WASHINGTON — House Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said Wednesday he hopes next week’s prime-time hearing will be the last in its series of high-profile televised presentations.
But Thompson, D-Miss., isn’t ruling out holding more this summer, saying new evidence uncovered by the committee could prompt additional surprise hearings like the one last month that featured key witness Cassidy Hutchinson.
Asked whether he could promise that the July 21 public hearing — the panel’s eighth this year — will be the last, Thompson told reporters: “No, I can’t. I’m hoping it is, but something could come up, just like the Hutchinson situation that warranted what we felt was an immediate hearing.”
Another member, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., also would not rule out additional hearings this summer, saying, “It depends on where the evidence takes us.”
Aguilar and others investigating the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, view Hutchinson’s bombshell public testimony — that President Donald Trump knew the supporters he sent to the Capitol that day were armed, that he refused to act as rioters stormed the Capitol and that he approved of their chanting that they wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence — as a critical turning point in their yearlong inquiry that could lead to further revelations.
Panel members argue her damning, fly-on-the-wall testimony turned up the pressure on other Trump officials, compelling greater cooperation from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and perhaps others.
“The Cassidy Hutchinson piece was newsworthy and important,” Aguilar told NBC News on Wednesday, “and to the extent that that has led or will continue to lead to people coming forward and sharing what they know about Jan. 6, that will guide the decisions that we make” about future hearings.
Aguilar declined to get into details about whether any future hearings might come in August — when lawmakers typically leave Washington for vacations or the campaign trail — or in September. “That’s a lot of hypotheticals,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s hearing, Thompson said the committee will soon need to shift from “hearing, fact-finding mode to producing a document to return to Congress.”
The final congressional report on Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly attack on the Capitol, will come sometime in the "early fall," he said, in late September or October, before the November midterm elections.
And Thompson confirmed that the committee is likely to hold a public hearing when it releases the sweeping report, which is expected to include many details not covered in the hearings, as well as policy recommendations to try to prevent future disruptions in the peaceful transfer of power.
Members of the panel have also left the door open to potential criminal referrals as they continue their investigation.
The committee’s timeline has been slipping deeper into the calendar as new evidence emerges. The nine-member panel had intended to wrap up this series of hearings by the end of June, but it punted two hearings into July after it scheduled the last-minute Hutchinson hearing.
Cipollone’s deposition Friday has also scrambled the committee’s programming. Sections of Tuesday’s hearing that focused on extremist groups were left on the cutting room floor so the panel could highlight new testimony from Cipollone, committee members said. And the eighth hearing — planned for Thursday — was pushed to next week to give committee staff members more time to incorporate Cipollone's testimony and finalize the script.
The hearing will focus on the “187 minutes” it took for Trump to call off the violent mob that was storming the Capitol.
The delay schedule has pushed the target date of the final report closer to the Nov. 8 election.
House Democrats targeted by Republicans in a tough election cycle say voters back home are focused on issues like record inflation and high gas prices. But they say moderate swing voters have been tuning into the Jan. 6 hearings and have been impressed by testimony from Republicans who resisted Trump's attempts to stay in power.
“It’s moving the needle,” said Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn.
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., who was trapped in the House gallery as rioters tried to breach the chamber, said: “They’re shocked by what’s been revealed. They’ve done a really good job of laying out this really fact-based compelling case using almost entirely Republican witnesses.”
Another targeted Democrat from Michigan, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, said she sensed a shift among voters in her district after the Hutchinson hearing, saying that it was "powerful testimony" and that "Michiganders are big rule-of-law people."
Fox News' decision to air the daytime hearings has also generated interest in the committee's work among constituents in her central Michigan district, she said.
"Fox News is [providing] more coverage of Jan. 6 than they did at the beginning, when they literally pretended to ignore it," Slotkin said. "And my constituents, many of them watch Fox. My in-laws watch Fox, so the message getting out is important. But also, the kinds of things that we're learning also have the potential to change people's approach to Jan. 6."
Trump and his allies have called the Jan. 6 investigation a politically motivated "witch hunt," and Slotkin said she is aware that the committee's report could appear to be political, coming weeks or days before the fall election.
“Yeah, I don’t love the timing, but I also can't abide a lack of accountability for a violent insurrection and for potentially trying to upend one branch of government," she said.