January 6 committee mulling prime time, televised hearings as Sean Hannity and Mike Pence latest to be called

Aide says ‘select committee’s business meetings so far have been held in the evening, and that’s certainly an option ... for future hearings’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 05 January 2022 15:04
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Related video: Trump cancels Jan. 6 news conference, will discuss Capitol riot in Arizona next week

The House Select Committee investigating the 6 January attack on the Capitol may hold primetime televised hearings to garner attention for what happened in Washington DC almost a year ago.

The panel views its eyewitnesses as antidotes to doubts and misinformation about that day’s events pushed by former President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies.

“Members are still discussing potential formats and timing for the committee’s hearings,” a committee staffer told Axios. “The Select Committee views upcoming hearings as one of its most important opportunities to lay out facts and provide answers to the American people about the January 6th attack and its causes.”

The aide added that the committee wants to “tell a story” and reach “as many people as we can. The select committee’s business meetings so far have been held in the evening, and that’s certainly an option ... for future hearings”.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a MississippiDemocrat, told Bloomberg that a “series of hearings” could begin in late March or early April. They could last into the summer, Axios reported.

“The public needs to know, needs to hear from people under oath about what led up to Jan. 6th, and to some degree, what has continued after January 6,” Mr Thompson told Bloomberg.

Most public hearings are conducted during the day and broadcast on the public affairs network C-SPAN. While primetime hearings wouldn’t necessarily create partisan bickering within the panel as its two anti-Trump Republicans – Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois – wants the story of the insurrection told, it could prompt other congressional Republicans to renew their efforts to delegitimize the committee’s work.

The panel consists of seven Democrats in addition to the two members of the GOP and is investigating the Capitol riot conducted by a swarm of Trump supporters as they tried to stop the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

The majority of the panel’s work during the last six months has taken place behind closed doors, with Mr Thompson noting that they have collected 45,000 documents and interviewed more than 300 witnesses.

The panel’s requests for testimony have been rejected by some Trump allies, such as his former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Mr Bannon has been indicted for criminal contempt for refusing to testify with his trial set for July. The House voted last month to hold Mr Meadows in contempt, sending the case to the Justice Department.

Mr Thompson said the panel is likely going to invite the House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to testify voluntarily. Mr McCarthy has said that he spoke to Mr Trump on 6 January during the insurrection.

“He did make a strong statement right after Janury 6, putting the blame on the White House,” Mr Thompson said. “So, we need to hear from him.”

The minority leader has since pulled back on his criticism and tried to rebuild his partnership with Mr Trump.

Republican House members Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio have also been asked to testify. Mr Perry has refused and Mr Jordan has told Fox News that he harbours “real concerns” about the committee’s work.

The panel sent a letter to Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday, requesting that he answer questions about his communications with Mr Trump, Mr Meadows, and others about the events of 6 January.

Mr Thompson said that live questioning of witnesses would “absolutely” be part of the TV hearings.

He added that the panel “has worked in a bipartisan matter, we’ve gone where the evidence leads us, and we have talked to Democrats and Republicans about January 6”.

Mr Thompson has said that he wants to speak directly to former Vice President Mike Pence, who certified Mr Biden’s election victory under intense pressure from Mr Trump and his supporters to try to overturn the election in Mr Trump’s favour.

Mr Thompson said he wants Mr Pence to voluntarily speak to the panel about what he saw and the conversations he was a part of on the day of the riot and in the days leading up to it.

“I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee,” Mr Thompson told CNN on Tuesday. “We have not formally asked. But if he offered, we’d gladly accept. Everything is under consideration.”

“His life was at risk,” Mr Thompson added. “There were people who had gallows erected on the lawn of the Capitol ostensibly to hang the vice president. There were people on them threatening the life of the vice president. The vice president could not leave the Capitol of the United States because of the riot. He was sequestered in an area in the Capitol. So his life was in danger.”

“I think it’s important that the public needs to know this was the number two person in government,” he added. “And for our president, at that time, to take 187 minutes to say the rioters you need to stop and go home because my vice president is in the building and his life is in danger is an absolute shame.”

“We’d like to know what his security detail told him was going on,” Mr Thompson said.

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