What to watch for when the Jan. 6 hearings resume next week

A bank of photographers taking pictures of a woman and a man seated at a witness table in an ornate hearing room
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Bombshell testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has led to new questions that the Jan. 6 committee hopes to get answered.

Get ready for another round of Jan. 6 hearings.

The House committee investigating the 2021 Capitol insurrection originally planned six of them, each focused on a different aspect of President Trump’s efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 election. But the panel has extended its timeline for presenting evidence to the public as new information has been uncovered.

The committee capped its first round of hearings on June 28 with bombshell testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked under former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Hutchinson testified that Trump attacked a Secret Service agent in an effort to go to the Capitol after his Jan. 6 speech and that he encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol despite knowing some of them were armed. She described several moments when White House counsel expressed concerns that the former president’s actions could lead to criminal charges.

For legal experts, her testimony opened up new questions that they hope the next set of hearings will answer. She and other witnesses have also encouraged people to come forward with facts they didn’t realize were relevant, said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican on the committee.

“There will be way more information,” Kinzinger told CNN Sunday. “Stay tuned.”

The next hearing is scheduled for July 12. Here’s what to watch for as the committee continues its investigation:

Cipollone set to testify

Cipollone is set to testify before the committee in a closed door interview Friday after being subpoenaed last week, according to the New York Times. The interview will be videotaped and transcribed.

The former White House lawyer has emerged as a key figure in the investigation. In her testimony, Hutchinson said Cipollone warned her that they would be charged “with every crime imaginable” if Trump went to the Capitol after his Jan. 6, 2021, speech at the Ellipse near the White House.

The committee subpoenaed Cipollone a day after Hutchinson’s testimony, stating that he had information about efforts Trump and his allies undertook to subvert the 2020 election and disrupt the certification of the results, according to a letter sent to him from committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

Thompson wrote that Cipollone sat for an informal interview with the committee in April but declined to give an on-the-record statement or cooperate further. Since that April interview, the committee chairman said the panel had obtained evidence about which Cipollone is “uniquely positioned to testify.”

Cipollone could prove to be a valuable witness, or he could stonewall the committee, claiming either attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

Lara Brown, a professor and director of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, said she also wanted to hear from the members of Congress who asked for pardons and from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who spoke with Trump while the attack on the Capitol occurred. The committee subpoenaed Reps. McCarthy, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama in May.

Brown said the committee should refer them to the House Ethics Committee over their refusal to testify.

“While they are putting their partisan duty above their constitutional duty, they are also abrogating their duty to the institution of Congress itself,” she said.

The committee could also pursue testimony from Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ginni Thomas communicated with Meadows and state lawmakers in Arizona, imploring them to help undermine the 2020 election results. The committee also has obtained emails between her and John Eastman, a conservative California lawyer who played a key role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Clarence Thomas was the only Supreme Court justice to vote to block Congress from receiving the Trump administration’s records.

A lawyer for Ginni Thomas told the committee that she would not voluntarily testify.

“That’s a battle that we may well see unfolding,” said Lisa Graves, a former deputy assistant attorney general under the Clinton administration. “How that would play out in the hearings that remain is uncertain.”

Fallout from Hutchinson’s testimony

Hutchinson’s testimony also renewed interest in hearing from Meadows and Secret Service agent Robert Engel. The House voted to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress in December after he refused to comply with a subpoena. The Justice Department did not charge him.

Hutchinson testified that former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato told her Trump lunged at Engel in a vehicle when the president learned the Secret Service would not take him to the Capitol on Jan. 6. She said Engel was in the room when Ornato shared this account and did not dispute it.

Since then, there have been reports that Engel is willing to testify on the record that Trump never attacked him. Trump and his allies have also disputed parts of her testimony.

Committee members have defended her, pointing out that she testified under oath while those reportedly disputing her testimony have not, and future hearings may provide more evidence to support what she said or continue to make clear what parts of her comments have been shared by others.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a member of the Jan. 6 committee, told MSNBC last week that Ornato “did not have as clear of memories from this period of time” as Hutchinson did.

“I think what we need to focus on, though, is that the idea that the president wanted to go to the Capitol is corroborated by a lot of different witnesses,” she said.

Will there be more evidence to support criminal charges?

The biggest unknown is whether Trump and his allies will face criminal charges.

Committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told ABC News on Sunday that the committee could decide to make multiple criminal referrals to the Department of Justice.

“We’ll make a decision about it,” she said, adding that the department “doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral.”

Committee members have also said they will make criminal referrals in cases in which they determine people are seeking to intimidate witnesses. Cheney ended the June 28 hearing by presenting evidence of potential witness tampering. One unnamed witness told the committee they received phone calls from people interested in their testimony in which they were reminded Trump reads the transcripts and encouraged to be team players to stay in the former president’s good graces.

“This is the code of crime families,” Graves said. “That sort of raises the question of ... who are they trying to keep from testifying? Who are they trying to influence and manipulate or tamper with?”

Those questions could be the subject of a future hearing, she said.

Legal experts say that after Hutchinson’s testimony, there also appears to be more evidence that could lead to Trump facing charges for inciting a riot, obstructing the electoral count or conspiracy to defraud the United States. Those charges would come from the Department of Justice, where Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland is facing increasing pressure to prosecute the former president.

“I assess a high, high likelihood of state and/or federal prosecution of Trump and others,” Norm Eisen, who served as counsel to Democrats during the first Trump impeachment, said on a call with reporters June 30. “Despite promising not to do a criminal case, [the committee is] very much articulating one.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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