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Jan. 6 panel to put Trump at center of ‘coordinated, multistep effort’ to overturn election

BY REBECCA BEITSCH AND HARPER NEIDIG – The Hill

The Jan. 6 committee will rely on recorded testimony from former Trump officials and even family members of the ex-president as it uses its first prime-time hearing to connect Donald Trump to the riot at the Capitol and the broader effort to keep him in power.

The 8 p.m. hearing is the committee’s first public event in months and represents a chance to share some of what it has learned from interviews with more than 1,000 people.

“We will be revealing new details showing that Jan. 6 was the result of a coordinated, multistep effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden,” a select committee aide said on a call with reporters on the eve of Thursday’s prime-time hearing.

“And indeed, that former President Donald Trump was at the center of that effort,” the aide added.

Some of the videotaped depositions shared will be those with “Trump White House officials, senior Trump administration officials, Trump campaign officials and indeed Trump family members,” the aide said.

The panel has repeatedly emphasized its plans to share “never before seen” footage and hired a veteran ABC producer to assist with assembling a package it will air tomorrow.

It will also feature live testimony from Nick Quested, a documentarian who was working on a project about the Proud Boys and was present at a Jan. 5 meeting between leaders of that group and the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members participated in the Capitol breach.

Viewers will also hear from U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, one of the first officers wounded in the attack that ultimately injured some 150 officers.

“You’re talking about two witnesses who were there at the very initial breach,” the aide said. “We’re going to hear about their experiences from that day — particularly sort of what they heard, what they saw from the rioters.”

“We will remind people what happened on that day. We will bring the American people back to the reality of that violence and remind them just how horrific it was,” the aide added.

The prime-time hearing is the first of two bookends — designed to offer an overarching view of what the committee has learned and what it will review in the handful of hearings ahead.

It will differ from the bulk of congressional hearings in appearance and in tone.

While the panel includes two Republicans, the committee is aligned in its goal, and it will likely avoid the partisan squabbling that is a feature of both standard hearings and even those dedicated to major investigations.

Its video clips and live witness testimony are also designed not just to relay information, but, much like with a panel of Capitol Police officers in July, to bring viewers back to a time when both sides of the aisle were unified in expressing horror over the images of the riot.

Its witnesses can also help shed light on the extent the violence was part of the plan.

Edwards was manning a barricade with other officers on the west side of the Capitol when a group of Trump supporters pushed back the barricade, throwing her to the ground. Edwards suffered a concussion in the fall, according to court documents, but rejoined her fellow officers in trying to fight back the rioters.

Later, amid the mayhem, Edwards blacked out and was rushed to the hospital. In the aftermath of the attack, according to a New York Times story published earlier this year, she suffered fainting spells and had trouble with her speech.

Quested was with the Proud Boys at pivotal moments.

He went over hours of footage with the Jan. 6 committee when he met with the panel in April, but his cameras captured far more than the violence playing out at the Capitol.

He has footage of the Jan. 5 meeting between Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, and Stewart Rhodes, the head of the far-right Oath Keepers militia. The duo met in a parking garage the day before Oath Keepers members were seen using a military-style stack formation to work their way through the crowds and force their way into the Capitol.

His footage shows Tarrio meeting with Rhodes and other pro-Trump figures in the parking garage, though the audio catches little in the way of substantive discussions.

Later in the afternoon of Jan. 6, he was also with Tarrio in Baltimore, filming the leader — who was not present for the attack — and capturing his reactions as the riot played out.

His testimony comes as the Justice Department has added new charges for the group, announcing Monday that Tarrio and other members would face counts of seditious conspiracy — the same charge the agency already filed against members of the Oath Keepers that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Tarrio, much like Rhodes, was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He had been arrested Jan. 4 and was ordered to stay outside D.C.

But the indictment alleges he led “the advance planning and remained in contact with other members of the Proud Boys during their breach of the Capitol” and “nonetheless continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys prior to and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021.”

The new indictment unsealed this week noted that one of the Proud Boys defendants, Joseph Biggs, could be seen in a video taken the day of the riot putting his arm around an individual, identified as Ryan Samsel, confronting officers in an early clash between Capitol Police and the rioters. Biggs could be seen saying something to him just moments before Samsel and others clashed at a barricade with officers, including Edwards.

Samsel was later charged with multiple counts of assaulting a police officer, and prosecutors have accused him of pushing the barricade into Edwards and causing her fall.

The committee has not yet announced who will testify at its next two hearings, scheduled during daytime hours on Monday and Wednesday, or what other videotaped testimony might be shared.

Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Wednesday said testimony from Ivanka Trump would not air in the first hearing, but “there’s a possibility” it may surface in later hearings.

The big question that remains for the committee is how receptive the public will be, including the roughly half of the nation that has told pollsters it’s time to “move on.”

“In terms of those who want to ‘move on’ from Jan. 6 we’re going to lay out answers for people in a way they haven’t been answered before,” the aide said.

“What the select committee is also going to lay out is clear indication of ongoing threats to American democracy.”

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

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