The inner workings of a House committee tasked with investigating a violent attack on democracy and a sitting president’s role in it have been almost entirely shrouded from public view. This report, based on interviews with all nine members of the committee and senior staff, reveals a feverish, fraught race against the clock to reach the finish line by Jan. 3, 2023 – when new members take the oath of office and the committee is dissolved.
The story of the committee began with a choice by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her decision, made just three weeks after she assumed the leadership post in January 2022, would have a profound impact on how the committee’s investigation was conducted.
Pelosi had offered Kevin McCarthy the chance to fill five spots on the committee. His selections included Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, who are pugnacious defenders of Trump and prominent 2020 election fraud deniers. In their own words, the two acted “with reckless disregard for the truth” in making their denials about the legitimacy of the presidential election.
In a series of conference calls, Pelosi conferred with her fellow Democrats on the committee about her feelings about Jordan and Banks. They were not unanimous: Lofgren, Raskin and Schiff had their doubts about them. But Pelosi ultimately decided to seat them, despite a request from Chuck Schumer for her to reconsider.
While the committee members fought over their seating preferences, Goldston was busy setting up his control room, which he constructed in the Cannon House Office Building one floor above where the hearings would be held. The former executive producer of ABC’s “Nightline” had a lot on his mind. In addition to arranging the logistics of the production, he was also in touch with a graphics operator in Chicago and a team in Las Vegas that were uploading all of the video footage for the evening’s proceedings. He was monitoring social media as well to see what the public was responding to in real time.
Throughout the course of the investigation, Goldston and his staff found themselves confronting the question of whether a witness could be compelled to testify in full or at all, even if he or she insisted on invoking privilege to avoid doing so. They ultimately concluded that it was in the public interest to ensure that witnesses had a chance to present their side of the story.
A key piece of evidence that the committee has uncovered is how some of the most high-profile Republicans on the panel encouraged witnesses to say they didn’t recall certain facts. For example, a witness whose lawyer was being paid by a Trump-allied group was told that the witness could be given permission to tell the committee that she didn’t recall certain events that had occurred in her home during the night of Nov. 8, 2016, in order to shield her from having to appear in front of the committee.