www.nytimes.com /2022/12/23/magazine/jan-6-committee.html

Inside the Jan. 6 Committee: Power Struggles and Made-for-TV Moments

Robert Draper, Luke Broadwater, Philip Montgomery 57-72 minutes 12/23/2022
The nine members of the Jan. 6 committee before its final public meeting on Dec. 19. Clockwise from top left: Representatives Pete Aguilar, Stephanie Murphy, Bennie Thompson, Elaine Luria, Zoe Lofgren, Adam Schiff, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin.

Power struggles, resignations and made-for-TV moments — the untold story of the most important congressional investigation in generations.

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One afternoon in early May, a lanky, bespectacled and mostly bald 53-year-old British American named James Goldston sat in a conference room in the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. House Office Building before the expectant gazes of 25 or so men and women: the staff of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. For almost a year, they had been amassing evidence against former President Donald J. Trump and his associates. In less than a month, the committee would be presenting this evidence in a succession of live televised hearings. Goldston, who had left his position as president of ABC News a year earlier, had just been hired by the committee to assist in this endeavor.

“So what have we got?” he asked the staff members.

Quite a lot, replied the committee’s lead investigator, Tim Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney. The committee staff had conducted nearly 1,000 witness interviews. It had collected over a million pages of documents from the National Archives and other sources. It had obtained hundreds of phone records, in addition to thousands of text messages sent by and to Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff. The committee’s cache of visual material included hundreds of hours of never-before-seen footage that security cameras captured during the attack.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and its vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, had worked with the staff to organize the hearings around seven specific methods by which Trump and his allies sought to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election: the willful spreading of lies that the election had been stolen; trying to coerce the Department of Justice into disputing the election results; pressuring Vice President Mike Pence; pressuring state and local officials; seeking to recruit phony electors in several contested states; summoning a mob to Washington; and then, upon inciting that mob, sitting back for more than three hours and doing nothing to stop the violence. The idea, Heaphy said, was for every hearing to include a significant audiovisual representation of the evidence the staff had gathered.

“And, so, what have we got?” Goldston asked again, somewhat more anxiously this time.

“That’s what you’re here for,” he was told.


Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of two Republicans on the committee. She would turn the typically ceremonial role of vice chair into a position of unmatched power.
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of two Republicans on the committee. She would turn the typically ceremonial role of vice chair into a position of unmatched power.

James Goldston’s 30-year career — covering breaking news as a BBC correspondent, creating shows, overseeing the celebrity hosts of “Good Morning America” and running a news division — made him well suited to this new challenge. Still, Goldston struggled to contain his astonishment. He asked the staff how, in past House hearings, video footage was played. Someone just clicks a button on a laptop, he was told. Did they use a control room? he asked. No, no such room existed. Was there a video-production staff on hand? No. Was there money in the budget to hire such a staff? Goldston was informed that the committee staff’s senior team already had vast experience running hearings. “We’ve done these things before,” one of them assured him.

“I can’t do this,” he informed them. Though Goldston stopped short of quitting that day, his first meeting with the committee staff ended on a highly pessimistic note.

Word of Goldston’s consternation soon reached Thompson and Cheney, and within days, he received permission to recruit a small staff. Knowing he needed experienced storytellers, Goldston made his first calls to four senior producers he worked with as the executive producer of ABC’s long-running news-documentary program “Nightline.” Then he met with a veteran Washington-based video-production director named Todd Mason and immediately requested that he and his deputy be hired. Together they constructed a temporary control room in the Cannon House Office Building, one floor above the committee room where the hearings would take place. These six individuals, along with five video editors, would constitute the team for a man accustomed to having as many as 2,000 employees at his disposal.

Like the lawyers on the investigative team, Goldston’s group consisted of highly experienced professionals whose work on the committee paid them far less than what they would have commanded in the private sector. Though no one needed a reminder that the significance of their mission could not be measured in dollars, Goldston saw fit to hang a poster in the office featuring a quote from the Watergate film “All the President’s Men”: “Nothing’s riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country.” (After the hearings began, Goldston also hung an enlarged printout of a statement Trump made to associates: “Those losers keep editing video.”)

