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The House committee that has spent the past year investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has promised a newsworthy spectacle Thursday night, when it kicks off a series of televised hearings in prime time. For weeks, the committee has been feeding reporters teasers of what’s to come, including video footage from depositions with Donald Trump administration officials and members of the Trump family—including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, according to CNN—and video from the insurrection itself, the “vast majority” of which has not been seen publicly before, the committee said. The committee seems to be using the press now more than ever to generate interest, with aides on Wednesday hopping on a background call with reporters to preview the hearings—a kind of trailer for the blockbuster, which several outlets then plugged on Thursday morning. Whether these public hearings will deliver what members have promised is one thing; whether these alleged new bombshells can stand out enough to get people care is another.
While Thursday will be the committee’s first prime-time hearing, the investigation certainly hasn’t been completely closed off from the media. Members spoke to the press in various capacities in the build-up to this public phase. There has also been a slow drip of leaks to news outlets. A committee aide insists those leaks are “unauthorized,” i.e. the panel isn’t leaking its own work to publications for strategic reasons, NBC News has reported. At least one member of the panel, Rep. Jamie Raskin, seemed unbothered, if not pleased, by the disclosures, which include more than 2,300 text messages that Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sent and received as well as audio recordings of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy telling Republicans he planned to urge Trump to resign in the days after the insurrection. “I have no idea where these leaks are coming from,” Raskin told NBC last month. “But they’re definitely whetting the public’s appetite for the hearings, because we’re going to tell a far more systematic and coherent story than the random leaks that are getting out, which obviously just contain a small portion of the information that we have.”
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Raskin’s reading is an optimistic one; amid this dribble of information, some have wondered whether the media leaks could have an opposite effect—whether, given what’s already out there, there is now even less public interest than there may have been. “This is not a criminal case. This is an opportunity, both for kind of an opening statement and a closing argument, but nothing follows from this,” Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Thursday, on the podcast Sway. “There’s going to be no jury sitting in judgment. There’s going to be no judge sitting in judgment. And so it’s really important for momentum, for public understanding and for public action, for there to be new stuff.” If there is, as Raskin—who claimed the hearings will “blow the roof off the House”—has previewed, “I think that’ll be a big deal. It won’t be yawned away. If it’s all stuff that we already know, whether you like it or not, I don’t think it’s going to move many more people.”
The committee is promising to “bring the American people back to the reality of that violence and remind them of just how horrific it was,” one aide to the committee told reporters Wednesday night, per CNN. Two live witnesses will appear: U.S. Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who was injured by the Capitol rioters, and documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who followed some of them around with a camera. Quested has provided the Jan. 6 committee with hours of footage of the Proud Boys—the extremist far-right group whose leader, along with four other members, was indicted with seditious conspiracy by the Justice Department earlier this week—and others. Some of the never-before-seen material that Quested gave investigators was “exclusively obtained” by ABC News, which on Thursday morning aired a “first look.”