Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, chairs the select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Photo by Sethasak Boonchai
This week, Mississippi’s own select committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., will launch a series of public hearings showcasing former president Donald Trump’s involvement in overthrowing democracy in America on Jan. 6, 2021.
The hearings, which will feature live witnesses and taped interviews of witness testimony from White House staff, people affiliated with the president, and others, will establish what Trump said and did in the time leading up to and during the insurrection. The committee may then refer cases for prosecution to the U.S. Justice Department, which reserves final authority in deciding whether to file charges.
Thompson told The Lighthouse that these hearings are the result of months of fact gathering from interviews, phone records and assorted evidence. The Washington Post claims investigators picked through nearly 125,000 pages of documents and conducted more than 1,000 witness interviews.
Some witnesses affiliated with Trump and the Trump administration ducked calls to provide testimony. A federal grand jury indicted former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after he refused to cooperate in the committee’s investigation. Authorities nabbed Navarro at a Nashville airport, arrested him, handcuffed him, and then locked him in a cell. Navarro immediately took to Twitter to undermine the credibility of the hearings, just as he worked with Trump to undermine the credibility of Biden’s 2020 electoral win, without evidence. Shouting “no fair” is Navarro’s fallback strategy for most elections; even now he claims the Georgia gubernatorial primary unseating Trump ally David Perdue is corrupt, again without evidence.
Thompson said personal testimony from hostile witnesses like Navarro is not so necessary at this point in the investigation, particularly because of large reams of documents, phone texts and corroborating evidence already provides time stamps on events and peoples’ locations during the violence.
“We can recommend contempt and take them to court but everybody we’ve subpoenaed we’ve already got their information,” Thompson told The Lighthouse. “We’re not looking for something that we don’t already know. What we’re doing now is giving them an opportunity, should they choose, to come and tell their side. If they don’t, we’ll still tell ours.”
The facts are looking bad for the ex-president and for the president’s Republican Party, according to CNN contributor Carl Bernstein, who helped take down former president Richard Nixon after Nixon’s criminal attempt to undermine democracy with the 1970s Watergate scandal. Bernstein’s book, “All the President’s Men,” which he co-authored with Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward, remains the definitive account of Nixon’s treachery.
Both Bernstein and Woodward referred to Trump as a “seditious president” in a CNN interview, with Bernstein telling CNN anchor Jake Tapper that Americans are in a “territory we have never seen,” thanks to the Republican Party enabling Trump’s attempted theft of democracy. The GOP “helped push … Nixon out of office and forced him to resign” after Watergate, but “today (it) is supporting Donald Trump, supporting his insurrection, (and) trying to undermine the Jan. 6th committee.”
Only two members of the GOP were willing to sit on the committee despite Trump supporters breaking windows, doors and stealing items during their attack. Rioters even left blood and excrement in the halls. Still other insurrectionists sought Republican Vice President Mike Pence to exact revenge for refusing to help Trump undermine a congressional tally and overthrow democracy. Nine people ultimately died because of the attack, including four insurgents and five Capitol guards. Many of the same Republicans who have refused to sit on the committee were ushered from the building during the attack, for their own safety.
Bernstein added that despite the GOP no-show, Thompson’s committee is “establishing a timeline that will show definitely how Donald Trump his lawyers and those closest to him attempted to stage this coup so there would be no real election of the president of the United States and Trump would continue to be in office.”
Thompson said it was important for the committee to finish its work and make its recommendations to the DOJ before the midterms, because should the GOP take the House or Senate after the midterms, he expected Republicans to protect the President’s bad behavior and undermine any legitimate investigation of him.
“We’ll be done by the midterms,” Thompson said. “Nobody’s naïve enough to think that good government is going to survive past midterms.”