How to watch the Jan. 6 committee’s final public meeting

After 18 months of investigating the events and causes of Jan. 6, 2021, from more than 1,000 closed-door interviews and 10 public hearings, the special House committee is set to release its final report this week.

At the end of its planned public meeting on Dec. 19, the committee will not only vote to approve its final report, but also on whether or not to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department as part of its probe. When it comes to holding anyone criminally responsible, the panel has not disclosed whom it might recommend for consideration. A version of the panel’s final report will be released the same day as the meeting.

Here’s a short guide to what to expect at the upcoming meeting and what we’ve learned so far.

How to watch the Jan. 6 committee’s final public meeting

The public meeting is currently scheduled for Monday, Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. EST.

PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff will lead our special coverage. Ahead of the meeting, digital anchor Nicole Ellis will host a conversation with correspondent Lisa Desjardins, looking back at the committee’s findings.

Check your local listings to find the PBS station near you, or watch online here or in the player above.

You can also follow the PBS NewsHour’s live coverage on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and see highlights on our Instagram.

The committee has described this event as a “business meeting” and not a hearing. That’s because, after a monthslong series of public hearings with a rotating cast of witnesses, Monday’s meeting will feel a little different.

What to expect

U.S. House Select Committee holds public hearing on Jan. 6, 2021 assault on Capitol in Washington

The U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol displays a video of former President Donald Trump at the White House on Dec. 2, 2020, during a public hearing in October. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters that Monday’s meeting would include:

  • A vote on the report. As a formality, the nine-member panel will hold a procedural vote on whether or not to release the final report to the public.
  • Votes on criminal referrals. The motions to watch more closely will be votes on which criminal charges the committee recommends to the Department of Justice. We know, from Chairman Thompson, that the committee has agreed to make some criminal referrals. Given the committee’s focus — and wide reports ahead of the report’s release — it is widely expected that at least some of these referrals will include former President Donald Trump. A criminal referral against a former U.S. president would be a first in U.S. history. Thompson said the panel may also make ethics referrals to the House Ethics Committee or campaign finance referrals to the Federal Election Commission, among other recommendations.
  • A multimedia presentation. Before the votes, the meeting will include a presentation. We expect some highlights of their report and findings, but also listen for the names of people flagged for criminal referrals.

Something to keep in mind

The panel’s referrals are largely symbolic. Congress is able to send criminal referrals to the DOJ, but the decision to ultimately pursue charges rests with federal prosecutors.

To that end, Attorney General Merrick Garland last month tapped Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the DOJ’s multiple investigations involving former President Donald Trump.

GOP critics have long argued that the panel’s investigation has been partisan from the start – even though two Republican House members sit on the committee. The committee must disband within 30 days of releasing its report, but the incoming Republican majority may dissolve it sooner, once it takes over the House in just two weeks.

For a recap of the committee’s work thus far, we made this video that highlights the key moments from each of the hearings from this summer.

What we’ve learned so far

U.S. House holds public hearing on Jan. 6, 2021, assault on Capitol

During a June hearing, former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as displayed on a screen over members of the Jan. 6 committee. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Nearly two years ago, the nation watched as a mob of thousands of Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who testified in one of the Jan. 6 panel’s prime-time hearings this summer, was injured by rioters storming the Capitol grounds that day. She described seeing other officers on the ground, bleeding.

“What I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I had seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said.

In the months since, millions of Americans have watched multiple hearings held by the Jan. 6 committee, which laid out the evidence that shows how former President Donald Trump was the “central cause” of the events that day.

Here’s a brief recap of what we’ve learned so far from the Jan. 6 committee’s work.

A ‘staggering betrayal’

After spending months on building a comprehensive, public record of Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6 attack, the committee voted unanimously in its last televised hearing to subpoena Trump for his testimony. (In return, Trump sued the panel in November to challenge the subpoena.)

The move to subpoena a former president was a rare use of congressional legal muscle against a former president.

Throughout its hearings, the committee’s focus never wavered. Chairman Bennie Thompson said at the Oct. 13 hearing that Trump’s “staggering betrayal” of his oath in office led to an “attack on a pillar of our democracy.”

  • Another standout moment: Liz Cheney’s warning to pro-Trump Republicans: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

Trump’s pressure campaign

The committee methodically laid out its arguments, chiefly that Trump pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election in the Senate, and similarly tried to manipulate Republican officials to declare him the winner.

Republican Rep. Russell “Rusty” Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, was one of several state-level election officials who testified about Trump and his allies’ efforts to interfere with the 2020 election results.

In the June 21 hearing, he described how he rejected requests from the former president and his attorneys to hold a formal hearing or decertify electors.

“You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in history, the history of the United States. And I’m going to put my state through that without sufficient proof? … No sir,” Bowers said.

Trump knew he lost the election

Another major charge from the committee was that Trump knew he lost the 2020 election, but rejected pleas, including from his inner circle, to end his election lie.

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Trump knew the crowd had weapons, wanted to march with them to the Capitol, and spent hours refusing to tell the mob to stop.

“I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed, really, it felt personal. I was really sad,” she told the House committee at the June 28 hearing. “As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

The committee also presented evidence from rioters themselves who said Trump fueled their actions.

  • Another standout moment: Former Attorney General William Barr said Trump became “detached from reality” over baseless election claims.

More on the Jan. 6 investigation from our coverage:

  • Watch: The biggest takeaways from the Jan. 6 hearings this year.
  • One Big Question: How much will the committee focus on the federal law enforcement response to the insurrection in its final report?
  • A Closer Look: New poll shows a slight thaw in President Joe Biden’s approval rating and resilient support for Trump.
  • Perspectives: Vice President Mike Pence on his Jan. 6 experience, confronting Trump and how his 2024 bid would be different.

PBS NewsHour politics producer Matt Loffman contributed to this report.