Goldston began to review the visual material the committee had gathered. One of the members, Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, had suggested that every interview be videotaped. (When Heaphy protested that investigators lacked the necessary equipment for videotaping depositions, Lofgren replied: “I don’t care. You’ve got an iPhone. Video it.”) But Goldston discovered that many of the depositions captured on video calls featured the witness in a tiny box on the screen, so that an enlarged version of the video would invariably be blurry. During Ivanka Trump’s deposition, a single document lingered on the screen for an entire hour, rather than the face of the president’s daughter. The individuals making the recordings were superb lawyers. As videographers, they left something to be desired.

A breakthrough moment occurred for Goldston in the middle of May, when he and the investigators were discussing a phone conversation that took place between Trump and Pence on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021. Goldston wanted to find a way to capture this obscure but climactic dialogue between a bullying and profane chief executive and a passive but resolutely defiant second-in-command who refused to play any role in overturning the election results. The investigators had taken depositions from an individual who was with Pence in the vice president’s residence when he took the call, as well as from a White House aide who was with Trump in the Oval Office at the time. No single narrator stood out. Then he had an idea.

“Is there a way,” Goldston asked, “to do this as an oral history? Take all the interviews, and get everyone to tell the story from their perspective. Can we do that?”

The producer and the investigators spent an afternoon studying the tapes in the editing room they had built on the fifth floor of the O’Neill Building. For the first time, Goldston recognized the gold mine he was sitting on. There was Trump’s personal assistant, Nicholas Luna, testifying that the president had called Pence a “wimp.” There was Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford, reporting that the president’s daughter remembered her father having called Pence “the p-word.” And there was the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, recalling that Pence had returned to a private prayer circle immediately after the call with a “steely” disposition. Taken together, the disparate narrators described a dramatic struggle between the two most powerful elected officers in the land, with a free and fair election hanging in the balance.

With Goldston’s well-connected assistance, the committee’s communications director, Tim Mulvey, secured prime-time coverage from the major networks. On the evening of June 9, the committee members lined up in the anteroom of the Cannon Caucus Room. As the doors of the hearing room opened, Chairman Thompson looked out at the audience and thought of growing up in rural Mississippi; of how so many Black people had fought for the right to take part in American democracy, only to be denied; of how his father was never able to vote. Now he was about to lead one of the most important congressional hearings in modern history. He said to himself, with a curse he was too polite to repeat later, “This is a big moment for our country.”

One floor above them, Goldston stood in the control room. Todd Mason was checking in with his graphics operator in Chicago and his team in Las Vegas, where the production’s server was uploading all the video and graphics that would accompany the evening’s hearing. Over in the O’Neill office, production aides were monitoring social media to gauge public reaction in real time. The crowded committee room fell silent as the members took their seats.

Standing next to Goldston in the control room was Melinda Arons, an award-winning former “Nightline” producer. As they watched their screens, she said quietly, “I’m going to throw up.”


Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the committee’s chairman. “This is a big moment for our country,” he said to himself before the first hearing.
Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the committee’s chairman. “This is a big moment for our country,” he said to himself before the first hearing.

The most consequential congressional committee in generations was immersed in high drama from beginning to end. It originated six months after a domestic siege of the Capitol. It devoted a year to seeking evidence from sources who were often reluctant or even hostile. It then presented that evidence in the form of captivating televised hearings that were watched by more than 10 million Americans at a time, leading up to the November 2022 midterms in which a clear majority cast their ballots against election denialism. And then the committee concluded its work by making history with its criminal referrals of a former president to the Department of Justice.

But the inner workings of the Jan. 6 committee — members of Congress, lawyers, video producers and assorted staff members totaling about 80 people tasked with investigating a violent attack on American democracy and a sitting president’s role in that attack — have been almost completely shrouded from public view. Through extensive interviews with all nine of the committee’s members and numerous senior staff members and key witnesses, we have been able to reconstruct a previously unreported account of the committee’s fevered, fraught and often chaotic race to a finish line that has always been understood to be Jan. 3, 2023, when the new Congress is sworn in and a new Republican majority in the House would immediately dissolve the committee. Those same efforts took place at a time when the Republican Party was resolutely united behind the committee’s principal target, Trump, with politicians and voters alike joining the former president in lustily condemning the inquiry at every opportunity.

