Did the Public Learn Anything New After the House’s January 6 Committee Hearing Number One?
The House committee investigating the riots and attempted insurrection on January 6 has officially wrapped up the first public hearing.
The House committee investigating the riots and attempted insurrection on January 6 has officially wrapped up the first public hearing. After the close of the first hearing, it became clear that the House panel is laying out the groundwork to prove to the public – if not law enforcement – how exactly and to what degree former President Donald Trump was involved.
Never-before-seen videos were shared, committee members offered context, and two witnesses shared their first-hand experience. The atmosphere during the hearing was somber, tense, and at times breathless. But was any new information released to the public, or is it all a rehash?
Here's what we know now that we didn't know before.
The hearing began with Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) laying out a clear and methodical picture of the former president's involvement in the planning and execution of January 6. But most damning, Cheney's most compelling proof of his foreknowledge and involvement came from the words of his own supporters.
Members of white supremacy groups Proud Boys and Oathkeepers, in a video supercut of their testimony, shared that they arrived in Washington DC to answer a call – a call, they say, which came from former President Donald Trump.
Cheney at one point turned to fellow Republicans and warned, "I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain."
Here's what we learned that was new information or elaborated upon:
- Donald Trump never called for backup. During the hearing, it was revealed that Trump did not attempt to send military or police backup to the besieged Capitol police, but former Vice President Mike Pence was making phone calls trying to get help where it was needed.
- Trump's daughter Ivanka admits that she believed then-Attorney General Bill Barr when he said that the election was not stolen. This is remarkable because Trump tried to provide a united front among those closest to him that they all believed the election was stolen – but Ivanka's own words prove that's not true. Barr's words were scathing, calling the concept that the election was stolen, "Bullsh-t."
- Proud Boys began their march towards the Capitol before the president's speech concluded, and many testified that they believed he would be joining him.
- During the election debates, Trump was asked to denounce white supremacy group and famously said, "Proud Boys stand back, stand by." It was revealed that the extremist group took it as an order, and membership nearly tripled after the President's on-air remarks.
- Trump believed the rioters may have "had the right idea" about hanging former VP Pence, and told those in the room, "maybe he deserves it."
- Multiple Republican lawmakers sought pardons in the waning days of Trumps presidency. Although the people they energized through speeches and social media posts paid the price through arrests and fines, the lawmakers themselves looked to escape accountability.
- Those close to Trump discussed the 25th amendment, designed to remove a president from power if he becomes mentally or physically incapacitated. Then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos resigned when Pence refused to entertain the idea, but multiple cabinet members discussed the possibility.
Officer Caroline Edwards, who was serving at the Capitol that day and sustained a traumatic brain injury among other injuries in the line of duty, called what she witnessed, "carnage" and "chaos." Edwards described how the group turned on the police and began vilifying them before storming the building, calling the day hours of sustained combat-like conditions, for which neither she nor her fellow police officers were trained.
And filmmaker Nick Quested who was following and documenting the Proud Boys, shared footage never before seen from the heels of the supremacist group as they stormed the Capitol.
What to Look For in Upcoming Hearings
There will be many more hearings in the upcoming weeks, and here's what you'll want to keep an eye out for.
It's a little surprising that Ivanka Trump's words were used so early in the hearings. If the panel is laying out a case for who knew what when, Ivanka is one of the former president's inner-circle advisors so she is a wealth of knowledge. It's unlikely that the panel revealed all of their cards at once, so Ivanka likely has more damning testimony which will be revealed soon.
Last night, it was revealed that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was "scared" and other Republican lawmakers pled with the president to deescalate events on January 6 – who exactly said what when will be revealed in the coming weeks.
If the testimony last night from witnesses Edwards and Quested was gripping, it's likely that who the panel has in store for the upcoming hearings will be even more so.
It's clear that the panel has arrived at what they believe is an answer as to who is responsible and what the sequence of events were. The hearings will lay that case out to the public, and may come with recommendations for the Department of Justice. For now, hearings-watchers should keep an eye out for the pattern of behaviors and begin piecing together the story of what happened on January 6.
Significant amounts of information about what happened has not yet been revealed to the public, so look for stunning revelations in the coming weeks. What the impact will be after all is said and done remains the greatest question though. Time writes, "In many ways, the proceedings will test whether the public still cares about the attempted coup to overturn a presidential election, or whether they are too fatigued by the ongoing saga to unpack that fateful day. They will also test whether anything can move most Republicans in Congress beyond their current position that the assault on the Capitol was simply a protest that got out of hand."
It has proven nearly impossible to get big-name politicians close to the former president or vice president to speak on the record, but those in the former administration's inner circle are still expected to testify – and what they say may be revealing.