The House’s select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is likely to encompass more than a violent Capitol riot. It’s shaping up to be Congress’ final word on national-security breakdowns that led to the attack — and how much those failures are tied to Donald Trump.
With a few exceptions, congressional oversight of the former president and his administration is effectively moot. But Democratic leaders expect that the select panel, whose work began in earnest this month, will turn up troubling new details of Trump’s behavior as he championed an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
“The impeachment trial was about one guy and one crime — it was about presidential incitement to insurrection,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Jan. 6 investigation who served as the lead prosecutor in Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial this past winter. “The select committee has the charge of determining how it was organized, how it was financed, and what the purposes of the insurrection were.”
Recent revelations about national security risks feared by members of Trump’s inner circle in the days leading up to Jan. 6 have emerged separately from details about the Capitol attack. But they’ve painted a fuller picture of the motivations behind the insurrection for Democrats running the select committee.
And as the panel prepares for its first hearing next week, those Democrats are foreshadowing an effort to dig deeply into the chaotic endgame of the Trump White House. The waning days of Trump’s reign, they say, laid the groundwork for the Capitol riot and was worsened by a national-security paralysis set into motion by the former president.
“This is a matter of democratic survival and national security to define these events and their causes, and then to prepare for a change, and prepare for security in the future,” Raskin added.
According to a new book by Washington Post reporters, Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, worried that the then-president might attempt a coup and try to use the military to achieve it. Milley, the book’s authors write, discussed ways to prevent Trump from initiating such a dangerous move.
“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley reportedly told his aides. “The gospel of the Fuhrer.”
It came as Trump was repeating false claims about fraud in the 2020 election and was increasingly pressuring lawmakers to object to the Jan. 6 certification of his Electoral College loss — even prodding his own vice president who was overseeing the joint session of Congress on that day.
“If there were a variety of different potential ways of overturning the election and maintaining power against the will of the people, that would be pertinent to our inquiry,” House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a select committee member, said in a brief interview.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), whom Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped to chair the select committee, told POLITICO on Tuesday that he would pursue “any and all circumstances and facts around Jan. 6.”
“If, in fact, the investigation leads us in that direction, then obviously we’ll look at it,” Thompson said of Milley’s reported comments.
Schiff said the inquiry would also likely examine the intelligence breakdowns that led to security officials and police officers at the Capitol being unprepared and overrun by rioters. Federal law enforcement officials have faced scrutiny for failing to share intelligence suggesting that far-right extremist groups were planning for violence on Jan. 6.
“There’s a broader issue that is a holdover from the last four years of an inadequate focus on domestic violent extremism — what role did that play in the lack of preparedness?” Schiff added.