After interviewing more than 1,000 witnesses and collecting a treasury of more than 140,000 documents, the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol is finally revealing its findings to the public.
So far, the panel has held three televised hearings: a tightly curated prime-time session looking at the overall conclusions and two extended day sessions that delve more deeply into the study’s findings and their implications for American democracy.
We learned that Donald J. Trump is determined to go through with his plan to undo the results of the 2020 election, despite his own advisers telling him at the time that it was illegal and that there was no evidence of widespread fraud. We’ve also heard new details about Mike Pence’s harrowing day hiding from the rioters, and we’ve seen previously unreleased footage from the perspective of the police officers struggling to hold off the crowd, among other revelations.
To try and make sense of it all, I spoke to Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who has covered January 6 and its aftermath and is finishing her forthcoming book on Mr. Trump. Our conversation has been slightly edited for length and clarity:
You have given extensive coverage of the events surrounding the Capitol riots, including a… recent scoop on fears among Pence’s assistants before January 6 about his safety. During these hearings, did anything surprise you or change your mindset about that day or the months before?
The biggest surprise was that John Eastman, a lawyer who advised Trump on his strategy for undoing the 2020 election results, posted in an email that he was interested in a presidential pardon.
Interestingly, Eastman apparently asked for it after two White House officials, Trump adviser Eric Herschmann and Pence adviser Greg Jacob, warned him that he was proposing things that violate the law. So I think the hearings have adapted the opening to what we might expect about possible crime involved here.
What do you read about how a certain former president has responded to the hearings so far?
I understand from several people that he was unhappy watching them. He is especially frustrated when he sees the clips of his family – Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner – being used against him.
Does Trump Fear a Possible Federal Indictment?
According to many people who knew him, he has always feared a possible impeachment, long before he became president. Whether he does that specifically here is an open question. Some of his aides are adamant that he doesn’t think these hearings will lead to anything that touches him.
From the outside, the hearings appear to be going smoothly for the January 6 committee. What kind of internal turmoil has there been in the panel leading up to this moment? Are there any significant disagreements between members or their assistants on how to proceed?
Our colleague Luke Broadwater has reported more on this, but the committee has not always been in agreement on where the key areas of focus should be. One of the areas we’ve seen come into play was what to do with Ginni Thomas, Judge Clarence Thomas’ wife.
The themes of the 6 January committee hearings
There is also frustration among some members and their staff about leaks, as is often the case with committees or institutions.
What is your assessment of Representative Liz Cheney’s role on the committee, and what is your understanding of what drives her? It often seems like she is one of the more aggressive members of the panel, despite being one of only two Republicans.
She’s clearly one of the leaders and she’s co-chair, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. But she has been important to them because it is very difficult to dismiss her as a political opponent.
In addition to her Republican bona fides — she’s a daughter of Dick Cheney, far from a liberal plant — she was actually a Trump supporter until he started vocally undermining the 2020 contest in the run-up to Election Day. Trump allies have pointed that out as evidence of hypocrisy, but the reality is that a line has been crossed for her.
But people can have more than one motivation, and I think she’s also deeply troubled by the way Representative Kevin McCarthy — who targeted her and removed her from her Republican leadership position in the House — empowered Trump, starting shortly after the riots.
As a matter of political calculation, how would you evaluate McCarthy’s decision to dismiss the commission and allow Speaker Nancy Pelosi to dictate its form and scope? Do Republicans Regret?
Republicans usually accuse Pelosi of not allowing McCarthy to seat the members she objected to. But privately, some Republicans are angry with him, believing he walked out too early and could have had a say in negotiating names.
What about the electoral impact of these hearings? How important are they for the midterms of 2022 or for the presidential race in 2024?
Blake, I think people’s lives are so bleak economically right now, except for the super-rich, that anyone affected by these hearings may have already made up their minds.
Is this a good set of facts for Trump? Absolutely not. But in terms of the midterms, I think it’s too early to say.
That’s different from whether it makes it harder for Republicans to take their eyes off Trump’s behavior, which the hearings certainly accomplish.
It’s also very hard to look at the total testimonials so far – and I don’t expect it to be better for Trump – and watch someone take it and say, “That wasn’t so bad.” This is the chief of staff and chief adviser to the former vice president, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, laying out these arguments. It’s not Nancy Pelosi.
I could see it being used by people fighting Trump in a 2024 primary. But we’re a long way from that right now.
What to read (and watch) tonight
A unique vantage point
On Politics regularly shows work by Times photographers. Here’s what Kenny Holston told us about capturing the image above:
As a photojournalist, I face many challenges that vary from assignment to assignment. A common problem when I work in the White House is getting in a position for a narrative photo with a fresh take on a common event.
The White House press pool is often limited to small, secluded areas at events involving the president or vice president. There is very little wiggle room to find creative vantage points.
The image above was taken from the East Room, as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris entered for a signing ceremony. As the press pool crammed into the usual demarcated area, I decided to sit across from my colleagues in another area reserved for the press.
For these kinds of ceremonies, this area is a bit of a visual disadvantage. But I knew there would be an opportunity to create a kind of image that’s not often seen and that other photographers probably wouldn’t have. So I rolled the dice and was able to capture the image above.
Thank you for reading.
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