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The biggest Jan. 6 question: Where does the evidence lead next?

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., stand together Thursday during a break as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its first public hearing. J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... The House Jan. 6 committee makes its case to the American public. ... Chair Bennie Thompson: “Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup.” ... Vice Chair Liz Cheney: “Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.” ... President Biden, from the Port of Los Angeles, speaks on the economy, inflation and the supply chain. ... It’s one day until Alaska’s special congressional primary (where Sarah Palin and 47 others are on the ballot). ... And it’s four days until the next round of primaries in Nevada, Maine, North Dakota and South Carolina.

But first: Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, his team knew it and they told him so — repeatedly. 

That’s one of the clear takeaways from last night’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, when the panel played video from key members of Trump’s inner circle. 

“I was in the Oval Office and at some point in the conversation … the lead data person was brought on, and I remember he delivered to the president pretty blunt terms that he was going to lose,” Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller told the committee. 

“I remember a call with [White House Chief of Staff Mark] Meadows where Mr. Meadows was asking me what I was finding and if I was finding anything. And I remember sharing with him that we weren’t finding anything that would be sufficient to um change the results in any of the key states,” said Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon. 

“I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullsh**,” former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr said. 

“I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying [on that there was no fraud to overturn the election],” said Trump daughter Ivanka Trump. 

The other clear takeaway: The people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 admitted they did so because they thought Trump won — and they thought the election was taken from him. 

“I did believe the election was being stolen, and Trump asked us to come,” one convicted rioter said to video in the committee’s presentation. 

“He personally asked us to come to D.C. that day. And I thought for everything he has done for us, that this is the only thing he is going to ask of me, I’ll do it,” said another man charged with crimes on Jan. 6.  

Now the question becomes: What happens after the committee has concluded all of its hearings? 

Does it issue a criminal referral on Trump? If so, does the Biden Justice Department act on it? 

Does the committee’s work end up disqualifying Trump from holding the presidency again? 

And above all, does the committee’s work help to restore a shared memory of what happened — both how Trump and his top allies fought to overturn the will of the American electorate, and how violence threatened the Capitol and everyone inside it on Jan. 6, 2021? 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 48

That’s the number of candidates who are running in Saturday’s special House primary in Alaska to replace the seat vacated after Republican Rep. Don Young’s death.

That includes the Trump-backed former Gov. Sarah Palin and Republican Nick Begich III, the state party-backed grandson of the late Democratic Rep. Nick Begich. It also includes surgeon Al Gross, who ran as an independent Senate candidate in 2020 (but was backed by the Democratic Party).

Saturday is the deadline for ballots to be returned in the all-mail race, which is the first test of Alaska’s new, unique voting system that combines a “Top 4” system with ranked choice. Every candidate runs on one ballot in the primary, regardless of party, with the top four candidates moving onto a general election, which will be conducted under ranked choice rules.

Read more about the race on the Meet the Press Blog.  

Other numbers you need to know

$500,000: How much money Trump’s Save America PAC is spending on a TV and digital ad targeting the Jan. 6 committee with the ad’s narrator saying “the Democrat Congress ignores our problems—instead, spending millions on another partisan witch hunt,” NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard reports.

$26,000: That’s the size of Justice Democrats’ first TV buy tracked by AdImpact in Illinois’ 7th District, where the group is backing Kina Collins in a primary against Democratic Rep. Danny Davis. 

27: How many United Nations monitoring cameras Iran is removing from nuclear sites

Less than $2 million: How much the National Rifle Association has spent on its school safety program since 2014, less than one percent of the revenue from the group and its associated foundation over that time period, according to a new NBC News report. 

3: The number of people killed in a workplace shooting at a Maryland manufacturing plant. 

2: The number of workers at a Pennsylvania Mars Wrigley plant who were rescued after falling into a vat of dry chocolate.

Midterm roundup: Palmetto primaries

The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is in the spotlight as two South Carolina Republicans who strongly condemned the attack — Nancy Mace and Tom Rice — are a few days away from facing Trump-backed primary challengers. 

Trump is working to take both lawmakers down, NBC News’ Allan Smith reports, although they took different approaches to his impeachment. Mace ultimately voted not to impeach Trump, while Rice was one of 10 Republicans to do so. Mace has since tempered her criticism of Trump, while Rice stood by his impeachment vote. 

“Win, lose or draw, I did the right thing, and I know I did the right thing,” Rice told Smith. Mace and Rice face their challengers on Tuesday, and if no candidate wins a majority of the primary vote, the top two head to a June 28 runoff. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Illinois Governor: The Democratic Governors Association, which has spent millions attacking Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin in the GOP primary, is up with a new ad that argues Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey is “too conservative.” The strategy is a tried-and-true way groups meddle in opposing parties’ primaries to endear candidates with base voters. 

Michigan Governor: GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley was arrested Thursday on charges relating to his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, including “disorderly conduct and willfully injuring or attacking U.S. property,” NBC News’ Ryan J. Reilly, Pete Williams and Henry J. Gomez report. 

Pennsylvania Governor: Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro called his opponent, GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 an “insurrectionist” in a tweet during Thursday’s hearing. 

Pennsylvania Senate: In a new web ad, Republicans criticize Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman and accuse him of not being transparent about his health after his stroke last month.   

Montana-01: Ryan Zinke, Trump’s former Interior Secretary, won the GOP primary for Montana’s 1st District, per NBC News’ Decision Desk. Zinke had Trump’s endorsement in the race. 

Nevada-01: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., endorsed three House candidates Thursday, including Democrat Amy Viela, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in Tuesday’s primary. 

New York-23: Republican Carl Paladino said in a 2021 interview that Hitler is “the kind of leader we need today.” Paladino is endorsed by GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. 

Ad watch: Walker’s charity work is questioned

VoteVets, a group that largely backs Dem-leaning veterans in elections across the country, is out with a new ad in Georgia’s Senate race, accusing former football player Herschel Walker of preying on veterans and defrauding the government through a charity organization. Walker is the Republican nominee for Senate and will face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a general election this fall.

“Herschel Walker claimed he started a program to help veterans. The truth? It isn’t actually a charity at all,” the ad’s narrator says. It goes on to argue “the group misdiagnosed patients and pushed veterans into mental health facilities just to collect the insurance money.”

Walker’s involvement with the group came under scrutiny last month, when the Associated Press reported he overstated his role with Patriot Support, a for-profit group affiliated with United Health Services. UHS is now facing a civil lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and nearly two dozen states. 

Walker spokeswoman Mallory Blunt criticized that AP article, accusing them of “demonizing Herschel for being the face of an organization for 14 years that has helped tens of thousands of soldiers suffering from mental illness.”

VoteVets said in a press release that their ad against Walker will air for one week and a half in Georgia and is part of a $1.5 million campaign

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

Bipartisan Senate negotiators hope to reach a deal on guns in “the next few days,” despite saying earlier this week that they hoped to reach a deal before the weekend. 

The widow of Washington D.C. Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, who died by suicide shortly after the attack on the Capitol last year, spoke to NBC News’ Hallie Jackson on why she wanted to represent her late husband at the Jan. 6 committee hearings. 

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney claimed during the Jan. 6 committee hearing that Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry was among a group of Republican lawmakers who asked for a presidential pardon after Jan. 6. (Perry’s office denies the allegation, per WCAU’s Lauren Mayk)

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., removed an income tax proposal from his 11-point plan after facing pushback from fellow Republicans.