Made up of seven Democrats and the two Republicans who opted to establish the inquiry (Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger), the committee must not only prove there was a coordinated effort to subvert the 2020 presidential election, it also has to convince a hyper-partisan public to believe what members suspect to be true: that Trump was complicit.
Still, some details revealed so far have presented a fascinating roll call of people in the former president’s orbit who were either worried about what was happening, or seemingly fuelling it.
What the inner circle knew
According to the committee, Trump was in his dining room watching the riot take place on TV instead of taking immediate action to stop the violence. Its investigators also claim to have “first-hand testimony” that Trump’s daughter Ivanka tried “at least twice” to get her father to stop the riot.
So too did Donald Trump jnr in a text message to Trump’s then chief of staff Mark Meadows. “He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” he wrote. “The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.”
Others appear to have known of plans to reject Biden’s victory; some were even pushing them. Former Texas governor and Trump energy secretary Rick Perry, for example, is believed to be the author of a text message sent to Meadows on November 4, 2020 – the day after the election.
The text outlined an “aggressive strategy” to undermine the result, which would involve getting the swing states of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and “other R controlled state houses” to unilaterally reject the will of the people and “just send their own electors to vote and have it go to SCOTUS” (the Supreme Court of the US).
Investigators have also zeroed in on intel that Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, and lawyer John Eastman congregated at Washington’s famous Willard InterContinental Hotel in the lead up to the attack, to discuss plans to subvert the election.
And this week, the committee released a series of explosive texts from high-profile Fox presenter Sean Hannity, who for years has operated as one of Trump’s de facto advisers.
In one text to Meadows on December 31, Hannity seemed to be worried about the effort within the White House to thwart the election.
“I do NOT see January 6 happening the way [Trump] is being told,” he wrote, suggesting instead that Trump “should announce [he] will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl [Florida] and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”
In another text, sent to Meadows on January 5, the eve of the attack, Hannity wrote: “I’m very worried about the next 48 hours.”
Not yet a criminal probe
Whether the inquiry will make any difference is open to debate, particularly as millions of Americans believe the 2020 election was rigged, and recent opinion polls suggest Trump’s hold on the GOP is stronger than ever.
What’s more, this is a congressional probe, not a criminal one. The committee has said that if criminal activity is uncovered, it can be referred to the Department of Justice, but members know they don’t have the luxury of time, let alone co-operative witnesses in Trump or his allies.
Indeed, some associates are already challenging the authority of the inquiry in court, in a deliberate attempt to run out the clock.
Biden used his Capitol anniversary speech to warn that American democracy is at a crossroads, and pose the question: “Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?”
Many watching the committee’s work may already fear the answer is yes.