The curtain fell late Thursday on the Jan. 6 committee’s summer hearings, a series that has, through highly produced presentations and bombshell-filled witness testimony, given the public an inside view of what led up to the Capitol attack.
The Democrat-led panel presented its investigation over eight hearings throughout June and July, laying out its case that former President Donald Trump was at the center of an election fraud conspiracy that ultimately led to the insurrection at the Capitol — one that he knew could turn violent but did nothing to stop.
So, now what?
Was Thursday’s hearing really the last one?
No. The House Select January 6th committee made clear they are going to resume hearings in September.
Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., opened the final summer hearing by noting the progress the committee has made, but she added that there’s now new evidence and more witnesses to consider.
“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” Cheney said.
Already, in the buildup to Thursday’s presentation, select committee aides had hinted future hearings could be on tap.
And Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters recently that the committee could issue an initial report in September, followed by a final report later this year. The findings would be accompanied by hearings, he said.
“We’re just getting a significant amount of information,” Thompson said. And the new evidence “pushes the timetable out.”
What’s next for the panel?
Cheney also noted in this week’s hearing that the panel will now return to its investigative mode for the next several weeks.
“Our committee will spend August pursuing emerging information on multiple fronts, before convening further hearings this September,” Cheney said.
Committee members had been reluctant to call this next stage the committee’s last. Rather, some such as California Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, are simply calling it the “next chapter.”
“There’s questions we want to get to the bottom of and significant progress we’ve made within the hearings to date,” Aguilar told NPR. “I look forward to carrying forward and doing more work, but ultimately we made a commitment to find the facts, to chase the truth and that’s what we seek to do.”
With plans to issue their findings in the form of reports and more hearings, the committee is racing to address new evidence along the way.
For example, the panel is now looking into allegations that the Secret Service deleted text messages during a two-day period surrounding the Jan. 6 attack. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari has claimed the messages were erased after a request by his office, while the Secret Service has denied these allegations, saying the deletions were part of a system migration.
A panel subpoena only turned up one text message, a select committee aide and members have said. The Secret Service says it has produced thousands of documents in response to the subpoena, issued just last week, and that it is conducting a forensic analysis to try to recover the texts.
“I think the important thing to note is that they did not turn over the texts that we were looking for,” committee member Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., told NPR.
This, as the panel is looking to further corroborate sworn testimony given by former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, the one-time top aide to then-Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who shared a new wave of explosive testimony in an emergency hearing last month.
There are also looming questions of whether the panel will decide to formally recommend a criminal referral for Trump to the Justice Department, and whether he or former Vice President Mike Pence should be formally asked to testify.
With Republicans expected to win control of the House in the fall, the committee is facing a deadline by the time a new Congress gets seated next year.
Members are aware their continued investigation could run into the midterm elections in November, but echo Aguilar’s remarks they are committed to unearthing every finding possible by year’s end.
Will the panel’s report lead to any tangible action?
The report is expected to lay out a foundation, tracking as closely as possible to the 9/11 commission report, of the causes that fueled the Jan. 6 attack and ways to ensure another siege never happens again.
It will encompass much of what the panel has shared in its hearings, discovered through witness interviews and evidence obtained through document and records requests.
The committee could include recommendations for legislative fixes to try to thwart new efforts to circumvent U.S. election laws. That includes potential proposals to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
Many have said the law is outdated and badly in need of reform. Several proposals have made the rounds in Congress already, pushing to raise the threshold for objections to a state’s presidential election results and revamping the role of the vice president as the presiding officer over the mostly ceremonial affair.
Members of the Jan. 6 panel have argued that the law was weak enough to allow Trump to attempt to try to manipulate the 2020 elections by trying to force Pence to overturn the results last year.
And this past week, a Senate bipartisan group got a jump on the proposals, reaching a deal on a plan to address to the arcane law and other election safeguards. The legislation could potentially draw the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., led the effort by 16 members, which includes nine Republican co-sponsors, in the evenly divided Senate.
“From the beginning, our bipartisan group has shared a vision of drafting legislation to fix the flaws of the archaic and ambiguous Electoral Count Act of 1887,” the U.S. senators said in a joint statement.
The Senate traction could bode well for future negotiations with the House to push legislation ultimately to President Biden’s desk.