WASHINGTON – A House committee’s prime-time hearing Thursday will offer the most compelling evidence yet of then-President Donald Trump’s “dereliction of duty” on the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection, with new witnesses detailing his failure to stem an angry mob storming the Capitol, committee members said Sunday.
“This is going to open people’s eyes in a big way,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a member of the House committee investigating the riot who will help lead Thursday's session with Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. ”The president didn’t do anything."
After a year-long investigation, the House Jan. 6 panel is seeking to wrap up what may be its last hearing, even as its probe continues to heat up.
The committee says it continues to receive fresh evidence each day and isn’t ruling out additional hearings or interviews with a bevy of additional people close to the president. One such figure is Steve Bannon, whose trial begins this week on criminal contempt of Congress charges for refusing to comply with the House committee's subpoena.
The committee also issued an extraordinary subpoena last week to the Secret Service to produce texts by Tuesday from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, following conflicting reports about whether they were deleted.
But panel members say Thursday's hearing will be the most specific to date in laying out and weaving together previously known details on how Trump's actions were at odds with his constitutional legal duty to stop the Jan. 6 riot. Unlike members of the public who generally have no duty to take action to prevent a crime, the Constitution requires a president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
“The commander in chief is the only person in the Constitution whose duty is explicitly laid out to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed,” Luria said. “I look at it as a dereliction of duty. (Trump) didn’t act. He had a duty to act.”
Thursday’s hearing will be the first in the prime-time slot since the June 9 debut that was viewed by an estimated 20 million people.
Luria said the hearing will highlight additional testimony from White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other witnesses, not yet seen before, “who will add a lot of value and information to the events of that critical time on January 6." She cited Trump's inaction that day for more than three hours, along with a tweet that afternoon criticizing Vice President Mike Pence for lacking courage to contest Democrat Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election that may have served to egg on the mob.
“We will go through pretty much minute by minute during that time frame, from the time he left the stage at the Ellipse, came back to the White House, and really sat in the White House, in the dining room, with his advisers urging him continuously to take action, to take more action,” Luria said.
The hearing comes at a critical juncture point for the panel, which is racing to wrap up findings for a final report this fall. The committee had originally expected at this point to be concluding much of its investigation with a final hearing but is now considering possible options for additional interviews and hearings, panel members said.
“This investigation is very much ongoing,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. “The fact that a series of hearings is going to be concluded this Thursday doesn’t mean that our investigation is over. It’s very active, new witnesses are coming forward, additional information is coming forward.”
For instance, the committee took a rare step last week in issuing a subpoena to the Secret Service, an executive branch department. That came after it received a closed briefing from the Homeland Security Department watchdog that the Secret Service had deleted texts from around Jan. 6, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The finding raised the startling prospect of lost evidence that could shed further light on Trump’s actions during the insurrection, particularly after earlier testimony about his confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol.
“That’s what we have to get to the bottom of,” said Luria, regarding possibly missing texts. “Where are these text messages? Can they be recovered? And we have subpoenaed them because they’re legal records that we need to see for the committee.”
Luria spoke on CNN's “State of the Union," Lofgren was on ABC's “This Week,” and Kinzinger appeared on CBS' “Face the Nation.”
Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report.