This is why the House Special Committee’s plan to hold a bipartisan hearing and issue an interim report before this summer was correct. The sooner this happens, the better-and it will have fewer difficulties in mid-term politics.
This is not to say that the investigation is not fast enough. Those who criticize Congress in this regard ignore the reality of good investigations—they are shaped like pyramids. At the bottom, investigators gather a lot of information through various strategies, from informal interviews to recorded testimony to document subpoenas. Next, through the hearing, all information is narrowed down and concentrated, key facts are screened and hypotheses are tested. Finally, the investigator issued one or more reports, listing clear fact-based narratives, and putting forward conclusions and remediation suggestions.
We have now basically completed the first stage of the committee’s thorough investigation. The committee has received thousands of documents and interviewed more than 300 witnesses.
We know more about the terrible events that occurred before January 6, including the “war room” at the Willard Hotel on January 5, Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani and other Trump loyalties Proponents plan to overturn the legitimate election results there. We are more aware of the extensive publicity carried out by the Trump campaign to state representatives, requiring them to appoint false “alternate” voter lists. We know that on January 6, the defeated president and his team watched the violence and chaos in the Capitol for more than three hours and met desperate requests for help, while former President Donald Trump did not speak out.
When the witness refused to cooperate during the first fact-gathering stage, Congress fought back hard and submitted Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the Department of Justice because they blatantly refused to cooperate. After surrendering in contempt, Bannon likened the charges to a witch hunt; on the other hand, Meadows claimed that administrative privileges prevented him from testifying. When Trump inserted an unfounded executive privilege argument in an attempt to hide his government records, the committee quickly and fiercely filed a lawsuit-winning in the district court and appeal level in just three months, and now requires the Supreme Court to expedite ruling.
As the committee’s investigation enters the next major chapter, the hearing will require those Trump administration documents. If the report is to be released in the summer, we can logically expect it to begin as early as the first quarter of this year. The hearings are essential to strengthen the committee’s own investigations and to focus the nation’s attention on the truth. We have seen it many times before—from the Watergate hearings, to the Iranian opposition, to the first impeachment of Trump.
Then comes the third stage: reporting. The interim report is scheduled to be released early this summer, and the last report will be released later. The committee’s schedule reflects the reality that the closer we get to the midterm exams in November, the more politicized our views on their every move. The bipartisan cooperation of the committee’s operations is critical to the legitimacy of its work, and they may realize that issuing a report before the start of the fall campaign season will continue to maintain this record.
Most importantly, we need to learn more about why Trump failed to quell the rebellion for so long after the Capitol was breached. The report’s fact-finding on this and many other issues is critical to helping the American people understand the truth about January 6 and helping government leaders at all levels to take action to prevent another rebellion. Although in a recent CBS poll, more than most Republicans said that the criminal invasion of the Capitol was properly described as “defending freedom,” the truth is clear: According to a poll by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, 62% Of Americans, and even 29% of Republicans, think the survey is appropriate. The leaders of both parties in Congress and the state and local officials who oversee our elections have been fighting the “big lie” for more than a year. They ask governments at all levels to take action, and timely temporary truth statements will help.
But the committee must not stop there. After the facts are ascertained, their importance should be considered in accordance with the law. Part of it is to look forward to and recommend new legislation to prevent things like January 6th from happening again. Another equally important part is to review and, if supported by evidence, refer criminal cases to federal and state prosecutors.
This referral has a long bipartisan history. The committee’s interim report should detail all potential violations and require the prosecutor to investigate. After all, the possibility of being sued is also an important part of accountability.
We disagree with those who urge Congress to stay away from criminal referrals in the name of non-partisanship. Congress was one of the victims of the January 6th attack, and like any victim, it has the privilege-here, the responsibility-to tell law enforcement what happened.
There are good reasons to believe that the conspirators against our democracy may have violated federal law. Among other applicable provisions, Liz Cheney, vice chairman of the Wyoming Republican Committee, stated that 18 USC 1512 prohibits conspiracy to “corruptly… obstruct” official procedures. A federal judge (appointed by Trump) has determined that the vote count of Congress on January 6 is indeed a formal procedure under the statute.
Local and state prosecutors may also follow the January 6 report to gain insight into the various efforts of planners to sabotage and steal elections. Fani Willis, the District Attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, announced an investigation into Trump’s alleged attempt to interfere in the Georgia elections-including his call to request Secretary of State Brad Ravensberg (Brad Raffensperger) only “found 11,780 ballots” and these ballots do not exist. state. The committee’s investigation is likely to provide Willis with more information about Trump and his associates—in fact, we know that Prosecutor Fulton is already in communication with committee staff. Trump denies all wrongdoing.
Georgia is not necessarily the only state where Trump and his allies have tried to improperly influence election officials and obstruct vote counting. For example: In November 2020, Trump summoned Michigan state legislators to the White House to try to persuade them to overthrow the approximately 154,000 votes that Biden won in the state. The committee may have evidence of this apparently shameless overexpansion—or evidence of soliciting election fraud in other states.
Once the interim report comes out, any referral will be in the hands of federal, state and local attorneys. Of course, a referral is not an order-the prosecutor must still conduct an independent investigation and make his own decision on whether to prosecute. For attentive prosecutors like US Attorney General Merrick Garland, independent investigations take time, which is why referrals should be made as soon as possible.
We understand the impatience with Garland in some respects, but his thoughtful approach makes sense. He lowered the political temperature of the Justice Department and restored order. He is carefully investigating hot issues-letting the committee do its work, then picking up clues and following their leadership. We believe that he will take any referral seriously, and we think his handling of the Bannon case proves this. Bannon was charged with contempt of Congress in November.
One year before January 6, we are finally close to knowing what Trump and his allies are willing to do to steal the election. But we need more information and more responsibilities. The interim report did not come quickly enough.