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Finally, We Know There Will Be Hearings. Will America Care?

The House select committee will hold eight hearings in June. They’re its one shot at making Americans care about the attempted coup d’état we all saw.

January 6 Commission Chair Bennie Thompson speaks with reporters on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Bill Clark/Getty Images
January 6 Commission Chair Bennie Thompson speaks with reporters on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Here’s what happened this week

Finally, the news we’ve been waiting for since … March? February? January 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson unveiled new details of the upcoming public hearings the panel plans to hold. In a scrum with reporters on Thursday, the Mississippi Democrat said the committee planned to hold eight hearings in June. The hearings will be spread out across the month. 

“We’ll tell the story about what happened. We will use a combination of witnesses, exhibits, and things that we have,” Thompson said, according to Politico. “We have tens of thousands of exhibits … as well as hundreds of witnesses we’ve deposed or talked to in general. It will give the public the benefit of what more than a year’s worth of investigation has borne to the committee.”

The panel plans to invite Republican senators to testify before it (note that this is not the same as subpoenaing senators). Thompson didn’t offer names of which senators the committee had in mind, but he did say that those invitations would be included in a broader list of people of interest the committee is seeking information from, a list that, Politico noted, includes other members of Congress. It’s not hard to imagine which senators the committee would invite: Josh Hawley of Missouri, Mike Lee of Utah, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, and Ted Cruz of Texas. The committee also plans to reach out again to three lawmakers it has asked to answer its questions: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Congressmen Scott Perry and Jim Jordan. 

“Some other members will be sent letters,” Thompson said, according to CNN.

For months, the committee has been hinting at and previewing these hearings as an important way it plans to show its work to the broader public. Thompson and his colleagues on the panel clearly want the public to pay attention. Committee member Jamie Raskin has said the committee’s findings “will blow the roof off the House.” 

Topics don’t come much more important. We’re talking about a deadly mob attack on the Capitol after a rally in which the outgoing president warned supporters about not having a country. Well-structured hearings can rivet the nation, much as the Watergate and Iran-Contra hearings did. But it’s also conceivable that swaths of the public will just tune out and go on to vote in the midterms without fully digesting what happened on January 6, 2021. These hearings are the best chance for the committee to tell many Americans how bad things got on January 6 and make them think about democracy when they go to the polls.

CNN also noted that the news of the hearings comes a few days after news broke that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is likely to appear before the committee in May. Giuliani has previously signaled an openness to going before the committee, but it’s an open question how reliable the information he shares will be. 

Elsewhere, McCarthy, or “my Kevin,” as he is known to former President Donald Trump, faced his caucus in person for the first time after reporting from The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns revealed that he criticized the former president and a couple of GOP House members in the wake of the January 6, 2021, insurrection. While some members of his caucus seemed unwilling to forgive McCarthy for this, for worrying that some in his conference could incite violence, and professing hope that some more vocal Republicans would be kicked off Twitter, others indicated that it was water under the bridge. McCarthy received a standing ovation during the House Republican Conference meeting on Tuesday.

 /  In honor of Earth Day, TNR’s climate coverage is free to registered users until April 29. Start reading now.

Whom to watch?

Pennsylvania state Senator Doug Mastriano. Mastriano, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, was subpoenaed by the committee back in February. He was supposed to appear before it in March. He didn’t show up. During a debate on Wednesday night, Mastriano was asked about refusing to comply with the subpoena.

Mastriano was asked by one of the debate co-hosts, “What do you say to Republican voters tonight, specifically those who might be concerned that there are still legal issues ahead of you on that?” 

Mastriano responded, “There are no legal issues.”

Further reading:

·       The Hill has a rundown of the list of lawmakers whom House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy criticized in the audio published by The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns. 

·       After the audio’s release, McCarthy moved quickly to try and shore up support among the Republican caucus—to some success, according to Axios’s Andrew Solender

Best quote of the week on January 6

“Sorry, I don’t recall,” Marjorie Taylor Greene said again, on Thursday, at a press conference, when asked about whether she suggested Trump declare martial law in order to stay in office.