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After nearly 18 months of investigations, the House select committee on the Jan. 6 attack is set to hold its final public meeting Monday. The committee is expected to take the unprecedented step of making criminal referrals, urging the Department of Justice to prosecute former president Donald Trump on multiple charges. Lisa Desjardins looks back at what we’ve learned so far and what the committee’s final report may reveal.
The January 6 congressional committee is set to hold its final public meeting tomorrow. What's expected to be closing arguments after nearly 18 months of investigations, and the committee is expected to take the unprecedented step of making criminal referrals urging the Department of Justice to prosecute former President Donald Trump on multiple charges. Lisa Desjardins looks back at what we've learned so far, and looks ahead to what the committee's final report this week might reveal.
Americans witnessed the mayhem on January 6 in nearly real time. But for those who thought they understood that day, the committee revealed new and often personal perspectives.
Caroline Edwards, U.S. Capitol Police Officer:
What I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I'd seen out of the movies. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. You know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up
Weaving live testimony with scores of video clips. The January 6 committee's 10 public hearings and meetings were TV friendly and mission driven, dissecting why it happened. And focusing around one main allegation.
Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice Chair, January 6 Select Committee: The central cause of January 6 was one man, Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of this would have happened without him.
The committee methodically laid out its arguments, including that the former president pressured Vice President Pence to overturn the election on January 6, and before that, that Mr. Trump tried to manipulate Republican state officials to give himself a win.
Rustry Bowers (R) Speaker, Arizona House of Representatives: I'm going to put my state through that without sufficient proof my state that I swore to uphold, both in constitution and in law. No, sir.
Brad Reffensperger, Secretary of State, Georgia: They said that there was over 66,000 underage voters, we found that there was actually zero. They said that there was 2,423 nonregistered voters, there was zero. They said that there was 2,056 felons. We identified less than 74 or less.
Donald Trump, Former U.S. President:
But this election is now over. Congress has certified the results. I don't want to say the elections.
Another charge that Trump knew he had last but rejected pleased to end his election lie.
William Barr, Former U.S. Attorney General:
To me clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff which I told the President it was bullshit.
One headline witness, 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.
Cassidy Hutchinson, Former Trump White House Aide:
As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was unAmerican. We are watching the Capitol Building get defaced over a lie.
Other evidence came from some rioters themselves saying Trump fueled them.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D) Florida: When you arrived on the lips that morning. Were you planning on going to the Capitol?
Stephen Ayres, January 6th Rioter: No, we didn't actually plan to go down there.
So why did you decide to march to the Capitol?
Well, basically, you know, the President got everybody riled up, or what everybody had on down. So we basically just fall on what he said.
The former president repeatedly rejected it all as a witch hunt. And many Republicans like Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois, have blasted the committee's work as an orchestrated political attack.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R) Illinois: I think the Select Committee began as a partisan process and ended as a partisan process. It's unfortunate because there are many questions that could have and should have been asked.
But the committee with seven Democrats and two Republicans has insisted its focus was warranted.
Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind. Nor can any argument of any kind excuse President Trump's behavior during the violent attack on January 6.
It has been one of Congress's most sweeping investigations with interviews of more than a 1,000 witnesses. And now it wraps up releasing a report tomorrow. And with it another historic move, voting to send criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. And we are told those will include for the former president himself for "PBS News Weekend," I'm Lisa Desjardins.
For more now, on the January 6 committee's final report, I'm joined by Kyle Cheney, Senior Legal Affairs reporter for POLITICO. Kyle, it's great to have you with us.
And you broke the story that the January 6 committee is preparing to vote on urging the Justice Department to pursue at least three criminal charges against former President Donald Trump, including insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the U.S, government.
The lawmakers on that committee have debated the value of these referrals for some time now. Based on your reporting, how did they arrive at considering these three?
Kyle Cheney, Senior Legal Affairs Reporter, POLITICO:
Well, the second thing you mentioned obstruction and conspiracy to defraud that's been a long time coming. They've indicated in court filings. They've already believed that Donald Trump violated those laws. The insurrection charge, that's really the headline sort of eye catching charge that I think they expect to get a lot of headlines saying that the committee concludes that Donald Trump, you know, not just incited this violence, but actually led or inspired an insurrection and gave aid and comfort, which are the keywords in the law to that mob as it attacked the Capitol.
And I think it kind of fits with the case they've been building all along. But now they're saying it meets those statutory elements that can be prosecuted.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, as you know, he said that there could be five to six categories of referrals. Help us understand what those might be, and who might be implicated.
So we don't know what all five or six categories will be. But we've hypothesized some. The Chairman has actually mentioned a couple of them. And those can be things like referrals to the Federal Election Commission for campaign finance violations, can be referrals to the Ethics Committee for members of Congress who may have violated their, you know, House rules or other sort of ethical obligations.
You could see things like referrals with two agencies for inspectors general or the violations of the Hatch Act to the Office of Special Counsel not to be confused with the special counsel investigating January 6. And so those are the types of things the committee could seek referrals for. And we just don't know what the full range is yet.
Yes, I know from following your reporting, you often make the case that the referrals would be largely symbolic, since Congress has no ability to compel prosecutions by the DOJ. But the committee it strikes me It appears they're trying to speak into the history books, potentially, and perhaps, pressure, the DOJ to follow through if in fact they do make these referrals.
You know, I think that case of the pressuring DOJ was more salient in the spring when a lot of what DOJ has now we've now we know they've been doing wasn't known at the time. It was a lot of where is DOJ? What are they doing? Are they even investigating this and the committee at the time very public show of where do your job Merrick Garland. Where are you, you know, hold these people to account.
Now we know they've been mounting an aggressive investigation that in some ways has surpassed the Select Committee. So I think, you know, while the referrals will capture the committee's view of this, DOJ is going to say, you know, thanks for your opinion, what we want is your evidence.
We want your transcripts, your call records, everything you obtained. So we can now decide if we think it meets the elements of a crime.
The committee was reluctant to turn over that evidence earlier in this process now that their work is wrapping up, do you think that they might be inclined to share what they have?
The committee has said, and the chairman has said, we want to make everything public so that it's two birds with one stone it gets to get everyone gets to see it, including the Justice Department. I imagine there'll be some redactions and what gets released publicly for privacy and for other law enforcement sensitive information.
So there is still an open question of does the Justice Department get the unredacted versions of all of this? I'm not sure yet. And I don't think the committee is totally sure yet. But it should all come out or the vast majority of it come out soon after the report is released.
The committee has scheduled what is likely to be its final meeting for 1:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday, your reporting has been at the forefront of all of this. What are you going to be looking for?
I want to see the heart of the hard evidence they have so they will talk about these criminal referrals. How do they justify them? How specific do they get and what more do we learn about not just what Donald Trump did but all of the enablers around him? You know, who made possible you know, the what happened on January 6, and the efforts overturn the election along the way.
Kyle Cheney's Senior Legal Affairs reporter for POLITICO, thanks so much for your time.
Thanks for having me.
Watch the Full Episode
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
Winston Wilde is a coordinating producer at PBS News Weekend.
Andrew Corkery is a national affairs producer at PBS News Weekend.
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