January 6 revelations provide insight into what’s at stake in prime-time ratings

It is now clear that the committee – which has said the first in its series of hearings this month will take place next Thursday evening – plans to recreate the horror of the crazy day when supporters of the then president, Donald Trump, effectively attempted to stage a coup after the 2020 election and to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. New insights into the mountain of evidence amassed by the committee suggest the panel will take viewers deep into Trump’s inner circle before and during the insurgency to ask the question of why he didn’t try to stop him at the time. over the hours.

A trove of shocking texts sent to Mark Meadows, for example, show former aides, supporters and even family members pleading with the White House chief of staff to persuade Trump to intervene. A former Republican congressman who acted as a consultant to the committee, told CNN he was so disturbed by the posts – and what they revealed about the conspiracy-fueled mania that is bubbling around the world. of Trump – that he had to get up and leave his screen several times.
Thursday’s news that former Attorney General William Barr testified before the committee suggests another part of the panel’s narrative. Barr concluded and publicly stated that there was no significant voter fraud in 2020, much to Trump’s fury.

The then president’s refusal to heed his advice could help the committee argue that he is guilty of a conscious dereliction of duty as he went ahead with his nefarious plan to steal power regardless. This series of extreme schemes culminated in Trump inciting the mob that marched to and invaded the Capitol, sending lawmakers running for their lives in a historic assault on American democracy that remains unbelievable.

“The most heinous offense ever committed by a president”

The House select committee was set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, after efforts to create a bipartisan commission on one of the most notorious days in history collapsed when Republicans who tried to whitewash the former president’s role pulled out.

The panel includes two Republicans, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both of whom have been ostracized by colleagues for breaking with the Trump personality cult that has consumed the GOP conference.

Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee, vowed in April that the hearings will tell a story “that will truly blow the roof off the House. It is the story of the most heinous and despicable political offense ever staged. by a president and his supporters”.

But the Maryland Democrat is setting the bar high for anticipation amid comparisons between the centerpieces of the Jan. 6 committee and the Senate hearings that opened up the Watergate scandal that shot President Richard Nixon 50 years ago. year.

These hearings will cover events that took place 17 months ago at a time that, while horrific, is beginning to fade from public consciousness. So much has happened since then – the war in Ukraine, new waves of Covid-19 and a spike in the cost of living and petrol – that it can be difficult to keep viewers focused. , not to mention the series of deadly mass shooting broadcasts occupying the airwaves and the attention of Congress. Add to that the power of the conservative media machine, which can ignore or skew the committee’s findings, and the Republicans who have worked overtime to discredit it, and there’s reason to wonder just how much of an impact the hearings will have. impact.

In many ways, the committee will try to do the impossible: shock open-minded Americans with new details about a presidency that included two impeachments and baffling gullibility almost every day.

Yet despite multiple crises vying for voters’ attention, the hearings mark an important moment in American national life. Nothing is more fundamental to solving the nation’s challenges than the survival of its democracy. And there were clear signs Thursday that the committee planned to build a case that the ex-president and some key lieutenants still pose a clear and present danger to the republic should he run for president again and win. in 2024.

Meadows faced demands that Trump send the crowd home

Some of the evidence emerging about Trump’s conduct on January 6 is staggering. Texts sent to Meadows, for example, show members of Trump’s family, former aides and people in his wider political orbit imploring the then chief of staff to step in and get Trump to call his Capitol crowd.

“He needs to condemn (sic) this shit. ASAP,” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., emailed at 2:53 p.m. The ex-president’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, texted Meadows about 10 minutes later, saying, “”TELL THEM TO GO HOME!!!”

“POTUS should get on the air and defuse this. Extremely important,” Tom Price, former Trump health and human services secretary and former GOP congressman from Georgia, emailed at 3:13 p.m., according to messages seen and reported exclusively by CNN. The texts are significant because they show that many around Trump knew how terrible the assault on the Capitol was and believed he could and should have stopped it. Such evidence can help the committee if it seeks to prove that Trump failed in his duties as president in his final report.

Denver Riggleman, a former Republican representative from Virginia who worked for the House Select Committee as a technical adviser, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night that the posts helped show the intense and even depraved nature of efforts to overturn the election.

“It’s almost a roadmap for what happened. And a lot of the lyrics didn’t come out,” Riggleman said. The former congressman said the material, including YouTube videos and conspiracy theories sent to Meadows about non-existent voter fraud, was sickening and had chilling implications.

“It’s the horror, because these are people who serve our government. And you can see, you know, almost QAnon and other conspiracy theories had flooded the Republican Party to the highest levels. … C It’s absolutely stunning that these individuals are stepping into a position of power – doing politics.”

The texts sent to Meadows, obtained by CNN, are among 2,319 such messages he selectively gave to the committee in December before he stopped cooperating with its investigation. They can be viewed on CNN.com.

Pence aides invited to testify

New clues to the committee’s intentions became clear on Thursday with its announcement that the first prime-time hearing will take place next Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

The panel said it would present never-before-seen material and provide the American people with a summary of the “coordinated, multi-step effort” to overturn the 2020 election results. The first meeting is intended to set the stage for further hearings. and will provide insight into the committee’s case after hearing from hundreds of witnesses and gathering massive amounts of evidence – often without the cooperation and outright obstruction of the former president’s team. .

The first list of witnesses has not yet been announced. But CNN has learned that two people directly connected to Pence — who was presiding over the certification of Biden’s election victory when the insurgency broke out — are among those who have received invitations to appear. Former Pence chief counsel Greg Jacob and former federal judge J. Michael Luttig were briefed by the committee on their possible testimony.

Additionally, CNN has learned that former Pence chief of staff Marc Short is expected to be called to testify.

If these witnesses come forward with credible testimony about Trump’s behavior during the nearly three-hour period the riot unfolded, they could lead the public to an explosive new understanding of the events of the terrible day of the 6 January 2021. It’s up to voters to decide if what they learn is a disqualifying factor for the former president, who shows no willingness to end his political career.

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