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 Führer.”
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.
In addition to the Jan. 6 select committee, Democrats in the House and Senate are spearheading an investigation into the Trump Justice Department’s secret subpoenas targeting Democratic lawmakers. With those notable exceptions, Democrats have largely cranked down their oversight machine now that Trump is no longer president, making the select panel the focal point for congressional oversight.
Trump was impeached for inciting the insurrection but acquitted in the Senate trial after Raskin and his fellow impeachment managers failed to sway enough Republicans to reach the two-thirds threshold required for conviction. GOP senators then filibustered legislation to establish a 9/11-style commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, prompting House Democratic leaders to set up the select committee.
The select panel’s creation passed the House with the support of all Democrats and two Republicans — Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who Pelosi later appointed to serve on it, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
The committee’s first hearing next week will feature testimony from police officers who were assaulted by the rioters.
“We will approach it with a very serious eye on how these things happened, what were the breakdowns that led to this, disinformation, breakdowns in intelligence reporting and collection and dissemination and operation, calling up the National Guard — all of those things,” said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a member of the select committee. “I think it’s very important work, and this is the vehicle we’re using.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are bracing for the possibility that the committee’s next steps could include seeking testimony from Trump allies within the House GOP, many of whom were in constant communication with the then-president in the days and weeks following the November election. Some had also talked with Trump on Jan. 6, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy appointed one of those staunch Trump allies, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), to the GOP side of the select committee. Jordan on Tuesday indicated he would be willing to testify about his conversations with Trump, adding: “If they call me, I got nothing to hide.”
And Democrats may well try. Some of them remain strongly interested in unearthing details about Trump’s private behavior before leaving office and the extent to which aides, advisers and other officials around him encouraged or prevented catastrophic outcomes before, during and after the Jan. 6 riots.
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of a pattern of legal violations and norm-breaking. I hope we will not have seen the last of holding accountable the former Trump officials,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a brief interview. “I think there are some serious questions raised by the danger that Trump posed in those last days.”
Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.