What to watch for when the full House Jan. 6 committee report is released today

Expect details of Trump's effort to visit the Capitol and possible obstruction of the investigation.

ByAnnie Grayer, CNN, CNNWire
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
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WASHINGTON -- The final report of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack is set to release Wednesday, launching a new era for criminal investigators, politicians and members of the public who have been eager to see the nuts and bolts of its work.

In addition to the report, the committee will start the much-anticipated rolling release of thousands of pages of witness transcripts, the behind-the-scenes building blocks to its investigation that the Justice Department, Republican lawmakers and witnesses themselves have been calling for.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, has told CNN the panel is expecting to release "hundreds" of transcripts, but there are some witnesses with sensitive material that the panel has agreed to protect.

The committee presented an overview of its findings on Monday, including evidence for a number of criminal statutes it believes were violated in the plots to stave off former President Donald Trump's defeat.

The House select committee examining the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol voted to approve criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump regarding his failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Here's what to look for on Wednesday:

Detail on possible obstruction of the investigation

In the summary of its report released earlier this week, the panel revealed it is aware of "multiple efforts by President Trump to contact Select Committee witnesses," adding that DOJ is aware "of at least one of those circumstances."

The summary released Monday also claimed the panel has a "range of evidence suggesting specific efforts to obstruct the Committee's investigation." That includes concerns that attorneys paid by Trump's political committee or allied groups "have specific incentives to defend President Trump rather than zealously represent their own clients."

CNN has previously reported that Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump White House aide, told the select committee that she was contacted by someone attempting to influence her testimony.

"The Select Committee also has concerns regarding certain other witnesses, including those who still rely for their income or employment by organizations linked to President Trump, such as the America First Policy Institute," the panel wrote in Monday's summary.

"Certain witnesses and lawyers were unnecessarily combative, answered hundreds of questions with variants of 'I do not recall' in circumstances where that answer seemed unbelievable, appeared to testify from lawyer-written talking points rather than their own recollections, provided highly questionable rationalizations or otherwise resisted telling the truth," the panel added.

"The public can ultimately make its own assessment of these issues when it reviews the Committee transcripts and can compare the accounts of different witnesses and the conduct of counsel," the summary previewed.

The summary also highlighted Ivanka Trump and then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany as being less cooperative than others.

Details of Trump's effort to visit the Capitol

The summary details that the panel was ultimately unable to get former White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato to corroborate a bombshell moment during the public hearings, in which Hutchinson recalled Ornato describing Trump's altercation with the head of his security detail when he was told he would not be taken to the Capitol following his speech on the Ellipse.

The committee summary said both Hutchinson and a White House employee testified to the panel about the Ornato conversation. But "Ornato professed that he did not recall either communication, and that he had no knowledge at all about the President's anger."

The committee wrote that it "has significant concerns about the credibility of this testimony" and vowed to release his transcript publicly. Ornato did not recall conveying the information to Hutchinson or a White House employee with national security responsibilities, according to the report. "The Committee is skeptical of Ornato's account."

The transcripts could help explain any discrepancies in testimony.

Fundraising efforts

In terms of financing after the 2020 presidential election and through the January 6 rallies, the committee says it gathered evidence indicating that Trump "raised roughly one quarter of a billion dollars in fundraising efforts between the election and January 6th."

"Those solicitations persistently claimed and referred to election fraud that did not exist," the panel wrote.

"For example, the Trump Campaign, along with the Republican National Committee, sent millions of emails to their supporters, with messaging claiming that the election was 'rigged,' that their donations could stop Democrats from 'trying to steal the election,' and that Vice President Biden would be an 'illegitimate president' if he took office,'" the summary states.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, has said the panel has evidence that members of the Trump family and inner circle -- including Kimberly Guilfoyle -- personally benefited from money that was raised based on the former president's false election claims, but the panel has never gone as far to say a financial crime has been committed.

DOJ's response

The evidence presented in the final report and the information revealed by the panel's trove of transcripts will be the first time the DOJ gets a real look at what the panel has and could inform the DOJ's criminal probes into January 6 more so than the criminal referrals the select committee made.

The committee has started handing over evidence and transcripts to the Justice Department, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Special counsel Jack Smith sent a letter to the select committee on December 5 requesting all of the information from the panel's investigation, a source told CNN.

The select committee began sending documents and transcripts as of last week, the source added, with the production focusing specifically on former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump's former election lawyer John Eastman.

The panel has also started to share transcripts of witness interviews pertaining to the false slates of electors and the pressure campaign enacted by the former president and his allies on certain states to overturn the 2020 election results. DOJ has also received all of Meadows' text messages from the committee.

DOJ initially asked the panel for all of its transcripts back in May, but committee members, particularly Thompson, felt strongly the depositions were the property of the committee.

"It's our work product," Thompson said back in May.

Trump's response

The former president's legal team will be interested in viewing the committee transcripts that get released in the coming days to examine whether the panel omitted presenting information publicly because it contradicted itself, a source familiar with Trump's January 6 legal team told CNN.

Aides and advisers to the former president are also hoping the release of the panel's transcripts will provide new information about the DOJ criminal investigation into January 6.

Members of Trump's orbit will be looking for transcripts of those who have spoken to both the committee and Justice Department in order to get insight into some of what prosecutors have.

Trump's team has been keeping tabs on those testifying before the grand jury, and even foots the legal bill for a number of Trump's aides who have appeared. Some believe the transcripts could shed additional light on the special counsel's investigation.

At various points during the committee's hearings, Trump's allies and advisers were surprised by snippets of testimony they were unaware of before hearing publicly, including that of Ivanka Trump.

GOP lawmakers' response

The committee's final report and its corresponding transcripts will inform how Republicans, particularly in the House, will seek to make good on their promise of investigating Biden and his administration on a variety of fronts, which includes in part relitigating January 6, when they take control of the House next month.

Various Republican lawmakers have sought to discredit the select committee's work since its inception and have argued that the panel has not addressed the security failures that led to the US Capitol breach. Five House Republicans were subpoenaed by the committee, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and did not cooperate with the investigation. The panel took the unprecedented step of referring the four returning members of Congress to the House Ethics Committee.

The House GOP has formulated its own report on January 6 that is set to be released when the select committee releases its final report.

McCarthy has vowed to hold hearings next year on the security failures that led to the Capitol breach and has called on the select committee to preserve all of its records and transcripts.

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