The committee’s first few months were rocky, even “tumultuous,” in the words of one member, as the lawmakers struggled to plot out a strategy to investigate what they saw as a sprawling, complex conspiracy. It was only after they hired around a dozen former federal prosecutors, including two U.S. attorneys and a lawyer who helped put the drug lord known as El Chapo in prison, that things began to get serious: The committee sent requests to telecommunications companies to preserve phone and text records of some 700 potential witnesses. Soon, witnesses started agreeing to testify, with dozens of interviews coming in a week. If a high-ranking Trump official refused to comply, the committee tried to bring in an aide. If the aide refused, the former prosecutors went after the aide’s aide.

But the group often found itself in a state of conflict with recalcitrant witnesses: More than 30 Trump allies pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination, while others, like Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, seemed to have situational amnesia. (“Jared Kushner didn’t remember anything,” Lofgren said. “I found that not credible.”) The Justice Department, meanwhile, was less than accommodating, with no F.B.I. officials or agents agreeing to testify about the bureau’s own intelligence failures, and Attorney General Merrick Garland was slow to prosecute witnesses who refused to testify. “Attorney General Garland, do your job!” another committee member, Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia, declared during a public meeting in late March 2022. Days later, at the annual Gridiron Club dinner, which brings together journalists, politicians and officials, Luria was awkwardly seated at the same table as Garland’s wife. Later, after learning that Secret Service’s texts from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 had been deleted, the committee descended into a state of “ranting and raving” about the failure of federal officials to preserve evidence, according to Lofgren.

A more immediate source of conflict was the committee’s own investigative staff, a team of highly accomplished lawyers who were used to being in charge and often bristled when their ideas were overruled by politicians, resulting in some embarrassing leaks as frustrations grew over the direction of the committee’s final report. Harmony among the members themselves was a work in progress, but all the decisions they made were unanimous, after long discussions seeking consensus. If any member felt strongly that an idea was wrongheaded — like a push by Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland to recommend dissolving the Electoral College — the matter was dropped.

The apotheosis of their efforts was nine publicly televised hearings from June through October 2022. The committee’s intention was to aim for the impact of the televised 1973 Senate Watergate Committee hearings — which started off with little public attention, facing the headwinds of President Richard M. Nixon’s overwhelming re-election, but would convince skeptical Republicans and help turn the tide of public opinion.

In the year leading up to the Jan. 6 committee’s scheduled hearings, there was sufficient reason to wonder whether they would fall fatally short of the Watergate precedent and instead meet the same ignominious fate as more recent highly publicized hearings — among them the two-and-a-half-year Republican-led inquiry, beginning in 2014, into the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya; the 2019 testimony of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, regarding Trump’s associations with Russia; that same year’s Democratic-driven impeachment of Trump for his strong-arming of Ukraine in an effort to undermine his likely 2020 opponent, Joe Biden; and the second impeachment of Trump after the Jan. 6 attack, which failed to achieve a bipartisan consensus, despite 10 House Republicans voting to hold Trump accountable. Each seemed to only further partisan divides, dismissed by opponents as fake, as theater, as politically motivated.

As a newsman, James Goldston had no interest in aiding a futile partisan cause. What first piqued his interest in working for the Jan. 6 committee was the meeting he had with Cheney a couple of weeks before he was hired.

He met her in the special office that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had given her so that she would have a place to pore over the committee’s secretive work. (Committee documents were watermarked and shredded after reading.) Such Capitol office spaces are known as “hideaways” and can be quite ornate, some equipped with fireplaces and full bars. Cheney’s was nothing of the sort. Her hideaway was in the dimly lit tunnel corridor that connected the House office buildings to the Capitol. Two security officers occupied the small room beside the office, where she spent her days among heaps of transcripts in the beleaguered manner of a paralegal. The abjectness of her new dwelling seemed a kind of metaphor for the current political status of someone who had been cast out as the chairwoman of the House Republican conference by her colleagues and was now reviled by the party’s base.

Cheney’s future, it now seemed, was the committee’s work. As she and Goldston talked in her hideaway, he was struck by how committed she was to a cause that would damage her political career, perhaps permanently. It was also evident to Goldston that Cheney, more than anyone else on the committee, seemed to appreciate the importance of skillfully produced hearings — because in her mind, failure was simply not an option, not with Trump continuing to be a dominant force in American political life.

Pelosi had asked Cheney if she would be a committee member during a phone conversation on the morning of July 1, 2021. Cheney had already decided, when the committee was legislated into being, that if the offer came she would say yes, while recognizing that doing so would ensure her exile from the Republican Party.

