By Shane Madden
The Jan. 6 Select Committee hearings are well underway with four days of television coverage in the books. The Committee has been tasked with investigating the circumstances and actions of individuals within former President Trump’s circle of influence (including the president himself) which culminated in the events of Jan. 6 2021, when several thousand devout Trump supporters surrounded the Capitol and stopped an official act of Congress. Each day has concentrated on a specific aspect of what the committee calls a conspiratorial effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Day One: What happened on Jan. 6?
The Select Committee spent the brunt of day one reminding the American people why these hearings are taking place, airing never before seen body-cam footage of the assault capitol police officers endured. The images depicted have been described as a “war scene” by the officers themselves. View the footage here.
Following the footage, the court heard from General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, regarding the calls he received, and most importantly the call he did not receive, from President Donald Trump while the Capitol was under siege.
“There were two or three calls with Vice President Pence, he was very animated, and he issued very explicit, very unambiguous orders to Secretary Miller to ‘get the military down here, get the guard down here, put down this situation,’” Milley said.
Milley received no such call from Trump, who didn’t tweet for his followers to go home despite staffers’ pleas for hours after the assault began.
The second half of this first hearing focused on two white supremacist groups, The Oathkeepers and Proud Boys. According to the evidence presented during the hearing, these groups organized and mobilized in the days before Jan. 6 with the intention of disrupting the counting of the votes and occupying vital government buildings. They even went so far as to stockpile weapons and ammunition in various hotels in the surrounding area.
Day Two: What took place in the White House and on the campaign trail in the days leading up to Jan. 6?
The Committee spent day two of the hearings playing testimonies from top Trump campaign officials and lawyers, exclusively Republicans, and quickly a pattern was revealed. Despite being repeatedly told by those closest to him, including Attorney General Bill Barr and Chief Counsel Pat Cipollone, that he had lost the election and that they had exhausted all their legal options, Trump refused to listen.
Despite the campaign’s acknowledgement of defeat, they continued to ask for donations to a non-existent “election defense fund,” allegedly scamming loyal Trump supporters out of $250 million dollars.
The committee then took a moment to highlight that over 840 people have been charged as a result of their participation in the Jan. 6 riot, but no consequences have been dealt to those in Trump’s inner circle who spurred them to action.
“As one conservative editorial board recently put it, ‘Mr. Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on Jan. 6 and he is still doing it,’” Rep. Liz Cheney (RWyoming) said.
Day Three: Presidential Peer Pressure and who is John Eastman?
Day three felt bigger and more diabolical with details revealed about how, prior to Jan. 6, in memos and in White House meetings, John Eastman, a conservative law professor, advanced and sold Trump on the legal theory that Vice President Pence had the power to unilaterally reject electors from “contested states”.
Mike Pence then contacted his former lawyer Greg Jacob to ask about the legality of this theory, who responded by saying he would send over a memo in the morning regarding this theory and the rules surrounding the counting of the votes during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
“Mr. Jacobs, when you looked at this theory, what did you conclude?” Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) asked.
“We concluded that what you have is a sentence in the constitution that is inartfully drafted. But the Vice President’s first instinct when he heard this theory, was there was no way that our framers (of the constitution) – who abhorred concentrated power, who had broken away from the tyranny of George the third – would ever have put one person, particularly not a person who had a direct interest in the outcome since they were on the ticket for the election, in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs had one more important conversation to shed light on. This one on the night of Jan. 5 with Eastman, the man with the plan.
“Mr. Jacob, you discussed and even debated at length with Dr. Eastman. Did Dr. Eastman ever tell you what he thought the Supreme Court would do if it had to decide this issue?” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-California) asked.
“I pressed him on the point, I said, ‘John, if the Vice President did what you’re asking him to do, we would lose nine to nothing in the Supreme Court wouldn’t we?’ He (Eastman) initially started with ‘well maybe we’d lose 7-2’ and after some further discussion admitted ‘yeah you’re right, we’d lose nine to nothing.’” Jacobs said.
In this testimony, the committee established that not only was the plan illegal, but Eastman reportedly knew it was illegal and pushed Trump to set it in motion regardless.
Day Four: Pressure applied to State Election Officials
Day four of the Jan. 6 Committee hearings detailed the pressure campaign, both public and private, waged against state election officials across the country. The hearing featured testimony from three Republicans who felt the heat in the days following the 2020 election: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, his deputy Gabe Sterling, and Arizona House of Representatives Speaker Rusty Bowers.
Both Bowers and Raffensberger detailed conversations with Trump and his legal team. According to their testimony, Trump asked Raffensberger for assistance in finding just enough votes to flip the state, and Bowers to call a Special Session of Congress to decertify the election, despite the knowledge it would be illegal to do so.
Raffensberger also came with receipts to debunk, beyond any reasonable doubt, any meaningful election fraud allegations in Georgia.
“Sir, is there any way you could have lawfully changed the result in the state of Georgia and somehow explained it away as recalculation?” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) asked.
“No, the numbers are the numbers, the numbers don’t lie,”Raffensberger replied. “We had many allegations and we investigated every single one of them. In fact, I challenged my team, did we miss anything? They said there were over 66,000 underaged voters, we found there was actually zero… They said that there was 2,423 non-registered voters, there was zero. They said there was 2,056 felons, we identified 74 or less that were still on a felony sentence… In their lawsuits they allege 10,315 dead people voted. We had found two when I wrote my letter to Congress dated Jan. 6, and subsequently found two since then. So that’s four, not 10,000.”
The Committee then took a moment to establish and explain the harassment and abuse of election officials via their own personal testimony and using Trump’s own tweets and video statements as evidence.
Day one found its way to primetime TV and garnered as many viewers as an average Sunday Night Football game (about 20 million), indicating that many Americans are watching and waiting for the culmination of this year-long endeavor.
The Committee is set to meet again Thursday, June 23, at 1 p.m., and will detail the ways in which Trump allegedly weaponized the Justice Department in his attempt to overturn the election.