The Jan. 6 revelations that analysts say might stick

They'll be back. That's what members of the House select committee investigating former U.S. president Donald Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election promised at the conclusion of their last public hearing of the summer. We look at what legal and political analysts say were some of the most significant moments so far.

No consensus on whether hearings helped prosecution chances, but testimony made for memorable sound bites

Liz Cheney, centre, vice-chair of the House select committee looking into former U.S. president Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election, is flanked by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, left, and Rep. Elaine Luria on Thursday. The hearings wrapped up for the summer and will resume in September. (Al Drago/Getty Images)

They'll be back. That's what members of the House select committee investigating former U.S. president Donald Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election promised at the conclusion on Thursday of their last public hearing of the summer.

The tease for the resumption of hearings in September was in line with the tenor of the proceedings that have unfolded over the last six weeks, which the committee — made up of five Democrats and two renegade Republicans — has tried to bill as must-see TV.

In the end, the carefully choreographed testimony was less about wowing viewers with new details of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol than fleshing out what was already known in a way that would get their attention and stick. 

"I think that they did an extraordinary job in kind of bringing all of us inside the tick-tock of the president's inner circle," said John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.

"They painted an incredibly vivid picture of just how close the president was to pulling off what would have amounted to a coup." 

Here are some of the key ways in which the committee buttressed its narrative that Trump had a clear, deliberate intent to overturn the election at any cost.

WATCH | Jan. 6 committee dissects what Trump was doing as riot unfolded: 

New details emerge on Donald Trump’s actions during Jan. 6 attack

1 year ago
Duration 2:44
The Jan. 6 committee delves into what Donald Trump did, and did not do, as the Capitol was attacked by rioters. During their last hearing of the summer, the panel dove into the 187 minutes that Trump failed to act — despite pleas from aides and allies.

Multi-pronged strategy to overturn election

Shooting down the various ways that Trump and some of his allies wanted to overturn the election became "like playing Whac-a-Mole," former attorney general William Barr said in a deposition played at one of the hearings.

Proposals included:

  • Getting state officials to decertify electors.

  • Asking state officials to put up fake electors.

  • Seizing voting machines on the pretext they were hacked.

  • Getting Vice-President Mike Pence to refuse to certify electoral votes in the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, as he was constitutionally obliged to do, and either send them back to states for a recount or declare Trump the winner based on a fake slate of electors. 

Two camps emerged among the lawyers and aides in Trump's orbit: "Team Normal," as former campaign adviser Bill Stepien described it, which included Barr and White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschman; and the group of rogue lawyers trying to overturn the vote, including Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman.

The latter group, Cipollone testified, had "a general disregard for the importance of actually backing up what you say with facts."

WATCH | Pat Cipollone on persistent claims of election fraud: 

'You have to put up or shut up': former White House senior staffer

1 year ago
Duration 1:17
In his deposition on the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone said he was concerned people were still claiming election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, and thought Sidney Powell's proposal for the federal government to seize voting machines was a 'terrible idea.'

Some of the most vivid detail to come out of the hearings related to a late-night meeting in the Oval Office on Dec. 18, 2020, at which the two sides clashed, screaming and hurling insults at each other to the point that White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson texted a colleague "the west wing is UNHINGED."

Pressure campaign extended to DOJ

Multiple witnesses described the fallout of a relentless pressure campaign to discredit the election results. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who received a call from Trump himself, and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers detailed threats against their families while Atlanta election worker Wandrea "Shaye" Moss told the committee that the harassment she and her mother, also an election worker, were subjected to turned their lives "upside down."

We also heard details from Department of Justice (DOJ) officials of Trump's attempts to get them to back his discredited claims of election fraud, including by ousting his own acting attorney general and replacing him with Jeffrey Clark, an assistant attorney general who was willing to promote false claims about election irregularities.

"Just say that the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me and the [Republican] congressmen," acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue said Trump told him.

WATCH | Justice officials describe pressure campaign: 

Trump pressed Justice Department to overturn election, hearing told

1 year ago
Duration 2:36
Three former senior Justice Department officials testified about the pressure U.S. President Donald Trump placed on them to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump knew there was no evidence of election fraud

One of the most consistent refrains to emerge out of the hearings was that Trump was told — on multiple occasions and as early as late November 2020 — by his closest aides and the Justice Department that no evidence of election fraud had been found, but he continued to publicly advance the claims.

