January 6 Committee to Start Public, Likely Televised, Hearings Next Month

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building is planning to hold public hearings — which will likely be televised — on its main findings in April, presenting the case that former President Donald Trump engaged in criminal behavior.

Court filings from the committee on Wednesday demonstrate that it believes Trump and his associates engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to overturn the 2020 presidential election; this conspiracy includes attempts to use fake electors in the Electoral College to ensure that he would remain in office, despite actually losing to President Joe Biden.

“Evidence and information available to the Committee establishes a good-faith belief that Mr. Trump and others may have engaged in criminal and/or fraudulent acts,” the committee’s legal filing said.

On Friday, the publication The Guardian, citing conversations it had with committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), said that the committee would likely begin public hearings next month. These hearings will showcase how Trump interfered with official congressional business through his false rhetoric and unlawful actions, and will likely be televised, previous comments from committee members have suggested.

Trump’s words were indeed incendiary. On the morning of January 6, 2021, he gave a speech to his loyalists in front of the White House, telling them that their country was being “stolen,” and that they couldn’t take it back “with weakness.” He then encouraged the mob to go to the Capitol while Congress was in session, certifying the Electoral College win for Biden.

“The president’s rhetoric persuaded thousands of Americans to travel to Washington for January 6, some of whom marched on the Capitol, breached security, and took other illegal actions,” Thompson told The Guardian. “The select committee’s hearings will address those issues in detail.”

Thompson added that the hearings in April will feature witnesses who have agreed to speak freely — without being subpoenaed — to discuss what they know regarding Trump’s and his allies’ actions.

One of the main concerns about televised hearings for the January 6 investigation is whether they will be effective in making the case to the American people that charges relating to the attack should eventually be recommended. It’s possible that the hearings could be a flop, some have warned, in terms of garnering attention or persuading people that the investigation is still needed.

Yet polling suggests that most Americans would be interested in hearing what the committee has to say, and that they would likely be receptive to its findings. An Economist/YouGov poll from last month, for example, shows that 49 percent of Americans approve of the January 6 commission’s work, while just 33 percent disapprove. Another 18 percent are unsure.