The committee itself was not Pelosi’s preferred vehicle for investigating the attack on the Capitol. Her first choice was an independent body modeled after the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, more commonly known as the Sept. 11 Commission, which consisted of five Republicans and five Democrats, none of whom held elective office during the course of their work. But the two congressional Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell in the Senate and Kevin McCarthy in the House, saw only political downside in a lengthy public airing of Republican malfeasance. McCarthy first deputized Representative John Katko of New York, the ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to negotiate the terms of such a commission with the Democratic chairman of that committee, Bennie Thompson, but then abruptly rejected the deal that the two men struck. The measure was then filibustered to death by Republicans in the Senate. Pelosi’s fallback option, a House select committee that would not require Senate approval, passed along party lines, with only Cheney and another vocal Republican critic of Trump, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, defecting in support.

Pelosi’s choices for the committee typified the kinds of calculations she made throughout her tenure as the House’s Democratic leader. She wanted her most experienced hands on it, like Representative Adam Schiff of California, who conducted the first impeachment inquiry of Trump, and Jamie Raskin, who led the House managers during the second impeachment trial. She wanted to showcase her party’s diversity, exemplified by Bennie Thompson, for whom the Congressional Black Caucus lobbied heavily to chair the committee and who as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee already oversaw the implicit starting point of an investigation of a domestic attack; by Pete Aguilar, a fellow Californian who a year later would be elected by House Democrats to be their caucus chairman, making him the highest-ranking Latino in Congress; by Luria, a Navy veteran; and by Stephanie Murphy of Florida, the co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition and the first Vietnamese American woman to serve in Congress.

Pelosi also wanted to maintain a close watch on the committee’s activities, enabled by her ally Zoe Lofgren — a lawyer, former impeachment manager and chair of the House Administration Committee, and also, as one member put it, “Pelosi’s eyes and ears.”

Appointing Cheney to the committee would count as one of Pelosi’s most consequential decisions in a political career that has spanned more than three decades. Though Raskin had become close to Cheney, who was a House freshman with him in 2017 and informally advised him during the second impeachment trial, other Democrats remembered her as a partisan brawler.

It was Cheney, after all, who led the messaging war against the first impeachment hearings in the fall of 2019, terming the investigators’ hurried inquiry “shameful” and declaring that “history will judge them.” Less than three months before getting the call from Pelosi, Cheney had also publicly refused to rule out running for president in 2024. The committee and its staff members had cause to wonder whether Cheney would put her ambitions aside or use this new platform to further them. Still, none of them raised objections when Thompson elevated Cheney to the role of vice chair — though he first offered the post to Raskin, who recommended that Thompson give it to Cheney as a way of emphasizing the committee’s bipartisan character. Thompson needed little convincing; as he would say later, “I didn’t want the naysayers to be able to say it was a Democratic witch hunt.”


Representative Zoe Lofgren of California was described by another committee member as “Pelosi’s eyes and ears.”
Representative Zoe Lofgren of California was described by another committee member as “Pelosi’s eyes and ears.”

Just three weeks into the committee’s life, Pelosi made a second fateful decision. The speaker had offered to let Kevin McCarthy fill five seats on the committee. On July 19, McCarthy made his selections public. Three of them — Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy Nehls of Texas — were deemed reasonable choices by Pelosi. The other two were Jim Banks of Indiana, who chaired the conservative Republican Study Committee, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. Both were pugnacious defenders of Trump and prominent 2020 election deniers.

The following day, Pelosi conferred with the committee members in a series of phone calls. She told them that she felt unease about Jordan and Banks and that Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, had already weighed in on the subject: “Don’t seat them. They are insane.” Lofgren, Raskin, Cheney and Thompson shared Pelosi’s concerns. Schiff was undecided, while Aguilar argued that she should go ahead and seat all five Republicans but be prepared to remove them at a moment’s notice.

Pelosi made her decision. “I’ll take the political hit,” she told Aguilar. She added casually, “It’ll only last for 10 minutes.”

The next day, Pelosi notified McCarthy of her decision to veto his choices of Jordan and Banks. McCarthy informed Pelosi that he was withdrawing his other three selections as well and boycotting the investigation altogether. He also warned her that he would remember this moment two years later, when he himself was likely to be running the House.

