House Jan. 6 committee wraps up $8 million probe and leaves behind an uncertain legacy

The House Jan. 6 committee will soon conclude its roughly 18-month investigation into the events surrounding the U.S. Capitol riot, leaving in the panel’s wake a series of unresolved legal battles and questions about whether it succeeded in inflicting lasting political damage on former President Donald Trump.

The panel has promised to release by next month “all the evidence” it gathered, though much of its work was made public in a series of hearings meant to hone in on Mr. Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election and his role in stoking the violence that befell the Capitol.

The Democratic-led committee is on track to spend about $8.6 million on its investigation, according to an analysis of committee disbursement reports maintained by the House administrator. The majority of those expenditures have been on the committee’s 57-member staff, which includes lawyers, investigators and TV production consultants. 

By comparison, the more than two-year investigation into the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consular office in Benghazi, Libya, cost roughly $7 million. 

The committee interviewed thousands of witnesses and unearthed reams of emails, text messages and other documents to build its case that Mr. Trump placed election officials, lawmakers and his vice president in harm’s way by promoting election-fraud claims that he knew were false.

Along the way, the committee took the unprecedented step of subpoenaing five sitting members of Congress including the House Republican leader.

The message the committee’s members delivered over and over again was that riot at the Capitol was part of a coup engineered by Mr. Trump and he continued to pose a threat to American democracy.

Most Republican lawmakers remain convinced the panel’s chief goal was to weaponize the events of Jan. 6, 2021, against Democrats’ political adversaries.

Several members of the panel made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans all hand-picked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, staked their political careers on the committee.

Just five of the panel’s nine members survived the midterm gauntlet that began with Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney’s landslide primary loss, reflecting GOP outrage over her unrelenting anti-Trump stance.

Two members — Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican, and Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Florida Democrat — bowed out of their reelection races rather than face voters.

Voters tossed out Rep. Elaine Luria, Virginia Democrat, in favor of Republican Jen Kiggans. It was a tight race that Ms. Luria, drawing on her experience serving on the committee, framed as a referendum on democracy.

Despite the committee’s work, Mr. Trump managed to keep a tight grip on the GOP and was undeterred in launching a 2024 bid for the White House.

Ms. Luria, who has described her work on the committee as “the most important thing” she’s ever done professionally, said its work will continue to reverberate long after the panel is dissolved.

“Our role is legislative oversight and to provide recommendations to prevent this from ever happening again,” Ms. Luria told The Washington Times. “But there is obviously the ballot box in ’24 that will tel. I personally get the feeling that the American public does not want another Trump presidency.”

The panel held a series of eight public hearings over the summer after meeting mostly behind closed doors for close to a year.

At the hearings, the panel presented live testimony from former White House aides, state elections officials, documentary filmmakers and Capitol Police officers.

The committee also unveiled clips from closed depositions and snippets from text message chains and emails it had gathered throughout the investigation. They built digital models of the White House and Capitol to reproduce key scenes from the riot.

The hearings provided a made-for-TV rollout of evidence in which the committee showcased the chaos at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and describe what they said was Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the presidential election.

The committee trained its focus on what they said were Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence and state election officials to delay or overturn the election count.

The panel has also focused on what it has described as the former president’s attempts to stoke national outrage over the election and his inaction in the face of the riot at the Capitol.

Mr. Trump called the committee a “kangaroo court” and said the Democrats’ only goal in holding the hearings was to prevent him from running for president again in 2024.

National polls suggest the public remained unswayed by the committee’s narrative.

A Monmouth University Poll from late July found that 38% of respondents viewed Mr. Trump as directly responsible for the Capitol riot following the committee’s hearings, compared to 42% who said that before the hearings.

Mr. Trump’s favorability rating, according to the poll, remained nearly identical to where it stood immediately after the 2020 election, with 4 in 10 respondents saying they would back his reelection in 2024.

The committee last month capped its final hearing by voting unanimously to issue a subpoena demanding that Mr. Trump turn over documents and testify, a move that sparked further outrage and a legal battle that is likely to outlast the panel’s charter.

The former president lashed out at the committee in a 14-page memo calling it a “witch hunt of the highest level.”

Mr. Trump later sued the panel alleging the subpoena runs afoul of the separation of powers, noting that no president had been forced to testify to a congressional committee, though some have done so voluntarily.

Mr. Pence has also closed the door to any possibility that he will appear before the committee, despite his vocal criticism of his former boss’ actions following the 2020 election.

He said in an interview with CBS News last week that the committee “has no right” to his testimony, and piled on to Republican criticism of the lopsided makeup of the panel.

“I must say again, the partisan nature of the January 6 committee has been a disappointment to me,” he added. “It seemed to me in the beginning, there was an opportunity to examine every aspect of what happened on January 6, and to do so more in the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, nonpartisan, non-political, and that was an opportunity lost.”

Other fights with uncooperative witnesses are also likely to play out for months after the committee has adjourned.

The Justice Department has pursued contempt of Congress charges against two former White House advisers — Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro — for not complying with the committee’s subpoenas for testimony.

A federal judge last month sentenced Mr. Bannon to four months in prison and ordered him to pay a $6,500 fine after being convicted on contempt of Congress charges in July.

Mr. Bannon appealed the conviction. His prison term has been delayed pending that appeal.

Mr. Navarro’s trial is set to begin in January.

With just weeks left until the committee sunsets, the committee is sprinting to the finish to make its final case.

“Within a month, the public will have everything that we’ve found, all the evidence. For good or ill,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat and member of the Committee told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“And I think we’ve, as we’ve shown in our hearings, made a compelling presentation that the former president was at the center of the effort to overturn a duly elected election, assembled the mob, sent it over to Congress to try and interfere with the peaceful transfer of power,” she said. “It’s pretty shocking.”

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