What to expect from Thursday’s January 6 committee hearing

Congressional panel is expected to unveil summary of its findings so far in Capitol riot probe. Here’s what we know.

Riot police battled violent insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump with tear gas after they stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 riot says it will 'present previously unseen material' during a public hearing on Thursday evening [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]

The congressional committee investigating the deadly riot at the United States Capitol on January 6 last year will hold a public hearing on Thursday to lay out what it has uncovered in its continuing probe.

The hearing, set to begin at 8pm in Washington, DC (24:00 GMT), will be broadcast live on most major US news networks, as the panel seeks to capture the country’s attention and stress the importance of its investigation.

The committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, US media outlets have reported, as it seeks to determine what factors played a role in the storming of the Capitol by a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters.

Here, Al Jazeera looks at what people can expect:

What has the panel said Thursday’s hearing will be about?

The committee says the hearing “will provide the American people with a summary of our findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election”.

It also said it will “present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, [and] preview additional hearings”.

Will anyone testify?

The committee has not publicly said whether anyone will provide live testimony.

But The New York Times and The Associated Press news agency reported this week that a British documentary filmmaker, Nick Quested, who was filming members of the far-right Proud Boys group during the riot, will testify.

Several members of the group, including its former leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, face criminal charges for their alleged involvement in the events of January 6. On Monday, US prosecutors filed seditious conspiracy charges against Tarrio and four Proud Boys.

A Capitol police officer who was injured on January 6 is also expected to deliver live testimony on Thursday, the Times and AP said.

How many public hearings will be held?

Congressman Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chair, told reporters earlier this year that eight public hearings will be held in June.

The second session is set for June 13 at 10am (14:00 GMT), US media outlets reported, but the schedule for subsequent hearings has not been released.

This round of hearings comes after police officers testified before the panel in July 2021 about how they faced off against the mob of Trump supporters.

What new information can we expect?

That, too, is unclear – but experts have said the committee will need to capture the US public’s attention on Thursday if it wants them to keep tuning in to the hearings.

“My guess is that on Thursday part of the hearings will include some new information that hasn’t been released to the press yet,” Alex Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, told Al Jazeera earlier this week.

“I don’t know what that will be, but I would expect that some part of what they’re going to be trying to do is provide a reason for people to watch and keep watching.”

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the vice chair and one of only two Republicans on the House panel, told CBS News’ Sunday Morning programme on Sunday that she was confident the committee’s findings would be compelling.

“People must pay attention. People must watch and they must understand how easily our democratic system can unravel if we don’t defend it,” she said. Cheney also said she believes a conspiracy took place. “It is extremely broad, it is extremely well organised. It’s really chilling.”

What key questions do people want answered?

The central question so far has been what role Trump and members of the former president’s inner circle played in the Capitol riot.

In March, the panel said in a court filing that “evidence and information available to the Committee establishes a good-faith belief that Mr. Trump and others may have engaged in criminal and/or fraudulent acts” in their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

The AP also reported this week that the upcoming hearings will “introduce Americans to a cast of characters … and to what they said and did as Trump and his allies tried to reverse the election outcome”.

That includes Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, and John Eastman, a law professor “who was the architect of the unsuccessful scheme to convince Vice President Mike Pence to halt the certification” of the vote, the news agency said.

Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the US Capitol in Washington
The riot at the Capitol last year stunned the country and raised serious questions about the state of democratic institutions in the US [File: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo]

What power does the committee have?

The committee, which is expected to release a final report in September, can make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, but it is ultimately up to the department to lay any criminal charges.

Where can people watch the hearing?

The January 6 committee typically provides a live broadcast of its meetings on its website.

Most major US television news networks also will broadcast the hearing live, while right-wing Fox News said in a statement that its “primetime programs will cover the hearings as news warrants”.

Source: Al Jazeera