Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

- Advertisement -

Analysis | What the January 6 Hearings Achieved—and What Not?

Thursday afternoon brought a familiar feeling to much of the country: Okay, now what?

The conclusion of what is expected to be the final hearing of the House selection committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot was a formal vote to subpoena former President Donald Trump to testify. That climax was undoubtedly theatrical: previous subpoenas have not been presented as publicly, and commission hearings always contain an intentional element of showmanship. It was intended to serve as an intentional coda for the public effort.

And now it has, as other investigations into Trump’s and Trump’s behavior have been — without any noticeable effect on Trump himself. What led to that familiar question: what was the result?

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data newsletter from Philip Bump

The answer, as is usually the case, is complicated. It is also necessarily impossible to bid in full as we are less than 24 hours away from the conclusion of the hearing. But there are already clear achievements that can be articulated and places where the hearings clearly have not achieved the committee’s desired goal.

What the hearings yielded

They made a compelling case for Trump’s guilt. This is probably the most important outcome of the hearings, and one that I described in detail on Thursday. While there was no serious doubt that the day was a function of Trump’s rhetoric and exhortations, the commission’s work fleshed out the public’s understanding of how widespread and how cynical Trump’s behavior was.

They presented new, important information about the day of the riot and the weeks and months leading up to it. The committee hearings naturally focused heavily on Trump, but there was a lot of research into the other circumstances surrounding the riots. During the hearings, we got new details about what happened at the Capitol that day and how law enforcement and elected leaders responded. We got a better idea of ​​how people in Trump’s orbit worked to keep him in power.

But since the hearings goods focused on Trump, it’s safe to assume that the commission’s expected report will provide more detail about those additional elements of that day’s violence. Even in the course of two hours, you can only convey so much information in a television presentation. A written document offers much more space to describe in detail what has been learned, and it is safe to assume that the committee’s report will be full of such information.

The commission gathered evidence that fed into the Justice Department’s investigation. The commission could still make a criminal referral to the Justice Department targeting Trump’s actions related to January 6, but it doesn’t necessarily have to; the department has been investigating the riots for some time.

In fact, the department has publicly contacted the commission to request transcripts of its interviews with witnesses. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated more than once that he and his team were monitoring the commission’s work. So even if there is no formal reference, it is clear that the hearings and the work of the commission were considered helpful to law enforcement.

The hearings revealed serious questions about other individuals and groups. During Thursday’s hearing, committee members repeatedly indicated that they did not find the testimonies of people associated with the Secret Service credible, raising new concerns about the reliability of the organization charged with protecting senior government officials. The hearing also highlighted a number of Trump allies who declined to answer questions for the committee but were eager to talk to conservative media outlets.

And that was one hearing. We can expect the final report to document other failures, including in the decision-making process that left the Capitol poorly defended in the face of the obvious, documented threats law enforcement followed.

The hearings helped bolster a partisan response to the day’s events. It was inevitable that a public inquiry into Trump’s actions would lead to an entrenchment among Trump supporters. Despite all the criticism of the commission as being unbalanced against Trump, there is no structure that would have been treated as valid by Trump and his base. We’ve seen this so many times: the Russia investigation, the impeachment proceedings against Ukraine. Any questioning of Trump and his conduct is illegal in any form.

But it’s still the case that the commission has given Trump a foil, something he might call equivalent to the “Russia Hoax” or “Impeachment Hoax #1” or whatever he calls it. Doing something to understand what led to the riot was important (as even people like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) once acknowledged), but once an attempt was made to do so, it would necessarily be a point of attack for Trump and his allies (including McCarthy).

What they have not achieved

There was no smoking gun linking the White House to the violence. This is understandably subjective; that Trump is responsible for the violence of that day is hard to doubt. He piled the petrol-soaked logs, handed out lighters, suggested a giant bonfire would be fun. But there is no video or recording of him telling anyone to start a fire.

It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. There is no evidence that Trump or those close to him knew that rioters would try to break into the building. No evidence was presented that people close to Trump knew which extremist groups were plotting that day, despite available evidence of links between Trumpworld and those groups.

Again, the Capitol riots were only part of Trump’s multiple attempt to retain power, something the committee has thoroughly documented. But despite speculation that he or his allies could have direct ties to violent actors, none emerged. There is no evidence that he did anything but watch with satisfaction as the violence began – inaction rather than action.

The hearings clearly have not changed the American view of Trump. Part of what the committee hoped to accomplish, Vice-President Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has suggested, was to show Americans that Trump shouldn’t be given high public office again.

If that was a goal, the committee hearings appear to have been unsuccessful. YouGov polls show that Trump’s favorable ratings have moved within a narrow range since the beginning of the year. Since the beginning of the year, Trump’s overall favor has averaged 42 percent, right where it is now. Among Republicans, the average was 82 percent; in the most recent YouGov poll, he was at 80 percent. That’s not a significant difference.

This is just one measure of how people view Trump, sure, and many people who almost certainly wouldn’t have broad support for the presidency are nevertheless viewed favorably by the public. (Rob Gronkowski, for example.) But that brings us to the next consideration…

Did the commission hinder Trump’s 2024 bid? Former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan made headlines in the wake of the committee hearing by suggesting Trump’s political future was bleak.

“I think Trump’s ineligibility will be felt by 2024,” he said. “We all know he’s going to lose. We all know he’s so much more likely to lose the White House than anyone running for president on our side of the aisle, so why would we agree to that? ”

It is not clear that this assessment strongly depends on the work of the committee. That Trump lost to Biden in 2020 is a good signal that he could lose to him in 2024 as well. And that Trump hates so many Americans, unlike other potential Republican candidates, could give Republican voters a break.

One theory holds that the increased weight of questions about Trump and the scandals that have always lingered around him could deter Republican primary voters. Perhaps. And perhaps the committee’s thorough documentation of his efforts can help – pushing Trump from his current position into Gronkowski territory. We’ll have to see.

Will Trump be indicted? Trump is highly unlikely to respond to the subpoena approved by the committee on Thursday. He likes to make big flashy statements about giving testimony, about having nothing to hide…

But that’s really irrelevant to the root of the problem. The subpoena was the culmination of the televised series of hearings, but the process is moving forward. It is entirely possible that Trump will be indicted around this time next year for his role in cultivating the conditions that led to the Capitol riots.

Which would probably evoke a familiar feeling: Okay. So what now?

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.