During its astonishing Tuesday hearing about Donald Trump’s actions on the day of January 6, the House select committee investigating the insurrection made clear that the integrity of its work is under threat. “The same people who drove the former president’s pressure campaign to overturn the election are now trying to cover up the truth about January 6,” warned committee chair Bennie Thompson. “But thanks to the courage of certain individuals, the truth won’t be buried.” The main individual he seemed to have in mind was Cassidy Hutchinson, once an aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who testified to the former president’s violent and bizarre behavior—demanding that rally-goers with guns and knives be allowed onto the Ellipse to hear his speech and exploding in rage when his security detail refused to drive him to the Capitol, as rioters there began to overwhelm law enforcement.
At the hearing’s end, the committee displayed messages received by some of those interviewed by investigators, apparently in an effort to push them to toe Trump’s party line rather than speak honestly. (Reporting has since revealed that one of those messages was sent to Hutchinson herself.) Speaking again of Hutchinson, Thompson declared to witnesses who had bowed to such threats or participated in making them: “Because of this courageous woman and others like her, your attempt to hide the truth from the American people will fail.”
As Thompson’s comments suggest, the January 6 committee has made the work of uncovering truth the lodestar of its public hearings. In a sense, of course, every congressional hearing is an effort to establish facts: Witnesses commonly swear, as Hutchinson did, to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”; false statements before Congress can be prosecuted even if they’re not made under oath. And as a committee established to uncover what happened on January 6, naturally the panel would be focused on the truth of the matter. But the January 6 committee’s hearings have so far been unusually powerful as a paean to the value of facts. The committee seems to take seriously its responsibility to establish an official record of the insurrection, and to communicate that record to the public in as accessible a manner as possible. That clarity is bracing in a political moment fogged with lies. [Continue reading…]