The committee’s central task was to reveal the full scope of Trump’s unprecedented attempt to stop the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. This includes Trump’s attempts to reverse his defeat in 2020 by putting pressure on state and federal officials, and what committee members say was his “dereliction of duty” on Jan. 6 as his supporters ransacked the U.S. Capitol.
Lawmakers will try to convict Trump in the court of public opinion — and that’s all they can do, because it’s not in their power to indict Trump. But they have an emerging legal basis for the claim that Trump broke the law, thanks to a landmark court ruling from a federal judge who said it was “more likely” that Trump committed crimes on Jan. 6.
These meticulously designed sessions will be the commission’s first opportunity to show the audience what they have learned from more than 1,000 witness interviews and 135,000 documents. A flood of new information has emerged about January 6 since Trump’s February 2021 impeachment trial, in which he was acquitted of one count of “inciting sedition.”
“We will tell the story of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election and obstruct the transition of power,” the MP said. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who served on the committee, told the Washington Post earlier this week, adding that the committee “found evidence of coordinated planning and deliberate activity” related to the January 6 events.
Here’s a breakdown of what the committee — and the press — found out about Trump’s leadership role in the anti-democratic scheme, and how it all fits in with the ongoing criminal investigations.
Trump’s electoral sabotage before January 6
The committee interviewed officials from Michigan and Georgia, among other states, as Trump tried unsuccessfully to persuade local officials to rescind Biden’s votes and name him the winner. Trump has also attempted to enlist senior Justice Department officials to assist in these efforts.
Lawmakers also delved into the “fake voters” plot, which was led by Trump campaign officials and was an attempt to undermine the Electoral College process in December 2020.
Congressional investigators obtained hundreds of emails from right-wing attorney John Eastman, who directly advised Trump to pursue legally questionable tactics to stay in office. This included a plan by then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw the election to Trump on January 6 while he presided over a joint session of Congress to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory.
In another victory for the commission, the judge in Eastman’s civil case said Tuesday that a potential criminal scheme between Trump and Eastman to obstruct Electoral College proceedings was formed in December 2020, weeks earlier than previously scheduled. The ruling paves the way for the commission to obtain additional emails that Eastman tried to conceal.
Trump and his allies pushed these efforts forward, promoting the “big lie,” even after top officials, including then-Attorney General Bill Barr, told him that the election results were legitimate and that he lost. Even Eastman admitted in emails at the time that his plans were not legally sound. The lawmakers said this indicated that Trump was in a rotten state of mind.
“The data will be persuasive from the commission,” the former MP. Denver Rigelman, who was a Republican adviser to the committee, said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” last week. “I think it is up to the American people, once presented, to come up – using facts, not fantasies or opinions – about what the president’s guilt, and the people around him, is.”
Trump, Eastman and other GOP figures implicated have denied any wrongdoing. Trump spokesmen did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Trump postpones duty during Capitol riots
Once Trump failed to prevent states from ratifying their results, he began to focus on January 6 as his last chance to cling to power. The facts of that tragic day are well known, but the commission will attempt to retell a clear account of the chaos at home: Trump knew his supporters could turn violent, but he provoked them anyway, and was careless when he didn’t. Don’t try to stop the violence.
“They’ve been warned that January 6th is likely to turn violent,” the Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the Republican Committee, said at a committee hearing in March.
Pence’s staff were so worried before January 6 that they warned the US intelligence community that Trump might fuel violence against him, because he was not willing to cancel the election, according to the New York Times. (The Secret Service has since claimed it “didn’t know” that conversation had taken place.) It is possible that some of Pence’s top advisers, who cooperated with the commission’s investigation, will be called as witnesses during the public hearings.
Senior Republican officials and right-wing media personalities knew in real time that only Trump could take down the mob and end the deadly massacre at the Capitol, according to text messages those Trump allies sent to Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. On January 6, CNN obtained his texts after he partially complied with a subpoena to deliver messages.
Despite those pleas, according to committee members, Trump spent 187 minutes during the riots watching television and working on phones, apparently happy with how his supporters fought for him in the Capitol. He reacted OK when he learned that some rioters were chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” according to testimony the commission obtained from a promoter’s aid.
To focus on these crucial hours inside the White House, the committee interviewed people who were there with Trump that day, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Clips of their videotaped deposits will likely be played at public hearings for the first time — just some of the previously unseen details that lawmakers have raised.
Trump under criminal investigation in Georgia
The hearings will likely delve into one of the most notorious episodes of Trump’s attempts to sabotage the election: his phone call with Georgia’s chief election official, in which Trump falsely claimed the election was rigged and begged him to “find” enough votes to let him win.
The explosive call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Ravensberger was serious enough to launch a criminal investigation by Atlanta prosecutors. The attorney general there formed a special grand jury and began issuing subpoenas, expanding the investigation to also include the “fake voters” plot to subvert the results in Georgia.
Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis, a Democrat, said she does not adhere to the political agenda in her investigation and will follow the facts wherever they lead. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. The investigation is widely regarded as one of Trump’s most serious ongoing legal threats.
Will the Justice Department’s investigation reach Trump?
Federal investigators have arrested more than 800 alleged rioters, and have made arrests in nearly every state. But the question remains (especially among Democrats): Is the Justice Department going after Trump?
There is some evidence that prosecutors are moving up the food chain. FBI agents have interviewed Republicans in Michigan and Georgia who were implicated in the “fake voters” plot, putting the investigation another step closer to Trump’s orbit. The Justice Department is asking eyewitnesses for the role of Eastman and former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, according to the New York Times.
Federal grand jury subpoenas were issued to at least one figure who planned pro-Trump rallies in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, and the organizer, Ali Alexander, says he is complying. The investigators’ interest in Iskander shows that they are not only looking at the troublemakers themselves.
Separately, the Justice Department has charged former Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro with contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas from the committee. (They maintain their innocence.) Prosecutors refused to indict Meadows and another senior White House aide, Dan Scavino, alleged that executive privilege protected them from having to testify.
It is unclear how far the Justice Department will go to investigate Trump. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he is “committed to holding the Jan. 6 perpetrators accountable, at any level, under the law,” but several legal analysts have expressed doubts he will go after Trump, based on the slow investigation and challenges of commissioning a former president.