Ahead of the Jan. 6 committee’s primetime hearing last night, the panel’s members made no effort to downplay expectations. On the contrary, they seemed to go out of their way to do the opposite.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the Republicans on the bipartisan select committee, declared hours before the presentation, “It’ll change history.”
It was, to be sure, a bold vow. And while it’s impossible to say what might change history, after watching the two-hour event, it’s clear that the panel, its members, and its investigators delivered the goods. Some takeaways of note:
1. Donald Trump bears responsibility for the attack on the Capitol.
Amidst the powerful testimony and never-before-seen videos of the violence, there was a common thread tying it all together. As an NBC News report summarized, “Trump fed the lie that the election was stolen, stoked anger among his supporters who stormed the Capitol and then did nothing when lawmakers, aides and family members implored him to stop the attack.”
It was the former president who summoned radical followers, lied to them, deployed them, and took satisfaction in their violence. As a New York Times analysis added, those who saw the hearing were presented with an indictment of sorts, not just of a rogue president, but of “a would-be autocrat willing to shred the Constitution to hang onto power at all costs.”
Or as Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the committee, put it, “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”
2. Trump was told the truth about his election defeat, but he didn’t care.
Over the course of the two-hour hearing, it became painfully obvious that senior members of the then-president’s team, including influential members of his own family, had repeatedly told Trump that he lost the 2020 election. The group included, among others, then-Attorney General William Barr and Ivanka Trump, who said she trusted Barr’s judgment about the integrity of the results.
It was also of great interest to see a videotaped deposition in which Alex Cannon, a Trump campaign lawyer, testified that he informed then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that he and his team “weren’t finding anything that would be sufficient to change the results in any of the key states.” Meadows responded, “So there’s no there there.”
Jason Miller, another Team Trump insider, told investigators the then-president’s campaign team told the Republican in “clear terms” that he’d lost.
What viewers saw, in other words, was evidence that Trump knew the truth, but perpetrated a fraud anyway. That’s not just politically shocking, it’s also legally relevant.
3. Trump sided with the rioters, even against his own vice president.
As rioters launched their assault, the then-president said his radicalized followers — the ones he’d lied to — “were doing what they should be doing.” Cheney added that testimony will also show that when told of the “Hang Mike Pence” chants, Trump responded, “Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.”
What’s more, amidst the violence, Trump didn’t call any governmental office or agency to defend his own country’s seat of government.
4. Trump’s enablers matter.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel, reflected on Republican members of Congress who’ve defended Trump and the rioters. “I’m from a part of the country where people justify the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching,” the Mississippi congressman said. “I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try to justify the actions of the insurrectionists.”
Cheney added, “Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible. There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
5. The focus on right-wing paramilitary organizations matters.
There were multiple references last night to radical groups such as the Proud Boys, who investigators believe played a key role in the Jan. 6 violence.
An Associated Press report added, “Thompson said Trump’s call for people to come on Jan. 6 ‘energized’ members of the Proud Boys and other extremist groups. They highlighted Trump’s comment at a presidential debate that the Proud Boys should ‘stand back and stand by.’ The panel showed video testimony with a witness named Jeremy Bertino, a member of the Proud Boys, who said the group’s membership ‘tripled, probably’ after Trump’s comment.”
6. There’s a lot more to come.
As NBC News’ report added, “The hearing served as something of a teaser. Over the coming weeks, the panel plans to hold at least six more public hearings and flesh out various pieces of the plot to keep Trump in power.”
7. Once in a while, the truth wins.
Too many Republicans have spent too much time lying, not just about the attack on the Capitol, but also about the Jan. 6 investigation itself. Last night, however, the truth stood tall in the spotlight, and it shined in ways that won’t soon be forgotten.
Postscript: If House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had taken Speaker Nancy Pelosi up on her offer from last year, and there were three far-right Trump allies on the Jan. 6 committee, last night would’ve looked very different.