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Here's what we've learned since the 1st Jan. 6 hearing

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

For the last six weeks, the January 6 committee has revealed what it has learned about the Capitol attack in a series of made-for-TV hearings. Almost every hearing has been littered with bombshells of information. And each has been focused on explaining a part of the committee's main thesis - that former President Donald Trump's relentless push to overturn the 2020 presidential election was behind that day's violence. Here's how committee vice chair Liz Cheney summarized what would be presented during the first hearing.

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LIZ CHENEY: On the morning of January 6, President Donald Trump's intention was to remain president of the United States despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his constitutional obligation to relinquish power. Over multiple months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.

SUMMERS: Joining me now are NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh and justice correspondent Ryan Lucas to discuss what we've learned since that first hearing. Deirdre, I want to start with you. At the outset of these hearings, one member of the committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, predicted that they would blow the roof off the House. Did that happen?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Well, I mean, the roof is still on the House, but we have learned a lot of new details. The committee has effectively stitched together a narrative from those around the president - these are Republican witnesses under oath - about how President Trump was repeatedly told he lost but continued to press false claims about election fraud. When those failed in court, he turned to the strategy of trying to overturn the 2020 election results in Congress. Some of the details have been stunning. We saw the president say he was planning to head to the Capitol at the rally on the morning of January 6, but we didn't know until Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that President Trump may have tangled with his own security detail in the presidential limo when he insisted they take him there and they said no.

We've also learned that a group of GOP lawmakers asked for presidential pardons after January 6; so did Mark Meadows and so did Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani. We should say that the committee's probe is ongoing. And while this may be the last public hearing this summer, there could be new evidence unveiled at a later hearing or in the committee's report expected this fall.

SUMMERS: Ryan, in the weeks following the election in 2020, the former president continued to allege that there had been voter fraud. But what did we learn about what the people around him were telling him?

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Well, we certainly learned that the top lawyers in his administration were telling him that the allegations were rubbish, that there was nothing to them. One of the biggest names doing so was his attorney general at the time, Bill Barr. The committee interviewed Barr. They played some video from his interview with the committee. And here's a bit of what he said.

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WILLIAM BARR: I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public, that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn't count and that these machines controlled by somebody else were actually determining it, which was complete nonsense.

LUCAS: Now, Trump's last White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, was of the same mind. He said that there was nothing to back up this talk of a stolen election. And in his testimony before the committee, he said that those trying to sell this idea had to either, as he put it, put up or shut up. This came to a head at a very tense December 18 meeting at the White House when a lawyer, Sidney Powell, and former Lieutenant General Michael Flynn - two - these informal outside advisers to the president - managed to get into the White House and meet with Trump. They were pushing these crazy ideas about fraud and seizing voting machines. And Cipollone and another White House lawyer pushed back very hard, told Trump that this is nuts. This meeting lasted six hours into the wee hours of the morning and essentially, we're told, turned into a screaming match.

SUMMERS: Right. We also learned more about plans to stop the electoral count. How did that become a focus of these proceedings?

LUCAS: So after Trump and his campaign challenged the election results in court and lost, he turned to another idea. And that was this outlandish legal theory pulled together by a Trump attorney named John Eastman. And what Eastman was arguing was that the vice president, Mike Pence, had the authority on his own to stop the electoral count on January 6. Now, legal scholars, including a conservative retired judge who advised Mike Pence and who testified before the committee, say that this theory is nonsense. Pence has a ceremonial constitutional role here to certify the results. He can't just toss them out and hand the election to Trump. But Trump and Eastman and others were pushing Pence to stop the electoral count, and Pence and his team were saying there's just no legal basis to do that. And ultimately, of course, Pence did not.

SUMMERS: Deirdre, the committee promised that it would draw a clear line between former President Trump and the violence that occurred on January 6. To your mind, did they draw that line? Did they make that clear?

WALSH: They did show evidence about the impact of a tweet that Trump sent on December 19, right after that December 18 meeting that Ryan was just talking about. This was Trump inviting supporters to Washington on January 6, and they showed evidence about the reaction on social media among right-wing extremist groups who saw it, as the committee said, as a call to action. In terms of the violence on January 6, we heard testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson who said she witnessed the president the morning of January 6 after he was briefed by the head of his security detail that people at the rally outside the White House had weapons. Here's Hutchinson.

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CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

WALSH: We know the president then urged those supporters to march to the Capitol.

SUMMERS: Ryan, you and I have talked before about these two investigations happening on parallel tracks, what's going on at the Justice Department and what we're seeing from the congressional committee. And I know that there has been a good deal of pressure from those on the political left for the Justice Department to indict former President Trump, and some committee members have gone so far as to call out the Justice Department to do its job. Vice chair Liz Cheney has kept the door open to the committee, making a formal criminal referral. Does the ball sort of now get passed to the Justice Department here?

LUCAS: Well, I think it's important to remember, first, that the Justice Department has been investigating January 6 since January 6 itself. They've charged more than 850 people in connection with the Capitol riot. That includes members of the extremist groups the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Some of them have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which is a very serious charge. And we know that the department is investigating these pro-Trump fake electors. But, yes, Attorney General Merrick Garland is definitely coming under pressure, increasing pressure from Democrats - also some folks in the legal field - to, as you said, do more. Garland was asked about this yesterday. He said the January 6 investigation is the biggest and most important investigation the Justice Department has ever done. It's about an attempt to overturn a legitimate election, the peaceful transfer of power. And the Justice Department, he said, has to get this right. He also said this.

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MERRICK GARLAND: And for people who are concerned, as I think every American should be, about protecting democracy, we have to do two things. We have to hold accountable every person who is criminally responsible for trying to overturn a legitimate election. And we must do it in a way filled with integrity and professionalism.

LUCAS: Both of those things are necessary, Garland said, to deliver justice and to protect American democracy.

SUMMERS: That's NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas and congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Thank you to both of you.

LUCAS: Thank you.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Ryan Lucas
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.