The Jan. 6 committee is meeting Thursday. Here's what to expect
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol will hold its next hearing at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, focusing on how former President Donald Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence not to count lawful electoral votes.
In a video previewing the hearing, Rep. Liz Cheney, the top GOP panel member, said Thursday's hearing would present Trump's "relentless effort" to stop the votes from getting counted.
"President Trump had no factual basis for what he was doing. And he had been told it was illegal," Cheney said in the video, adding that Trump worked with lawyer John Eastman and others to try to overturn the outcome of the election on Jan. 6th.
A message from Vice Chair @RepLizCheney about Thursday’s hearing. pic.twitter.com/SsnOOEnyVq— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 14, 2022
Thursday's hearing comes after the panel postponed Wednesday's scheduled hearing due to "technical issues," according to committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren. That session would have focused on Trump's plan to fire former Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr resigned effective Dec. 23, 2020 after disagreeing with the former president's false claims of voter fraud.
A rescheduled date for that hearing has not been announced.
Who is testifying?
Two witnesses will testify in-person on Thursday:
- Greg Jacob, an attorney for former Vice President Mike Pence. In a memo sent to Pence a day before the Jan. 6 attack, Jacob wrote that blocking or delaying the certification of electoral votes would be a violation of federal law. Rejecting the votes was a strategy pushed by Eastman, a legal adviser to Trump, who wrote two key memos to Pence about how to help Trump remain president.
- Conservative lawyer and former federal judge Michael Luttig. The retired judge — whom Eastman had clerked for — provided the legal guidance to Pence and his staff that the vice president ultimately used to publicly disavow Trump's demands to overturn the election results. The day before the riot, Luttig took to Twitter with a thread about how the Constitution does not empower the vice president "to alter in any way the votes that have been cast, either by rejecting certain of them or otherwise."
The only responsibility and power of the Vice President under the Constitution is to faithfully count the electoral college votes as they have been cast.— @judgeluttig (@judgeluttig) January 5, 2021
In a 12-page statement first obtained by CNN, Luttig called what happened on Jan. 6 a "war on democracy" and placed blame squarely on Trump and his political allies who sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election "at any cost."
"The treacherous plan was no less ambitious than to steal America's democracy," the statement reads.
His statement is especially critical of the lawyers who pushed Trump to embrace baseless claims of election fraud and bashed the idea that Pence could reject lawful electoral votes as "beguiling and frivolous." The latter was "perhaps appropriate for academic classroom debate, but singularly inappropriate as counsel to the president of the United States of America in his effort to overturn the presidential election — an election he had lost fair and square and as to which there was not then, and there is not to this day, evidence of fraud."
The legal arguments that might emerge
In her preview video, Cheney noted that a federal judge determined that Trump's behavior leading up to Jan. 6 "likely violated two federal criminal statutes."
In March, U.S. District Judge David Carter found that a memo written by Eastman influenced Trump's plans for Pence to prevent the certification of electoral votes and "likely furthered the crimes of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States."
Cheney referenced Carter's opinion in the first Jan. 6 hearing.
"The judge evaluated the facts and he reached the conclusion that President Trump's efforts to pressure Vice President Pence to act illegally by refusing to count electoral votes likely violated two federal criminal statutes," Cheney said that day.
"The judge also said this: if Dr. Eastman and President Trump's plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution."
What we learned during the first hearing
Thursday's hearing is the third of seven hearings scheduled throughout June.
The committee's first hearing, which aired during prime time on June 9, laid out the framework for the hearings to come. It also began to establish a case against Trump, sketching out a narrative that put him squarely at the center of an election fraud conspiracy that led to the deadly attack on Jan. 6.
Panel Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said that Trump earlier that day "spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution" to march to the Capitol and "subvert American democracy" — and that "January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup."
What we learned during the second hearing
In its second hearing, the House select committee argued that Trump's repeated false claims about the 2020 presidential election directly led to the attack on the Capitol. The hearing included video footage from top campaign staff — including Bill Stepien and Jason Miller — who said they urged him not to declare victory on election night as other advisers to the former president pushed him to do so, citing baseless claims of election fraud.
The committee asserted that Trump used those allegations of election fraud to fundraise millions of dollars from his supporters, while also setting the stage for his followers' display of violence and unrest.
Video and in-person testimony also depicted Trump's isolation from staffers who disagreed with his false claims that the election was stolen.
How to watch Thursday's hearing
You can watch the hearing starting at 1 p.m. ET on NPR.org. NPR will also broadcast live special coverage of all the hearings. Find your local member station or use the NPR One app to listen.
Unlike the first prime-time hearing, Thursday's won't be broadcasted as widely across television. ABC and NBC are choosing to only air the hearing on their streaming channels, while CBS plans to broadcast the hearing on television as a special report.
CNN, C-SPAN and MSNBC are airing the hearing. The hearing was not included on Fox News channel's broadcast schedule for Thursday but will be streamed live through the network's audio channel.
You can also watch it on YouTube, livestreamed by the committee.