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'It'll change history': Jan. 6 panel hypes first public hearing

The committee investigating the Capitol riot says the hearing will feature new video, audio and other evidence revealing a "coordinated" effort to overturn the 2020 election.
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WASHINGTON — The House Jan. 6 committee is raising expectations for its first public hearing Thursday, saying the prime-time event will be packed with new video, audio and other information proving that former President Donald Trump was at the heart of the attack. 

“We will be revealing new details showing that the violence on Jan. 6 was the result of a coordinated, multistep effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and to stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden,” a committee aide said in a call previewing the hearing with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, “and indeed that the former president Donald Trump was at the center of that effort.”

The committee’s pledge to present compelling new evidence is a risky proposition. 

The promise of new details may tempt more people to watch and see for themselves what the panel has uncovered. But that also means the committee is on the hook to deliver. Unless members roll out fresh evidence, the hearings may go down as an overhyped bust.

The 90-minute hearing, the first of at least six planned for this month, kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Thursday, and will be carried live on all of the major news networks except for Fox News Channel.

The hearing will feature two live witnesses: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was the first law enforcement officer injured by rioters; and Nick Quested, a filmmaker whose crew documented some of the rioters movements around the Capitol grounds and captured some of the first violence aimed at police officers that day. 

The nine-member committee — seven Democrats and two Republicans — also will tease what viewers can expect for the remaining hearings, including video of depositions from senior Trump White House and administration officials, Trump campaign aides and Trump family members. 

Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, served as senior White House advisers; both testified before the committee. As rioters stormed the Capitol, White House aides and others contacted Ivanka Trump and asked her to intervene and persuade her father to call for an end to the violence, according to the committee. A videotaped deposition of Ivanka Trump discussing conversations with her father could provide new insights about his mindset that day.

The committee has disclosed that it interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, obtained more than 140,000 documents and issued nearly 100 subpoenas. Officials said the “vast majority” of material that will be presented, from videos of the attack to electronic records, have never been seen by the public before.

“It’ll change history,” said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the two Republicans who serve on the panel.

In the call with reporters, aides went straight at a question that has dogged the committee for months: Are Americans already so familiar with the events surrounding Jan. 6 that they may see no reason to tune in? The committee took pains to conduct its investigation in secret, even setting up white noise machines outside its offices so that reporters wouldn’t overhear sworn depositions. Still, the committee suffered an avalanche of leaks that could leave people with the impression that the hearings are old news. 

Again and again, committee aides suggested that viewers will be surprised by what they see. “The select committee has amassed a mountain of new information,” one aide said. 

While people may have heard “bits and pieces” of the effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory, the committee will be “connecting the dots” in ways that show the plot began even before the 2020 election, an aide said.

“Our aim is to sort of tie all that together in a comprehensive narrative and to show how it’s a pattern that started before the election and went all the way through Jan. 6,” the aide said.

Republicans have sought to undercut the committee by casting it as a partisan body targeting Trump so that he’s not a viable presidential candidate in 2024. At a press conference Thursday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the panel the "most political and least legitimate committee in American history," and said Democrats were just trying to deflect attention from the other problems the country is facing.

Republicans have opened a new line of attack in recent days, focusing on the committee’s hiring of a former ABC News executive, James Goldston, to help choreograph the hearings. Enlisting the help of a media professional demonstrates that the committee’s priority is a TV spectacle, not fact-finding, Republican critics said.

“They’re hiring people who make pretty images on television,” Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally, told NBC News. “That’s who they’re hiring, because they want to make it a show.”

Asked to respond to the criticism on the call with reporters, a committee aide sidestepped the inquiry, dismissing it as a personnel question. 

The second Jan. 6 hearing is set for 10 a.m. Monday, with others planned for later in the month. Committee aides said each hearing will have a theme. And while the panel, first created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in July 2021, has entered into the public hearings phase, officials said the investigation will continue.

“The investigation is ongoing. We continue to receive information. We continue to hear from witnesses,” an aide said. “So, you know, that will continue to shape the path the select committee takes going forward.”

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has said his panel is aiming to publish its final report by the fall.