Four days after McCarthy withdrew his Republican choices, Pelosi selected an additional one herself: Adam Kinzinger, who had joined Cheney and eight other Republicans in voting to impeach Trump six months earlier and who brought a swaggering Air Force pilot’s informality to the committee, often chewing tobacco during its meetings. By the time the committee’s public hearings commenced in June 2022, the speaker’s decision and McCarthy’s response to it had taken on monumental significance: After spending 18 months recasting the insurrection as alternately a nonevent and a setup, the House Republicans essentially deplatformed themselves from a nationally televised revisitation of the subject.

The lack of obstructionist voices on the committee meant the panel could proceed with a clean, uninterrupted narrative about the events of Jan. 6. “Had the speaker seated on the committee the circus clowns, the insurrection sympathizers, it would’ve been just a shit show,” Schiff would later say. “No one would’ve come forward. None of the public would’ve watched. It wouldn’t have been worth watching. So that original decision was really the basis upon which we were able to conduct a serious investigation.”


Committee members during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring law-enforcement officers for their service on Jan. 6, 2021. From left: Liz Cheney, Stephanie Murphy, Jamie Raskin and Elaine Luria.
Committee members during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring law-enforcement officers for their service on Jan. 6, 2021. From left: Liz Cheney, Stephanie Murphy, Jamie Raskin and Elaine Luria.

On June 9, 2022, midway into the first hearing, the lights in the Cannon Caucus Room were dimmed, and the big screen flickered with images from the attack on the Capitol. Thompson had warned the audience that “this isn’t easy to watch.” Despite the ubiquity by that point of Jan. 6 footage, the slow-moving-train-wreck vividness of the Goldston team’s 11-minute production — accompanied by a visceral soundtrack of thundering chants, presidential bluster, nervous radio traffic and the shattering of Capitol windows — lent the riot an aura of claustrophobia-inducing immediacy. The final voice on the video clip was that of Trump, six months after the insurrection, recalling fondly to a Fox News host, “The love in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it.” Its last image was of a rioter holding high a Trump 2020 banner that trembled in a sky befouled by tear gas. Throughout it all, the audience in the Cannon Caucus Room maintained a stricken silence. That first video would garner 31 million impressions on Twitter alone.

Much of the footage was in fact new, assembled through both zealous investigation and mind-numbing study of the mounds of procured material. During a routine deposition, a witness (whose identity remains a secret) disclosed to the committee’s lawyers that Trump had telegraphed his intentions for the Jan. 6 rallygoers to march to the Capitol weeks before he “spontaneously” urged them to do so — in a draft tweet that was never actually posted. Similarly, the investigators learned that video outtakes existed of Trump’s acknowledgment on Jan. 7 that he would be departing the White House, in which he instructed his speechwriters, “I don’t want to say the election’s over.” They retrieved this material from the repository of Trump-administration work product housed in the National Archives.

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Such finds became known internally as “hot docs.” For the most part, however, Goldston’s video packages, as they are known in the TV industry, relied on the piecemeal accretion of small but telling details. A 25-year-old Democratic aide named Jacob Nelson became the staff’s resident riot-footage specialist and would later painstakingly pace off the 40-foot distance that, as a video package in the third hearing would reveal, separated Pence from the mob. That montage of Pence eluding the rioters was conceived principally by Marcus Childress, an investigative counsel and former Air Force judge advocate.

The format of the public sessions could not have been more different from a typical congressional hearing, which traditionally affords each member five minutes to speak at their leisure one after the other, often making for a windy, disjointed and difficult-to-follow proceeding heavy on political speechifying and light on substance. Instead, the Jan. 6 hearings were meticulously choreographed. Each member’s one star turn, in a single hearing, would be focused on a topic assigned to them by Pelosi in consultation with her adviser Jamie Fleet and with Chairman Thompson — and, with few exceptions, they would stay silent the rest of the time. The format required the members to read from a Teleprompter, a new and somewhat difficult experience for many of them. Unlike typical congressional hearings, these would have a script. “Every word was intentional,” one senior staff member recalled. “Nothing was spontaneous.”

Those scripts were sent, embargoed, to TV news organizations in advance, to help facilitate coverage and even cue camera angles for dramatic moments. The theme of each script was built around a list of a hundred or so factual elements compiled by the investigators, which Goldston’s team would then bring to life through graphics and video. The lead member for each hearing had a hand in shaping the script, but so did several others, including the vice chairwoman. Each hearing was preceded by at least two rehearsals held in the Cannon Caucus Room on evenings or weekends. Each monologue was timed with a stopwatch usually held by Mulvey, the communications director. One rehearsal lasted five hours, and the script of the hearing had to be cut nearly in half.

