As the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Capitol Hill has built its public case that Donald J. Trump was at the center of an attempted coup, the panel has relied on largely on a seemingly unlikely stream of witnesses: Mr. Trump’s own advisers, his fellow Republicans and even his own family.
Those closest to Trump have been deposed, pictured or shown rejecting the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. And yet, the struggle to thwart the will of the people continued unabated.
Powerful testimony from a parade of Republicans, in four closely produced hearings, has exposed in scathing and consequential detail just how divided the party has become between the faction accepting the reality of the 2020 election and the many more still clinging to it. Trump’s. undemocratic falsehoods about a stolen election.
“If any Republican were looking at it, there really is no way that they could make a case that President Trump won the election based on the evidence presented so far,” said Mick Mulvaney, a former White House acting chief of staff to Trump. .
There have been brief video clips of the former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and ruthless testimony from a top White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, who said he scolded another pro-Trump lawyer for being “insane” for continuing to pursue conspiracies to stop Trump. the inauguration of President Biden even the day after the riots on Capitol Hill.
“We have a lot of theories,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Trump’s top lawyers, told a group of state lawmakers as he sought to preview the results, according to Tuesday testimony from Rusty Bowers, the Republican House speaker. from Arizona. “We just don’t have the evidence.”
The president’s former attorney general, William P. Barr, had a word for the swirling factless fraud theories espoused by Trump after the election: “Nonsense.”
“I told him it was crazy,” Barr said in his video statement of the voting machine fraud allegations, “and that they were wasting their time on it, and that it was doing great harm to the country. .”
But Mulvaney said the partisan nature of the Democrat-led proceedings — Republican leaders boycotted the panel after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned down some of her appointees — meant fewer Republicans were likely to tune in. .
Democrats completely control the investigative committee, though its members include two anti-Trump Republicans, one of them Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chair.
“The fact that there are Republican witnesses is very compelling,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think Bill Barr is lying. I also know that I am not seeing the full testimony of him. I’m going to see the pieces of testimony from him that the Democrats want me to see.”
On Tuesday, Bowers and two Georgia Republican officials testified under oath, describing in harrowing terms the pressure campaign they endured to stand up to the president and the toll it took on them personally. On Thursday, more testimony will arrive from within the upper ranks of Trump’s Justice Department.
“The committee has been brilliant in that tactic of using senior officials, family members, senior campaigners and Republicans who supported him,” said Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary who served under Trump. for almost his entire term, but has since become a critic. “That’s what gives me hope that it will break through.”
A new Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday suggested such a breakthrough with large numbers of Republicans may still be a long way off.
While nearly six in 10 Americans overall think Trump bears a lot or some responsibility for the events of Jan. 6, the poll found, the opposite was true only among Republicans: 25 percent said he bears “not much responsibility.” ” responsibility, and 44 percent said they have nothing.
“My level of hope is that there is room for a sane wing of the Republican Party to rise again; the chances of that happening are extremely low,” said Sarah Longwell, founder of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project.
Still, in two focus groups of 2020 Trump voters that Longwell has held since the hearings began, he said he noticed an unusual change: None of the attendees wanted Trump to run in 2024.
“What was interesting to me: They liked Trump, but they want to move on,” Longwell said. “Which is exactly how they talked about January 6 in general.”
Cheney, the most prominent Republican critic of Trump in Congress, has been forthright about her goal of trying to drive a wedge between Trump and the party’s base, if not between him and the party’s elected leaders in Washington.
“I say this to my fellow Republicans who defend the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but his disgrace will remain,” Cheney said at the first hearing on June 9.
Ms. Cheney, facing a Trump-backed primary challenger this summer, has positioned herself as a possible presidential candidate against Mr. Trump should he run. Next week, she is scheduled to deliver a speech on the party’s future at California’s Reagan Library, the same place where several ambitious and potential 2024 Republican candidates have appeared in recent months.
Several Republican strategists predicted that the Jan. 6 committee hearings would have less of an impact in the 2022 midterm elections, when Trump himself is not on the ballot, than in the 2024 Republican presidential field.
On Capitol Hill, few were as forthright about the threat posed by Trump as J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge who is hardly a household name but has great stature in the conservative legal world.
“Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Luttig said in his testimony last week.
Luttig then made the same forward-thinking leap into the upcoming presidential election that many Democrats hope voters will make when they cast their ballots in this fall’s midterms: If elected, Trump allies “would try to nullify the 2024 election as soon as possible.” the same way they tried to annul the 2020 elections,” he warned.
At times, the committee’s impeachment has been so focused on Trump, and so full of praise for the few Republicans who stood up to him, that some Democrats privately fear the strategy could backfire by setting Trump apart from a GOP. that, in fact, he remains deeply loyal to her.
“It’s absolutely infuriating,” said Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is involved in races for the state legislature. “There is a much larger story than the one the Jan. 6 committee is telling about anti-democratic forces in the states.”
She was particularly frustrated by Mr. Bowers’ hype for simply defending the law, noting that Arizona had passed more restrictive voting bills under her watch. “I just don’t think you get a gold star for doing the absolute minimum,” Post said.
Sitting next to Bowers on Tuesday was Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who earned plaudits from the committee as a “public servant.” That same day, Georgia Democrats nominated a state representative, Bee Nguyen, to run against him, and on Wednesday Ms. Nguyen attacked Mr. Raffensperger’s earlier support for greater restrictions on voting.
The divide in the GOP can easily be overblown: Some of those whose words have been used as a stick against Trump still say they would vote for him in 2024, if he were the nominee, including Barr and Bowers, who told The Associated Press this week: “If I were against Biden, I would vote for him again.”
Another Republican whose courage has been praised by the committee is former Vice President Mike Pence, for resisting intense pressure from Trump to nullify the election.
Greg Jacob, Pence’s attorney, testified that one of Trump’s advisers, John Eastman, had asked Pence not to certify the Electoral College results even in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riots.
“That’s rubber room stuff,” Pence told him, as Jacob recalled. In other words, said Mr. Jacob, “certified insane.”
Thursday’s committee hearing will be on Mr. Trump’s “attempt to corrupt the nation’s top law enforcement agency, the Justice Department, to support his attempt to nullify the election,” as anticipated by Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the Democratic caucus. .
Three Trump administration alumni are lined up as star witnesses: Jeffrey A. Rosen, the former acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, former Acting Deputy Attorney General; and Steven Engel, former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.
The lawmaker leading the questioning will be another Republican: Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.