meadows to “release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down.”

A leaked audio recording from January 10 of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) captures him saying that he spoke with Trump, who acknowledged he had some responsibility in the events of January 6. McCarthy goes on to say that Trump’s actions were “unacceptable” and that “Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.” In a separate recording, on a call with Republican colleagues on January 10, McCarthy stated that he was considering asking Trump to resign. McCarthy has since denied his remarks. He is vying to be Speaker if Republicans gain control of the House after midterms.

Speaking in an interview with MSNBC on Sunday, committee member Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) called the events of January 6 “a coup” and said Trump was “deeply involved in the events.” He also promised the timeline of events the committee is compiling will tell America a “riveting story” about how the attack came to occur. Speaking on the McCarthy recordings, he remarked that they corroborate the committee’s findings that the attack was “an orchestrated, premeditated assault on our system of government.”

Americans remain split over whether Congress should continue to investigate the events of January 6. Eventful public hearings or a decisive report from the committee that clearly incriminates Trump might be enough to push some moderate voters away from reelecting Trump’s close allies. Representatives like Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA), who publicly endorsed Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen, are on the ballot again. However, partisan divisions could mean that committee findings will ultimately have little impact on the political climate of midterms.

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