The first hearing, in prime time, drew 19.4 million television viewers, three-fourths of whom were 55 or older, suggesting that millions more viewers who were younger watched it online. Over four million saw the hearing on MSNBC, enabling the liberal cable-news company to outscore Fox News, which elected not to carry the hearing in full. The subsequent afternoon hearings continued to draw more than 10 million — approaching the viewership of a Sunday night football game — and the coverage of them invariably extended for hours after Thompson gaveled for adjournment. That the hearings had outperformed expectations was a subject of considerable satisfaction for the members, who well remembered all the predictions that their efforts would prove to be a dud. Among these was an opinion piece by the New York Times columnist David Brooks headlined “The Jan. 6 Committee Has Already Blown It,” published a day before the first hearing. “The David Brooks piece, honestly, it was bulletin-board material,” Aguilar said. “It was like, ‘Challenge accepted.’”


Representative Pete Aguilar of California, the next caucus chairman for House Democrats and the highest-ranking Latino in Congress.
Representative Pete Aguilar of California, the next caucus chairman for House Democrats and the highest-ranking Latino in Congress.

The third hearing included live testimony from J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge — once on the short list to become a Republican nominee to the Supreme Court and a revered figure in elite conservative circles — who had advised Pence on Jan. 5 that the vice president had no constitutional power to overturn the election results.

John Wood, a former U.S. attorney and former clerk to Luttig and Justice Clarence Thomas, had been brought on by Cheney to work on the committee. Wood, one of the leaders of the Gold Team investigating Trump’s inner circle, reached out to Luttig early on to informally interview him about the advice he gave to Pence and to ask him to testify. Luttig would later recall that he worked for two days straight preparing his remarks: “I had this overwhelming understanding that, because of who I was, I had the highest obligation to the country to choose every single word with as great a precision as I was capable of.”

Schiff fought for the right to lead the fourth hearing — focused on the pressure that Trump and his associates put on state and local officials to reverse the election results — because of his interest in the overt efforts to corrupt the election process in Georgia. Referring to Trump’s notorious arm-twisting phone conversation on Jan. 2 with the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, which one of Raffensperger’s aides recorded and which was played during the hearing, Schiff later said: “There’s no disguising the president’s involvement in that call. He’s frigging on the line.

In preparing for the June 21 hearing, Schiff reviewed the videotaped testimony of a Georgia election worker named Ruby Freeman, a gregarious Black woman who liked to wear a T-shirt with her nickname, Lady Ruby, until Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other right-wing influencers began falsely accusing her and her daughter of having smuggled fake ballots for Biden, using racist tropes and leading to a deluge of threats to them and their family (Giuliani said the women were suspiciously handling USB devices “as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine’; the objects turned out to be a single ginger mint). Freeman described in her testimony how the F.B.I. had persuaded her to leave her home because of death threats from Trump supporters. “He targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small-business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen,” Freeman told the committee’s lawyers in outraged disbelief, “who stood up to help Fulton County run an election during the middle of a pandemic.”

Goldston’s producers weren’t quite sure where to place the Ruby Freeman vignette in the script. Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, was adamant. He told them that he had to fight off tears when he watched her. They had to end Schiff’s presentation with Freeman talking about what it felt like for an individual to endure the gale force of Donald Trump’s wrath.

The committee members would soon find themselves targeted as well. Capitol Police began posting officers at witnesses’ homes, putting snipers on roofs and assigning officers to drive with members to and from their homes. By the end of July, the House sergeant-at-arms, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, recommended to Stephanie Murphy that she be accompanied by a four-person round-the-clock security detail. “Do you really think that’s necessary?” she asked Walker.

“Stephanie, you’re doing the hearing on domestic violent extremists, aren’t you?” Walker asked.

“And at that point, they put them on all of us,” Murphy recalled later. “Because increasingly, our hearings were clearly highlighting the president.”


Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida, a moderate Democratic voice on the committee, was a co-leader of the hearing on domestic violent extremists.
Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida, a moderate Democratic voice on the committee, was a co-leader of the hearing on domestic violent extremists.

