After a month of headlines dominated by pro-Trump coup plotters refusing to cooperate with the congressional investigation into Jan. 6, what has been perhaps under appreciated is just how many people with critical knowledge of the Capitol siege are readily sharing what they know.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the select committee investigating Jan. 6, has given us some small but tasty insights into the breadth of cooperators and the tidbits they have shared with the panel.
“The Committee has already met with nearly 300 witnesses; we hear from four more key figures in the investigation today. We are conducting multiple depositions and interviews every week,” Cheney tweeted on Dec. 9. "We have received exceptionally interesting and important documents from a number of witnesses," she added.
In recent weeks, Cheney has also offered glimpses of the information the panel has already turned up. Memorably, she read a series of texts from Fox News anchors and GOP lawmakers pleading with Donald Trump on Jan. 6 to tell his acolytes to stand down.
But this past weekend on ABC's This Week, Cheney pulled the curtain back a little further, revealing detailed accounts of Trump's actions and inaction as the deadly attack on the U.S. seat of government unfolded. Here's several quotes in which Cheney paints a picture of exactly where Trump was located, what he was doing, and what those around him were doing.
- "The committee has firsthand testimony now that [Trump] was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the Capitol occurred."
- "We know, as he was sitting there in the dining room next to the Oval Office, members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television, to tell people to stop."
- "We have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence."
Cheney's revelations are clear indicators of the panel's progress and the information Americans can expect to glean as the committee enters a more public phase of its work.
But perhaps more importantly, Cheney is telling all those fence-sitters with crucial knowledge of the events surrounding Jan. 6 that the panel already knows much of what happened through “firsthand” eyewitness testimony. In other words, Hey, we've got the receipts, so if you want to get on the right side of both history and the law here, come chat with us.
That message won't matter to billionaire beneficiary Steve Bannon and it may not matter to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who doesn’t dare cross Trump; but there's clearly plenty of lower level staffers and even appointees at the White House and other agencies to whom it does matter. Many of them don't have the fortunes to absorb an endless string of legal bills, and most still want to salvage a career in Washington politics. That's the audience to whom Cheney is speaking. It’s choosing time—they either have to place their bets with Trump or with the committee. Cheney is telling them that they may as well choose the path of least resistance and cooperate because plenty of their peers have already done so.
In that vein, the New York Times published a fun read Tuesday about the Washington building that has become the central hub of the panel's work. On the chilly December morning alluded to in Cheney’s tweet, congressional investigators in separate offices of the O’Neill House Office Building in Southwest Washington conducted interviews with: Ali Alexander, a key organizer of the Stop the Steal rallies who communicated with far-right members of Congress; Kash Patel, a close contact of Meadows and former Pentagon chief of staff who participated in discussions about Capitol security; John Eastman, the pro-Trump attorney who penned a memo outlining a path to overturning the 2020 election; and Christopher Krebs, the former Trump administration cybersecurity chief whom Trump fired for outing his Big Lie as a lie.
That's a pretty intriguing line up that is apparently all in a day's work for the committee. The panel is wasting no time as it rushes to compile and analyze as much of evidence as possible about who conceived of, coordinated, funded, and carried out the attack on the Capitol.
"We worked on Christmas and on New Year’s Day,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs the committee. “The window for getting the job done requires weekends and holidays too. There’s a really firm commitment on the part of the staff to get it done.”
The “window” Thompson references stands a good chance of closing one year from now, assuming House Republicans regain a majority next November and immediately dissolve the committee when they resume chamber control next year.
Just like the committee is helmed by a Democrat and a Republican, its chief investigative counsel is former Obama U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy who is joined by senior investigative counsel John Wood, a former George W. Bush U.S. Attorney.
"Mr. Wood, an ally of Ms. Cheney, is closely supervising the team focused on Mr. Trump’s direct involvement," writes the Times.
Cheney plugged the investigators as highly skilled individuals "who understand how to question witnesses to get to the truth." But she added that plenty of the interviews have had more of a cooperative feel to them.
“It’s not all antagonistic,” Cheney said. “We’ve had the benefit of scores of people coming forward to say, ‘We’d like to help. We have suggestions for other people you should talk to.’"
In case anyone of interest managed to miss it, the panel has a swarm of intel at its disposal already. So come on in, says Cheney, the water's warm.