"Now, we have clear evidence from all of his top officials, including Bill Barr and so many others, that the president was made very well aware that he lost the election and was shown all the evidence to demonstrate so," said Ravi Perry, chair of the political science department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. "Before then, you could argue that maybe Trump didn't know."

Some of those who helped hatch the plans knew as well. A lawyer for Pence testified that John Eastman, who suggested Pence could certify an alternate slate of electors and declare Trump the winner, knew it was illegal and is one of several members of Trump's inner circle who sought pardons, the committee heard. He and Clark were both served warrants while the hearings were going on as part of a separate DOJ investigation into the attempt to overturn the election.

WATCH | Eastman, Giuliani, Meadows sought pardons:

Giuliani, Meadows wanted pardons for Jan. 6 attack, says former aide

1 year ago
Duration 0:38
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified on Tuesday that Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had encouraged Donald Trump to talk about pardoning those who participated in the Jan. 6 attack, and that both Meadows and Rudy Giuliani wanted presidential pardons.

Trump was determined to join march on Capitol

Some of the most colourful testimony came on Day 6, when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson described staffers' efforts to prevent the president from accompanying supporters to the Capitol.

Hutchinson set off a whole new line of inquiry when she testified that she was told by Trump's deputy chief of staff that the president had tried to grab the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle, known as the Beast, and force the Secret Service to drive him to the Capitol.

WATCH | Witness describes how Trump tried to reach Capitol: 

Trump was determined to join Jan. 6 mob, former White House aide says

1 year ago
Duration 2:46
A last-minute Jan. 6 committee hearing saw dramatic and damning testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said then-president Donald Trump was determined to join the mob, dismissed the presence of armed rioters and ordered metal detectors removed.

Speculation emerged after the hearing that members of the Secret Service were denying the account, prompting the committee to subpoena their text messages, all but one of which had been deleted. The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has since launched an investigation into the missing texts.

Hutchinson also had one of the more memorable quotes of the hearing when she revealed that Trump knew some attending his rally were armed.

That detail, argues former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, makes Trump's failure to intervene more serious once the rioters he egged on breached the Capitol.

"Donald Trump launched this attack, and we now know that he knew it was an armed attack," he said. "So it's not a dereliction of duty to [not] call off an attack you launch. It is a determination that the attack you launched should succeed."

WATCH | Trump lawyers, allies urged him to issue statement: 

Trump should have issued 'forceful response': former White House counsel

1 year ago
Duration 2:31
Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone testifies that he, Ivanka Trump, Eric Herschmann, and Mark Meadows all urged Donald Trump to make a stronger statement in telling his supporters to leave the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

What we didn't hear

"We have a lot more questions about the Secret Service," committee member Rep. Elaine Luria said Friday on the ABC talk show The View, where she questioned why some of the agents had hired private lawyers.

Finding out what the deleted texts said and why they were purged could shed more light on Trump's movements and state of mind, said Perry.

"I do think that will be central to what happened, because obviously, they were, you know, in closer contact with President Trump than probably anyone else interviewed so far."

Secret Service agents stand outside the Palm Beach County Main Library while Trump casts his ballot in the presidential election on Oct. 24, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. An investigation is underway to retrieve text messages of agents who were with the president on Jan. 6, 2021. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

It's also crucial, says Frank Bowman, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and an expert on impeachment, to verify their loyalty was to the office, not to Trump.

"Their fidelity to the constitutional order as opposed to the person has to be absolute," Bowman said. "The suggestion that it might not have been during this period is something that needs to be explored."

He would also like to see Pence testify before the committee. Although we heard over the course of the eight hearings the extent to which Trump tried to put pressure on the vice-president not to certify the results and vilified him when he did, Pence himself has yet to give a full account.

Former vice-president Mike Pence is shown talking on the phone from his secure loading dock location on Jan. 6, 2021, as rioters were attacking the Capitol. The image was shown at the Jan. 6 committee hearing on Thursday. Pence has not testified before the committee. (House Select Committee/The Associated Press)

"What were his contacts with the president, people around the president; what was being suggested to him; what were his responses; what happened on the day?" Bowman said.

