What to expect at this week's January 6 hearing, according to a committee member
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
The January 6 committee holds a public hearing Wednesday - its first since July. There have been significant developments around former President Donald Trump since then, namely the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago and the DOJ investigation into the mishandling of classified documents found there. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, is on the January 6 committee and joins us now. Good morning.
ZOE LOFGREN: Good morning.
RASCOE: So first things first, tell us about Wednesday's hearing.
LOFGREN: Well, we think it will be of interest. We have, of course, been working throughout the summer, and we have some additional information that we will relay that we think will better inform the public as to the events leading up to and during the January 6 riot.
RASCOE: Will there be a focus on then-Vice President Pence at this hearing?
LOFGREN: I'm not going to get into the hearing. You'll have to watch it. I'm sorry.
RASCOE: OK. Well, you know, I have to try. So I also wanted to ask, is this going to be the last hearing or is there more to come?
LOFGREN: Well, that's undecided. It is possible that it's the last. But as we continue to work, we wouldn't rule out the possibility of an additional public hearing.
RASCOE: You know, some other news that came out last week is that the committee is going to interview Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. What is the committee looking to hear from Thomas?
LOFGREN: She was in communication with Dr. Eastman. We have emails related to that. We'd like to explore that with her. Eastman was the architect of the scheme that one federal judge has described as criminal, and we'd like to learn more about it.
RASCOE: You're a lawyer. Thinking about the committee's work as a whole, rate the strength of the case made so far.
LOFGREN: Well, I am a lawyer, but I am a legislator. And so our committee is a legislative committee. We're - we've never tried to substitute our judgment for that of the Department of Justice. I do think that you look at what some - for example, the judge in the Eastman evidence case indicated there were statutes that were likely - were violated - criminal statutes.
RASCOE: I understand this isn't a court case. This is - Congress is a legislative body. So what do you feel like the work of this committee is building to?
LOFGREN: Well, first, to inform the public about what happened. That was our obligation when the committee was formed. The committee was charged with making recommendations for changes in procedures or law that would make us less vulnerable to this kind of attack in the future. And as a matter of fact, just last week, the House approved reforms to the Electoral Count Act to make it less vulnerable to abuse. For example, the former president lied to his supporters, made them believe that the vice president had the authority to overturn the election when, in fact, the vice president's role was purely ministerial. But because of the wording of the Electoral Count Act, it wasn't as clear as it could be. We've made it clear - and the 12th Amendment is totally clear - that the vice president has no policy role to play.
RASCOE: Only nine Republicans voted for the Electoral Count Act. So how are Democrats going to advance a Senate version and then negotiate with the House and get this passed?
LOFGREN: Well, we're obviously in touch with the Senate. Unfortunately, in the House, the Republican leadership whipped against it because they saw this through a partisan lens. And I think that the Senate is not - at least responsible members on both - in both parties - are not seeing this through a partisan lens. They're seeing it as a constitutional and American issue. I imagine that the Senate version, after it's gone through the committee process, will be somewhat different than what the House passed. You know, that's not unusual in the legislative process. We'll get together and work these things out.
RASCOE: Finally, what is the plan for the committee's final report? Do you think you will recommend criminal charges?
LOFGREN: Well, we have not yet had a discussion on whether or not we should make criminal referrals. There is no such thing in statute. So it really just amounts to writing a letter. But as I say, the committee has not yet had that discussion and likely will not until all of the investigation is completed. We will have a full report completed before the end of the year. Whether or not we will have an interim report prior to that is not yet known. We're scrambling. There is so much work yet to be done - going through, I mean, just a mountain of material that we've received from the Secret Service, for one thing, along with other information. So we're working hard, and we hope to have more information out as soon as we can responsibly deliver it.
RASCOE: Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, thank you so much for speaking with us.
LOFGREN: Thank you. Have a good weekend. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.