Months after it wrapped its summer series, bookended by prime-time hearings in an eight-part progression that told the sweeping story of the lead-up, the brutal moments and the aftermath of the 2021 attack on the Capitol, the House Jan. 6 committee set a hearing for Thursday with no live witness testimony and no clear trajectory.
But the committee had closely guarded unfinished business: the bold and historic public subpoena of a former president.
“We have left no doubt – none – that Donald Trump led an effort to upend American democracy that directly resulted in the violence of Jan. 6,” Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said. “He is the one person at the center of the story of what happened on Jan. 6. So we want to hear from him.”
The panel made the case that, although its investigation is nearing its close, the threat posed to the nation by Donald Trump – exhibited in the Jan. 6 attack – remains.
“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion,” Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the committee’s vice chairperson, said as she offered the resolution for the subpoena on Thursday. “And every American is entitled to those answers, so we can act now to protect our republic.”
After a months-long break from public events, Thursday’s hearing oscillated between jogging the public’s memory of previously revealed evidence and introducing new disclosures, to round out its picture of Trump’s “multi part plan” to overturn the 2020 election that “led to an attack on a pillar of our democracy.”
The committee drove home the idea it had previously sought to make clear: that Trump knew he had lost the election.
It pointed to Trump’s move to withdraw overseas troops in the final days of his presidency in an apparent attempt to accomplish military goals as evidence that he knew he had lost the election, along with testimony from those close to him that he sometimes mentioned his loss to President Joe Biden privately, while denying it publicly. In recorded testimony, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson characterized Trump’s comments to Meadows as: “I don’t want people to know we’ve lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out.” She also recalled Meadows telling her that Trump “knows it’s over. He knows he lost, but we’re going to keep trying.”
Moreso, it painted the efforts to say Trump had won the election as premeditated.
The committee revealed an Oct. 31, 2020, memo from the head of a conservative group Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, who suggested that Trump should declare victory on election night, before mail-in and absentee ballots were counted.
It pointed to footage of former Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Roger Stone in the days before the 2020 election, which detailed Trump’s plan to declare himself the winner.