"It seems to me his ... patriotic duty is to come forward and tell the country what he knows."

Bowman said he doesn't expect the committee to subpoena Pence since he would likely try to invoke executive privilege, which could drag out the process.

Will it lead to prosecution?

Analysts disagree on whether what we've heard at the hearings will factor into any potential criminal prosecution.

Kirschner said he thinks the committee presented more than enough evidence to show Trump had corrupt intent even if there is no paper trail, for example, showing he co-ordinated with the extremist groups that tried to stop the certification of the election results by storming the Capitol.

"It's a fallacy to suggest that unless Donald Trump, you know, wrote in an oath of blood, 'I corruptly intended to overthrow our democracy or overturn the results of that election,' we can't prosecute him," Kirschner said.

WATCH | No clear co-ordination with extremists: 

Day 7 of U.S. Capitol attack hearings focuses on extremist groups, Trump’s connection

1 year ago
Duration 2:46
During Day 7 of the committee hearings investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the committee introduced witnesses that connect former president Donald Trump to the organizers of the attack.

John Yoo, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, and others have argued that the evidence so far is not enough to show Trump incited violence or took part in a seditious conspiracy.

"He spoke recklessly, but not criminally, at least not as defined by the Supreme Court," Yoo argued in the Boston Globe. "Trump made legal arguments to try to persuade Pence to suspend the vote count. But he did not actually coerce Pence — who, in any event, ignored him."

The dereliction of duty that the committee tried to demonstrate by painstakingly laying out Trump's failure to intervene as the riot was unfolding "is not a federal crime," Yoo wrote. "It is a political failure for which the remedy is impeachment."

Trump has already been impeached in the House and acquitted in the Senate.

WATCH | Trump bucked staff's suggestion to appeal for calm: 

Trump resisted mentioning 'peace' in tweet to rioters: former Trump press secretary

1 year ago
Duration 1:46
Donald Trump's former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews testifies that the then-president had been reluctant to include anything about 'peace' in a tweet addressing his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and that it wasn't until Ivanka Trump suggested it to him that he agreed.

Even if there are valid legal reasons to prosecute, there are also risks, said Bowman, such as alienating the president's supporters even more than they already are.

"If you indict him, I think it's quite likely that you're going to get some form of civil unrest," he said.

It also sets a dangerous precedent.

"Once you're in office in a culture in which it is not uncommon for former leaders to be prosecuted, then the idea of losing a re-election contest becomes existential peril," he said. "And that, of course, leads people in power to take extraordinary measures to stay there."

WATCH | Outtakes show Trump still didn't want to concede day after Capitol attack: 

Trump on Jan. 7: 'I don't want to say the election's over'

1 year ago
Duration 1:47
The U.S. congressional committee reveals outtakes from Donald Trump's address to the nation the day after the Jan, 6, 2021 riots in never-before-seen footage, in which the president says, 'I don't want to say the election's over.'

Did committee achieve what it set out to do?

Committee members have said their intent was not to present a criminal case but to lay out the facts and show Americans why Trump is not fit to stand for office again.

Whether the voters in November's midterm elections or those most pivotal in convincing the Republican Party to reject him as their nominee in 2024 were convinced is unclear.

Supporters cheer during an election night event on July 19 for Dan Cox, who won the Republican primary in Emmitsburg, Md., after being endorsed by Trump. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The hearings averaged 13 million viewers, with 18 million tuning in for the last session. A recent Marist poll found that 80 per cent of Democrats said they were paying a lot of attention to the hearings, compared with 44 per cent of Republicans and 50 per cent of Independents, and that perceptions of how voters viewed the Jan, 6 attack had not changed much.

"For Republican primary voters, which you may consider the base of the party. I don't think it matters at all," Perry said. "However, the base of the party is not the party that can win a general election. In order to win general elections in the United States, you've got to be able to pull from some independents and ... from some conservative Democrats in certain locales."


Kazi Stastna

Senior Producer

Kazi Stastna is a senior producer with She has worked as a features writer and copy editor with CBC's digital news team for over a decade. Prior to that, she was at the Montreal Gazette and worked as a reporter and editor in Germany and the Czech Republic.