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The House Jan. 6 committee is revealing its findings on live TV starting Thursday

The two witnesses at the first hearing — U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and filmmaker Nick Quested — will both focus on the violence of the Jan. 6 assault.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in Washington
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump riot in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
Leah Millis / Reuters file photo
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WASHINGTON -- After 10 months of working behind closed doors, the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol will start putting its cards on the table at a series of televised hearings this month.

The first session is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. Central time — during prime time.

There have been plenty of revelations over the past year about the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. But most of the news coming out of the committee has been about its battles to get documents and depose witnesses, especially people in or close to the Trump administration.

Those legal fights are important, but they also seem like inside baseball to folks outside the Beltway. The hearings that start this week — the first held by the committee in more than 10 months — will be much more substantive, showcasing witnesses and records that are key to understanding what happened on Jan. 6 and why.

"We will present the evidence we have gathered through both live testimony and a variety of media, so as to be both highly engaging and deeply informative," Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the committee, said in a statement. "Ultimately, through these hearings and our final report, we will set out the full story about how the tragedy on January 6 came about — an important step to ensuring such an attack on our democracy never happens again."

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To help you get up to speed in time for Thursday's hearing, here is a summary of the key issues, the committee's aims and the reasons these proceedings will be far less raucous than President Donald Trump's two impeachments.

What will Thursday's hearing be about?

Think of it as the opening argument in the case the committee plans to build in the court of public opinion.

"We are going to tell the story of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block the transfer of power," committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told the Washington Post.

Despite the lack of cooperation from some high-profile insiders, the committee has amassed an enormous amount of evidence, gathering phone records and emails and conducting more than 1,000 interviews. It now wants to distill that information into a narrative that's easy to grasp.

Former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia, who advised the committee, told CNN that the panel would lay out "the bottom line upfront" — summarizing the case first, then presenting the evidence for its conclusions over the course of the six hearings.

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Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington.
Samuel Corum / TNS file photo

The two witnesses at the first hearing — U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and filmmaker Nick Quested — will both focus on the violence of the Jan. 6 assault. Edwards suffered a traumatic brain injury that day, the committee said — the first of many injuries to law enforcement officers during the attack. Quested, a documentarian who was following the Proud Boys, captured the buildup to the riot and its first moments.

Will there be fireworks? Bombshells?

The committee hired a former TV news executive whose resume includes producing "Nightline" and "20/20" to help with the hearings, so it's definitely trying to keep viewers glued to the proceedings.

Committee members believe their investigation has struck a motherlode of outrage. In a speech in April, Raskin (who led the House's second effort to impeach Trump) said the findings would "blow the roof off the House" because they would describe "the most heinous and dastardly political offense ever organized by a president and his followers and his entourage."

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Speaking Monday at an event hosted by the Washington Post, Raskin noted that majorities in the House and Senate had already voted to find that Trump had incited the riot on Jan. 6.

"But the Select Committee has found evidence about a lot more than incitement here, and we are going to be laying out the evidence about all of the actors who were pivotal to what took place on Jan. 6," he said.

As for Thursday's hearing, the committee has promised only to present "previously unseen material." That could include video from the depositions and from the Capitol during the assault.

One thing you will not see is members throwing verbal bombs at one another. Unlike the impeachment hearings — and most hearings in the House these days — the Democrats and Republicans on the panel are not fighting over the hearing's legitimacy, goals or underlying facts.

The next hearing is set for Monday. The committee hasn't announced the dates for the rest of them.

The panel is expected to release a final report later this year, before the midterm elections. There's no official deadline, but there is an unofficial one: Republicans are expected to kill the committee if they regain control of the House in January.

Hasn't this stuff already been investigated?

Yes, but only partly.

Congress took its first swing at the events of Jan. 6 when the House impeached Trump for the second time on Jan. 13, 2021. (The Senate voted not to convict.) But with only days left in Trump's term, the House impeachment managers didn't have time to explore all the figures and machinations involved in the attack.

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Since then, the House and Senate committees that have jurisdiction over the Capitol have held hearings about the security breakdowns surrounding the siege, but their focus has mainly been on the U.S. Capitol Police and how well or poorly the force prepared for and responded to the events on Jan. 6.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has been conducting the largest criminal investigation in its history, bringing charges against more than 860 people involved in the attack and obtaining guilty pleas or convictions against more than 300. It has gradually pushed deeper into the events leading up to Jan. 6, accusing members of two far-right groups — the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys — with seditious conspiracy.

