January 6 hearings start tonight and America (and Trump) should watch. But we already know a lot.

The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection spent nearly a year deposing 1,000 witnesses, collecting 140,000 documents, reviewing videos and following leads. With the exception of a few leaks (the frequency of which has increased noticeably in recent weeks) and hints from court documents, the committee has kept much of its findings secret.

To tell the story, the committee’s lead investigative attorneys said they would present previously secret White House recordings, photos and video in real time.

On Thursday we will learn (more) about what they discovered. The committee says it will present “unpublished material,” offering “a summary of its findings on the multi-step coordinated effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.” To tell the story, the committee’s investigative counsel said they would present previously secret White House recordings, photos and video in real-time to illustrate the live testimony of witnesses. Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, said, “It’s important that we tell the American public, as best we can, exactly what happened.”

The committee calls these deliberations hearings, but they should not be confused with a court hearing in which a court reviews and weighs the evidence and renders a verdict. In future presentations, the judge and jury will be the American people.

And indeed, although the committee has promised some tantalizing new information, it is worth refreshing our memories before the hearings begin, because in fact we already know a great deal about the preparation for January 6 and how the events unfolded. events.

We know, for example, that efforts to cancel elections began in early 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic upended normal life and led states to promote mail-in voting. Then-President Donald Trump spent months casting doubt on mail-in ballots (a method of voting that coincidentally was to be favored by Democrats). This allowed Trump to falsely declare himself the winner on election night. “This is a fraud on the American public,” Trump said as the ballots were still counted. “It’s a disgrace to our country. We were gearing up to win this election. Frankly, we won this election. The day after the election, as more mail-in ballots were counted and the advance of Biden was rising, Trump falsely claimed his “lead shrunk” as “fraudulent” mail-in ballots were counted. (Trump never, in fact, led the electoral vote.)

After the election, Trump associates launched dozens of lawsuits alleging voter fraud. These claims have been widely dismissed by the courts — but that hasn’t stopped Trump, the Republican National Committee and other groups from using voter fraud lies to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Simultaneously, in what has been called the fake voter scheme, seven groups of state Republicans signed comments posing as duly authorized voters (they were not duly authorized).

Meanwhile, with the inauguration on the horizon, Trump has waged a lobbying campaign against various state governments and federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to help him stay in office. On Dec. 27, Trump told the DOJ to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Congressmen R.” He has also lobbied Republican leaders in key states, perhaps most famously on January 2, when he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tried to convince Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” more Trump votes.

Former Chapman University law professor John Eastman and attorney Kenneth Chesebro penned memos for Trump’s inner circle falsely stating that under the Constitution, Vice President Mike Pence had the power to expel voters and prevent Joe Biden from being certified as the next president. Trump used these false legal theories to put enormous pressure on Pence to comply with the plan.

And that was all before January 6. On that day, when Congress – chaired by Pence – was to certify the election, Trump led the crowd at the Ellipse toward the Capitol. Leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers militias who stormed the Capitol have since pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and admitted they intended to use violence to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. As the violence unfolded, Trump resisted calls to quash the insurgents.

That’s a lot of information, and it paints a disturbing picture. But of course, even if there are many things that we do know, there are still many things that we don’t to know. (Just Security, based at New York University School of Law’s Reiss Center on Law and Security, has compiled a helpful primer on what to look for in court hearings.)

Here are some of the questions the committee may still be able to answer:

Are there direct or indirect lines between the top of the Republican hierarchy and what Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., calls the “violent, fascist street hooligans” who have stormed the Capitol?

Did high-ranking Republicans or members of Trump’s inner circle know (or suspect) in advance that the Capitol would be breached?

Did high-ranking Republicans or members of Trump’s inner circle know (or suspect) in advance that the Capitol would be breached?

Did high-ranking Republicans take action before the attack or during the attack to facilitate the breach?

Did Trump know he had lost the election and that his allegation of fraud was, in fact, a fraud?

Did the other groups that raised money using the voter fraud lies know they were lies? (In other words, did they intentionally perpetuate a fraudulent scheme to make money?)

Who funded the insurgency?

Did Eastman and Chesebro know that Pence actually didn’t have the power to stop the vote count and prevent Biden from being declared the winner?

Was Trump personally or directly involved in the fake voter scheme?

Did top military officials avoid sending federal troops to protect the Capitol for fear that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act?

What we won’t to learn from the hearings is whether Trump or any other top politician is definitely guilty of crimes. This is not a criminal trial. The Select Committee, as a legislative body, has different purposes. Their stated goals are to learn the truth about what happened, present that truth to the American people, and consider legislation to prevent further attacks.

The January 6 attack on the Capitol was carried out in an effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power and upend democracy. So the American people deserve to know the full story of how it happened and who was responsible for it.

On Wednesday, the day before the hearings, the member of the commission Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, promised that the hearings will “present new and publicly known information” that “demonstrates the multi-pronged effort to overturn a presidential election, how one strategy to overturn the election led to another, culminating in a violent attack on our democracy”. The committee will show “how close we came to losing our democracy. And why it is still deeply threatened.

So we’ll look to select committee hearings to fill in the gaps in an already harrowing story. Again, to quote Schiff, “It’s a story that needs to be told, to make sure it never happens again.”

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