Perhaps the most compelling and damning moment at the first prime-time hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection came at the end.
In a heavily edited montage of video from official testimony and social media, participants in the riot said they had come to protest the 2020 election results and had stormed the Capitol because Donald Trump asked them to.
This is the crux of the committee’s charge, to show that the former President, in his actions and his words, incited the 2021 riot, which was a violent attempt to stop Joe Biden’s election victory from being recognized by the Electoral College.
For how compelling the first prime-time hearing was – and parts of it were arresting – it leaves major holes for the committee to fill in during the remaining public hearings.
Here are some of the questions that still need answering:
Where is the full testimony?
Seeing a few seconds of Kushner sneering at the idea of White House lawyers quitting is one thing. The public should also see the totality of his testimony.
The same goes for Ivanka Trump, Barr and other recognizable members of the Trump administration.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Gabby Orr wrote that those still in Trump’s orbit or trying to maintain their relationships with him will say their testimony was taken out of context in the short clips released by the committee.
More should be released. House select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told CNN’s Jake Tapper the committee plans to release transcripts, but he did not give more information.
Is there a direct link between Trump and planning for the riot?
Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee, promised that hearings in the coming days will show Trump is directly responsible for the riot – which is an important charge, since Trump has argued he had nothing to do with it.
“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” the Wyoming Republican said in her opening statement. Trump did not intend to give up power, regardless of what it says in the Constitution.
Is there enough evidence for new prosecutions?
These hearings will create a fact base for the insurrection, which is important, but will not themselves create accountability for Trump or his inner circle.
The former President has already survived impeachment twice, which means he can run for president again. All indications are that he plans to.
It is not clear, as we wrote earlier, when or if the Department of Justice will move beyond prosecutions of rally participants to focus on efforts to undermine the election.
CNN’s Evan Perez and Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote before the hearing that Attorney General Merrick Garland was planning to watch but that many Democrats think Garland may have missed his moment to prosecute people from Trump’s circle.
That will remain the biggest question of these hearings – what will come of them? The Department of Justice will need to try to avoid the appearance of influencing the midterm elections by bringing cases just before November.
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