But it's not the DOJ's job to compile a report on how the Capitol came under attack or to ponder big-picture questions about the health of our democracy. Its purview is limited to violations of federal law, particularly to cases it believes it can prove to a jury.

The Select Committee is covering the ground those other probes cannot or have not. It is trying to show who should be held accountable — morally and politically, if not necessarily criminally — for the attack on Congress as it sought to count the electoral college votes.

Isn't this just another Democratic attack on Trump?

That is one of the criticisms leveled by Republicans. But GOP senators stopped Congress from taking an apolitical approach to the investigation, killing a House-passed bill to create an independent bipartisan commission modeled after the one that studied the 9/11 attacks.

Why? The bill's Republican opponents said at the time that the investigations already launched by congressional committees and the Justice Department would be enough.

House Democrats responded by passing a resolution to create the Select Committee, whose 13 members would be appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., — five of them "in consultation with" the House's top Republican, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

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Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, listen July 27, 2021, during the House Select Committee meeting investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. On Thursday, June 9, 2022, the committee will hold its first televised hearing.
Andrew Harnik / TNS file photo

McCarthy suggested five Republicans who were top members of the party caucus or key committees, but Pelosi rejected two of them — Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, who are major Trump allies in the House.

McCarthy withdrew the other three names in protest, and Pelosi installed two of Trump's sharpest Republican critics instead: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. The committee has gone forward with just nine members. (McCarthy and Jordan are among the five House Republicans who have since been subpoenaed by the committee.)

As a result, the committee includes no House members who have defended Trump's actions after the 2020 election. McCarthy and other Trump allies have blasted the committee from the outside, arguing that it is improperly constituted, has "doctored evidence" and its members are blinded by their hatred of Trump.

"The Jan 6 committee is nothing but a group of unimpressive, malicious, Trump-hating loons who should be ignored," tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

How did the committee get Trump allies to cooperate?

The resolution that created the panel gave its chairman the power to issue subpoenas compelling witnesses to give depositions and turn over documents. The mere existence of that legal hammer has been enough to persuade such insiders as Trump's daughter Ivanka to answer questions voluntarily; others, such as attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, spoke to the committee after being subpoenaed.

Defying a subpoena can result in the House voting to hold you in contempt of Congress, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year behind bars and a fine of up to $100,000. But the Justice Department decides whether to prosecute those cases, and so far, it has brought indictments against only two of the four Trump aides or advisors the House has voted to hold in contempt: Peter Navarro and Stephen K. Bannon.

Technically, the House can try to enforce subpoenas itself by having its Sergeant-at-Arms (or potentially, the D.C. police) bring witnesses to testify. That power is rarely used, however.

The panel's subpoena power is not unlimited. The investigation it's conducting must be related to something the Constitution gives Congress the power to do, such as passing legislation or disciplining members, according to a 2017 report from the Congressional Research Service. Still, legal experts say Congress' legislative power is broad enough to justify a wide range of investigations.

What does the talk about 'alternate electors' mean?

This circles back to the pressure Trump placed on Pence to throw out several states' certified election results. And it's almost certain to be brought up at Thursday's hearing.

When you cast a vote for president, you're actually voting in favor of a slate of electors associated with those candidates. After state officials certify the popular vote totals, the candidate who finished first sends his or her slate to a meeting of electors in the state capitol. There, the electors cast their votes, sign a certificate with the results and send it to Washington.

The process is largely ceremonial, given that most states require electors to support the candidate who won the popular vote. But in 1876, three Southern states sent two sets of electoral votes each to Congress — one for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and one for Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. Congress created a special commission to decide which slates to accept, and the commission ruled in favor of Hayes.

Trump electors tried to follow this roadmap after the November 2020 election, signing and submitting certificates in seven states where Joe Biden had won the popular vote. In five of the states, Politico reported, the signers claimed to be "duly elected and qualified"; in the other two, they said they were alternates who should be recognized only if Trump's legal challenges in their state succeeded.

The idea, Raskin told MSNBC, was to give Pence an excuse not to count the electoral votes for Biden in those states, leaving him without a majority in the electoral college. That would turn the election over to the House, where Republicans held more than half of the states' delegations — presumably giving Trump the win.

The Select Committee subpoenaed 14 members of those slates. Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., explained the subpoenas by saying, "We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme."

Raskin was less circumspect. In an interview with MSNBC, he called the alternate electors part of a "sequence of fraud" by Trump allies.

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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