The Jan. 6 committee hearings are finally here — and Republicans are running scared
Donald Trump, Rep. Liz Cheney (R- WY) -- Photos by Saul Loeb and Andrew Harnik for AFP)

The long-awaited January 6th committee public hearings have finally been scheduled. The first one is set for next Thursday, June 9th, in prime time. The committee previewed their plans for next week, announcing on Thursday that they will "present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, preview additional hearings, and provide the American people a summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power." They seem to be very carefully choreographing the event, even drawing out the suspense by not naming the witnesses until next week.

The hearings, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said, will "tell a story that will blow the roof off the House." We can only hope that is not unjustified hyperbole. These hearings are an important public record of an attempted coup that the whole country must see.

What we have already seen is quite a bit of information, like the voluminous text messages from various Republicans and journalists to the White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows during the insurrection itself. There have been leaked testimonies from major players inside the Department of Justice and Donald Trump's White House, as well as information from Trump's legal advisers and various state officials. Between all of that and the media's own digging, people who have been following the story have a pretty clear picture of what happened.

Donald Trump and his allies tried to overturn a legal election with a series of plots that culminated in the violent insurrection on January 6th. But no one has put together the whole story for the American people so that they can understand just how unprecedented and dangerous these schemes were — and how close we came to a very serious constitutional crisis.

The committee is promising previously unseen material and one hopes it will add something to the narrative that we haven't yet seen. And it seems that they are serious about putting together a professional, multi-media presentation, so it shouldn't be too boring for the public. But the most important element of these hearings is going to be witness testimony. It will be the first time we've heard from anyone involved, or even any experts, on the subject of the coup in an official capacity. (You may recall that in Trump's second impeachment, the Democrats were going to call witnesses but backed down at the last minute.)

Expert testimony is always important in hearings like this to educate the public about complex issues. Axios reported this week that they plan to call conservative Republican former federal judge, J. Michael Luttig, a man who was shortlisted more than once for a Supreme Court seat. Luttig advised Former Vice President Mike Pence on the illegality of overthrowing the government. (Evidently, Pence wasn't sure ...)

Republicans are obviously worried that some of their troops might tune in and see something that will shake their faith in the Big Lie.

He wrote in a CNN op-ed in April that Trump lost the election fair and square and that all the rules the Republicans are screaming were unlawfully changed were actually changed "to expand the right and opportunity to vote, largely in response to the COVID pandemic." He is right and the majority of Americans know that. But Luttig went much further in his analysis of the situation and it's something the greater public needs to understand:

Trump's and the Republicans' far more ambitious objective is to execute successfully in 2024 the very same plan they failed in executing in 2020 and to overturn the 2024 election if Trump or his anointed successor loses again in the next quadrennial contest. The last presidential election was a dry run for the next.

Luttig is ultra-conservative. But he isn't delusional and he isn't a coward which makes him something of a unicorn in Republican circles. His testimony should be very compelling.

CNN reported that the committee has also called members of former Vice President Pence's inner circle, including his chief counsel Greg Jacob and his chief of staff Marc Short. In addition they are expected to call former Justice Department officials who were pressured by the president and his lackeys to lie about the election being stolen as well as what CNN calls other "first hand witnesses."

We won't be hearing from Trump himself or the witnesses who are refusing to cooperate, some of whom, like Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, have been referred to the Department of Justice for contempt of congress. Meadows is perhaps the most important accomplice of the bunch since he seems to have been the clearing house for every half-baked conspiracy theory in the right-wing fever swamp during the post-election period. He originally cooperated with the committee and turned over a boatload of documents and text messages before he decided to clam up. The texts are scintillating reading, exposing the fact that virtually the entire GOP was begging Trump to stop the insurrection for hours, proving they believed he had the power to do so.

And apparently, as former GOP congressman and January 6th Committee investigator Denver Riggleman told Anderson Cooper, the text messages during the post election period prior to that day were downright chilling.

Riggleman calls Meadows the "MVP" for all the information he provided and one of his close aides, Cassidy Hutchinson, was subpoenaed and testified several times before the committee and appears to have shared other vitally important information. No one has announced that she will testify publicly but if she does, it's clear she has a story to tell.

Whatever happens in these hearings we can be sure that they will be different than any hearings you may have watched in recent years and it's not just because of the extraordinary subject matter. For the first time in recent memory, we will have a congressional hearing without even one obnoxious Republican grand stander seeking to derail the whole thing. We can expect that this committee will be serious and focused which is something we have not seen in public hearings for a very long time.

The Republicans are obviously worried that some of their troops might tune in and see something that will shake their faith in the Big Lie so they are plotting to "counter-program" the hearings. Axios reported on Thursday that they are deploying everyone from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to possibly Trump himself to fan out to Fox News, Steve Bannon's "War Room," "Real America's Voice," Facebook and Trump's own Truth Social to ensure the base doesn't lose their religion.

They plan to portray the Democrats as out of touch with average Americans, one aide telling Axios, "we've got to be rigid and responsible, but a lot of Republicans think if Dems want to just talk about Jan. 6 between now and the midterm election — good luck." In that case, they might want to have a chat with their Dear Leader who can't shut up about the Big Lie that's at the heart of this entire crisis. If anyone's keeping January 6th alive, it's Donald Trump.