The House committee investigating Monday’s January 6 attack on the Capitol abruptly scheduled a hearing for Tuesday afternoon to hear what the panel called “recently obtained evidence” and include witness statements, a surprising move that sparked a wave of speculation. about a possible explosive disclosure.
The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Capitol Hill, according to a committee press release, in which it did not provide other details about the session. The announcement — and its sudden and secretive nature — gave way to a day of guesswork about what the panel might have learned, or whose cooperation it may have obtained, to justify a carefully choreographed hearing schedule over a week that saw members Washington left to spend time in their districts across the country.
“BETTER BE A BIG DEAL,” John W. Dean, White House counsel under President Richard M. Nixon, known for his role in the Watergate scandal, wrote on Twitter. “There was only one surprising witness during the Senate Watergate Committee hearings. On July 16, 1973, an unannounced witness, Alex Butterfield, testified to Nixon’s secret recording system – history changes forever!”
The January 6 panel held a series of hearings this month detailing the findings of the nearly year-long investigation, but it was planned that no additional sessions would take place until July.
Still, the investigators have continued to gather evidence and record interviews with witnesses, even as the committee presents its findings. At the end of each hearing, lawmakers called for more people to come forward and give public testimony. And in recent days, the committee has indicated that it has gathered crucial new information that merits further investigation.
A key witness the committee has not yet heard publicly is Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, the last White House chief of staff to President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Hutchinson has given the panel some of its biggest revelations yet, all made during closed-door videotaped testimony, parts of which have been shown or referenced in previous hearings. She is said to have been present when Mr. Meadows described hearing Mr. Trump respond in agreement to chants by his supporters to hang Vice President Mike Pence. And she testified that half a dozen Republican lawmakers who led efforts in Congress to undo the election sought a pardon after the riots.
In recent days, the commission has also collected and studied hours of footage shot by a documentary filmmaker who was embedded with Mr. Trump, his family and members of his inner circle just before, during and after the attack.
But when they pressed the case, aides declined to disclose what additional evidence they wanted to present Tuesday or who would testify.
The panel has yet to hear directly from Mr Trump or Mr Pence, though lawmakers have left open the option to call either. The commission has also asked Virginia Thomas, the wife of Judge Clarence Thomas, to testify privately next month about her role in pushing for the 2020 election to be reversed.
Last week, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney and the committee’s vice chair, publicly called on Pat A. Cipollone, the former White House counsel who opposed some of the most extreme plans to reverse the election. make, to testify.
Some of the most damning testimony the panel has received to date have come from people who have worked directly for Mr. Trump, including officials from his presidential campaign, his legal team and the Department of Justice.
Ms. Hutchinson was asked by the committee about Mr Trump’s positive response to rioters’ chants about executing Mr Pence and confirmed it, according to people familiar with the panel’s work.
Key Revelations from the January 6 Hearings
Ms. Cheney said the committee has received testimony that when Mr. Trump learned of the mob’s threats to hang Mr. Pence, he said, “Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” adding that Mr. Pence “it deserves”.
Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony also suggested that at least a handful of Republican lawmakers were concerned about criminal liability after participating in the attempt to invalidate the election results. In a videotaped interview played by the panel at the final public hearing, Ms. Hutchinson testified that Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia all sought pardon after the January 6 attack.
Four of those members have denied doing so, and some have questioned Ms Hutchinson by name. ms. Greene posted a clip of Ms. Hutchinson on Twitter, adding: “If you say ‘I heard’ it means you don’t know. Spreading gossip and lies is exactly what the January 6 Witch Hunt Commission is all about.” Mr. Biggs similarly said that Ms. Hutchinson was “wrong” and that her testimony had been “deceptively” edited.
However, Mr Brooks confirmed that he was asking for more than 100 Republicans to be pardoned.
Ms. Hutchinson also testified that during a discussion, Mr. Perry, who now heads the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, endorsed the idea of encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol, and that no one on the call objected to the proposal. She made it clear that members of Congress were “inclined to go with the White House leadership” to lead a crowd to the Capitol.
To date, Ms Hutchinson has worked with the committee in three separate closed-door interviews after receiving a subpoena.
Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson said the committee had scheduled at least two more hearings for July. Those sessions would detail how a mob of violent extremists attacked the Capitol and how Mr. Trump did nothing for more than three hours to call off the violence.
Previous hearings have focused on the pressure campaigns Mr Trump launched against the Justice Department, state officials and his own vice president as he tried to stay in power.