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As Americans pause to celebrate their Independence Day, it’s worth taking a step back to consider the totality of what we’ve learned about the attempted insurrection that tried to undo it.
The broad outlines of former President Donald Trump’s incitement of the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, and his efforts to undo the 2020 election he lost were evident to anyone following his since-unplugged Twitter feed.
But the House committee investigating the lead-up to the incursion has filled in essential details with its six hearings to date.
As the committee takes its own break – new hearings aren’t expected until later this month – here are the most important things we’ve learned so far.
The threat is not over
Rioters may be going to jail and the committee may be documenting the role of Trump and some of his allies in trying to undermine the 2020 election, but the insurrection is not exactly over, according to Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican who is the committee’s vice chair.
“We are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before,” she said in comments Wednesday, a day after the most recent hearing.
Cheney is among the few Republicans to continue to loudly condemn Trump, and she is in danger of losing her GOP primary in Wyoming later this summer. She said other Republican leaders “have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.”
Trump wanted to take part in the march on the Capitol and Secret Service may have stopped him
The most recent hearing, the sixth, added on short notice this week, featured blockbuster testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Related: Read more about Hutchinson
While it was based largely on hearsay – things other former aides and a White House valet had told her – the allegations are incredible.
The most vivid of Hutchinson’s statements was about Trump, angrily realizing he would not be taken to the Capitol on January 6, trying to grab the wheel of the presidential vehicle from a Secret Service agent. He wanted to lead the protesters. These are the same protesters who would ultimately storm in, threatening his vice president’s life.
Trump had a temper after his loss
Her descriptions of ketchup flung on the White House wall, dishes thrown on the ground in fits of rage, speak to the emotions coursing through Trump as he faced losing power. This perhaps helps explain why it may have been so difficult for people inside the White House to influence him.
The investigation is not over
The committee’s public hearings in June began with the feeling of a preplanned show stage-managed for the effect of indisputably proving that a conspiracy to overturn the election had occurred. But it’s becoming clear the committee is learning new things and following leads.
“Bombshell” testimony by Hutchinson led the committee to issue a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The White House lawyer could confirm many of the allegations uncovered in the hearings. But he was also the White House lawyer, a position usually shielded from congressional testimony.
Cipollone notably defended Trump in the former President’s first impeachment trial but was, according to multiple witnesses, among the White House aides encouraging him to accept the election results and disputing the crackpot legal theory that Vice President Mike Pence could simply throw out election results from certain states.
Trump’s orbit may be trying to influence the testimony
Cheney said Tuesday that two witnesses thought people connected to Trump may have been trying to intimidate them. CNN later reported that one of those witnesses who felt intimidated was Hutchinson. The committee had hid her identity in the lead-up to the hearing out of fear for her safety.
Pence was the key to the plot. And then he was a target of the riot
After Trump lost the election, his only hope to remain in power was for his vice president, Mike Pence, to reject the election results in certain states during the counting of electoral votes. Trump turned on his vice president when Pence refused to buy into the illegal plan, pushed by the attorney John Eastman.
Protesters who stormed the Capitol got as close as 40 feet from Pence.
The third hearing featured testimony from former Pence attorney Greg Jacob, who described Eastman’s pressure campaign, which continued even after the January 6 riot.
This is one side of the story
It is always important to remember that just two Republicans, Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois – both Trump opponents – sit on the committee. Neither may be around in Congress next year. Cheney could well lose her upcoming GOP primary (stay tuned) and Kinzinger is not running for reelection.
Democrats blocked Trump loyalists who questioned the validity of the election from being on the committee. Some of those Republicans, we now know, requested pardons from Trump for their efforts to undermine the election on his behalf.
Many of Trump’s closest White House associates have refused to testify – although, as in the case of Meadows, some did provide the committee with key information like text messages.
Trump’s effort to influence vote counting was widespread
We already knew from a leaked audiotape that Trump personally wanted Georgia officials to “find” votes and manufacture a win for him there after he lost the official vote count.
The fourth hearing documented that he had pressured officials in both Georgia and Arizona and that he was personally involved, according to multiple witnesses, in an effort to create slates of fake electors in key battleground states he lost.
Trump’s conspiracy theories shook the Department of Justice
The taped testimony of former Attorney General Bill Barr, featured prominently in the second hearing, made clear that Trump had been told his belief that the election was stolen from him was wrong and even ludicrous.
Barr ultimately resigned, which left a vacuum at the Justice Department. Remaining leaders there banded together, a focus of the fifth hearing, and considered a mass resignation as Trump sought out an ally, the environmental lawyer Jeffrey Clark, to get federal law enforcement on his side. In this case the government held against the would-be coup.
Rioters thought they were taking cues from Trump after he refused to accept his loss
The committee’s first hearing in June took video from Trump and from rioters, testimony from injured Capitol Police officers and recorded interviews with members of his administration, including his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to show how determined and dangerous the riot was. It closed with a montage of rioters saying they specifically thought they were doing Trump’s bidding.
These hearings may be having an effect
While it’s mostly Democrats on the committee, it’s mostly Republicans who have been witnesses. If there is one lasting consequence of this, it may not be that anyone faces criminal charges for trying to undermine a US election. But it could seriously wound Trump’s political future. It’s not always apparent watching Fox, but read this editorial from the conservative Washington Examiner after Hutchinson described working in the White House during the insurrection.
“Trump is a disgrace,” according to the paper. “Republicans have far better options to lead the party in 2024. No one should think otherwise, much less support him, ever again.”
That’s an important sentiment as Trump angles to run again for president, his current plan.