After closing what may be the final installation in a series of high-profile hearings, the January 6 House Select Committee must make decisions in the final weeks that could have profound effects for years to come.
The committee will need to determine whether it will play a role in the Justice Department’s investigation and determine how the raw information it has collected will be stored and disseminated. But ultimately the panel’s most important decisions will be about what recommendations to make and what information its final report should contain.
Republican leaders had campaigned for the creation of an independent commission to review the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and what led to it. The House panel is the only government body in charge of the investigation and is compiling what should be the definitive historical record of what led to the insurgency.
What the committee produces is likely to become the key piece of evidence in criminal and civil proceedings, and will be scrutinized by historians and studied in schools just as the 9/11 commission report has been, said Grant Tudor, a proponent of the policy of Protect Democracy.
“These types of evidence-gathering and truth-telling exercises have ramifications for other accountability efforts long after they are completed,” Tudor said.
Prosecutors, reporters and government control groups are clamoring for access to the more than 1,000 depositions, hundreds of hours of video and hundreds of thousands of pages of documents collected in the investigation. The committee was cautious about how much material could be made public.
“While we are obviously anticipating this final report, it is not the same as anticipating access to the vast body of evidence gathered and the analysis of that evidence,” said Tudor. “It seems very likely that it will take a rather deliberate editing hand in deciding what to include and what not to include. The committee collected this incredible volume of documents and witness testimony. “
The report is almost certain to provide more detail than was possible in a hearing format.
Despite early signs of what the jury intended to look into, such as who was behind the fundraiser for the rally where then President Trump spoke before the attack, the committee ultimately focused on Trump’s role in the attack. events and his mentality around January 6, pushing some problems into oblivion. The topics raised in the hearings were often not fully followed up.
The committee hearings barely touched on the information gathered on several key topics for understanding the events around January 6, including which law enforcement intelligence-gathering failures allowed the insurgency to occur, who funded the efforts. to find evidence of fraud in the election, and that he paid some Trump supporters to travel to Washington to march on the Capitol.
“There is potentially a huge amount of evidence that could come,” Debra Perlin, political director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told reporters.
Along with an account of the plans to keep Trump in power that led to the January 6 violence, the report is expected to include recommendations for legislation or action by federal agencies and perhaps state and local governments.
But the potential outcome most are looking at is whether the committee will recommend criminal charges against Trump or others.
Its members have been divided on whether to recommend criminal charges to the Justice Department, or whether the panel should refrain from doing so to prevent the potential appearance of politicization of a decision the department should make based solely on facts. So far the jury has kept separate from prosecutors’ efforts, including refusing requests to share depositions and other evidence with them.
“We think we have demonstrated the case convincingly by the end of that series of hearings,” Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) Told Politico. “And now, frankly, on the criminal side, because we’re not the criminal committee, it’s up to the [Justice Department]. … They have the flashlight and we’ll see where they go with it.
Commission vice chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) Said during Thursday’s hearing that criminal referrals for multiple individuals were likely, but she didn’t elaborate.
In the spring and summer, members of the House committee publicly criticized the American lawyer. General Merrick Garland, saying he was moving uncertain about their proceedings. But the Justice Department has made increasingly aggressive moves over the summer and appears to be conducting multiple investigations simultaneously.
Agents seized cell phones, brought dozens of high-ranking Trump confidants before a grand jury, and conducted court-approved searches of private homes, including executing a warrant at the home of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. who left handcuffed outside without pants.
The department has been careful not to indicate if allegations are coming and traditionally does not move in the weeks leading up to the elections so as not to potentially influence the outcome. Many legal experts have expressed confidence that the allegations will come after next month’s mid-term elections.
Duke University professor Asher Hildebrand, a former high-ranking Capitol Hill staff member, said that whether or not the committee came from a criminal referral, the hearings show that the jury did its job.
“It appears that the committee’s contribution of January 6 to a broader consideration of what happened on January 6 and, before that, what crimes the president committed… that contribution is somehow certain. And that, at this point, is really a question of whether, when and how the Justice Department and other law enforcement authorities act on all this information, “he said.
As the report is poised to take center stage, the commission’s investigation is ongoing. On Thursday, its members voted unanimously to sue Trump for documents and testimony, saying he has an obligation to answer for his actions.
In a rambling 14-page response Friday, Trump did not engage in an interview or sharing of documents. Instead he reiterated unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and shared photos of the crowd at his rally that day.
“You did not follow the people who created the fraud, but rather the great American patriots who questioned it, as is their constitutional right,” he wrote. “These people have had their lives ruined as your committee sits and basks in the glow.”
Trump is likely to disagree with the quote or ignore it entirely. With only more than two months left before the committee disbanded, he will have to decide how much time to devote to getting Trump to comply, or whether to view the quote as largely symbolic.
The jury will also need to determine which ongoing fights for records and testimony are still worth pursuing. More than a dozen witnesses have sued to prevent the committee from accessing cell phone or email logs, and others are battling subpoenas to testify in court. Some cases have been ongoing for more than a year, partly because the committee has sought more time to come up with a strategy.
It is not clear how the commission will present its final report. All it takes to cast it is a vote from its members, but after nine carefully orchestrated hearings this year, a visual presentation of some kind is expected.
“It seems unlikely that he will drop a great hardcover book and say nothing about it or use it as a public platform to make a series of concluding arguments as well,” Tudor said. “Even if it is out of the context of a formal hearing.”