In October 2021, eight months before the hearings began, the former Trump White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews met Liz Cheney in her hideaway. Accompanying Matthews was her friend Alyssa Farah Griffin, Trump’s former communications director. Griffin had already been cooperating with the committee. This was Matthews’s first encounter with the operation, and though she had been estranged from Trump world since she resigned on Jan. 6 because of the president’s conduct during the riot, she wasn’t sure she had much to offer. Moreover, Matthews now had a job on Capitol Hill, working as the spokeswoman for the Republican members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. After the tumultuous years of the Trump presidency, Matthews had resumed a life of contented anonymity and had no wish to upend it.

Still, she was impressed that the vice chairwoman had taken the time from her busy schedule to meet with her for what would be a two-hour off-the-record conversation. Though Matthews had always regarded Cheney from a distance as rather intimidating, in this setting she seemed witty and even warm. She was also discreet: News of their meeting never leaked to the press. Matthews decided to cooperate with the committee. At a minimum, she could refer Cheney and the investigators to more in-the-know potential witnesses.

At one point in their conversation, Matthews observed that the committee was unlikely to gain the cooperation of Mark Meadows. Then she said: “The person you really should talk to is Cassidy Hutchinson. She was his shadow.”

It was remarkable how much the White House chief of staff shared with his young assistant, Matthews explained to Cheney. Hutchinson was constantly by Meadows’s side. She was on a first-name basis with Republicans in the House and the Senate and texted with them frequently. Cheney had heard Griffin share similar observations about Hutchinson. But then Matthews said that she had bumped into Hutchinson recently, and the former aide had confided that she and Meadows had a falling out. Hutchinson was no longer a Trump loyalist.

A month after Matthews met with Cheney, a federal marshal knocked on Hutchinson’s door and served her with a subpoena. Unemployed at this point, she retained a legal team headed by Stefan Passantino, a former Trump deputy White House counsel whose fee was being covered by the Trump-affiliated PAC Save America. Hutchinson’s first deposition, on Feb. 23, ran long, and she agreed to answer the investigators’ remaining questions a day or two later. Between those two meetings, Hutchinson received an ominous phone call from someone she knew. The caller, a top aide to Meadows, Ben Williamson, said that someone had something to tell Hutchinson. As the committee’s transcript would read: ‘‘Mark told me you have your deposition tomorrow … Mark wants me to let you know that he knows you’re loyal, and he knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss.’’

Hutchinson waited until June to disclose this phone call to Cheney. By then, she had grown concerned that the substance of her multiple interviews with the committee was being conveyed to Trump, and she suspected her own legal team. Hutchinson parted ways with Passantino (who denies passing on information relating to her testimony to Trump) and hired Jody Hunt, who was the head of the Justice Department’s civil division under Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr and who agreed to represent her on a pro bono basis.

With her new lawyer, Hutchinson showed up for another interview in Cheney’s hideaway in late June. Sitting at the conference table with detailed notes splayed out in front of her, she proceeded to share new details of Trump’s conduct before and during Jan. 6.

Tim Mulvey was eating lunch at a restaurant on that Friday afternoon when he was instructed by phone to report to Cheney’s hideaway immediately. Among those gathered were the vice chairwoman; Chairman Thompson; the staff director, David Buckley, and his deputy, Kristin Amerling; the senior investigator Dan George; and the Pelosi adviser Jamie Fleet. They crowded around a laptop to watch on videotape what Cheney had just experienced firsthand: Hutchinson describing how Trump wanted the security magnetometers removed at his Jan. 6 rally, because his armed supporters were “not here to hurt me”; how Trump had to be physically restrained while angrily demanding that his driver take him to the Capitol after his speech at the rally; how he sat for hours watching the televised coverage of the riot.

Immediately after the meeting, Mulvey called James Goldston at his home in Brooklyn Heights, where he was enjoying a planned production break as Congress was heading into a two-week recess. “There’s going to be a hearing next Tuesday,” Mulvey informed Goldston, adding that the matter was sensitive and should be confined to a very small production team. Over the weekend, Fleet called the other seven committee members and advised them that, unexpectedly, they would be needed for a hearing on Tuesday but did not provide further details.

On June 28 at 10 a.m., the nine committee members met in a room called a SCIF — for sensitive compartmented information facility — where they could receive classified information. For the first time, Cheney and Thompson informed the others that they had been summoned back because Cassidy Hutchinson had shared explosive new revelations pertinent to their investigation. Though they had planned for Hutchinson to appear as a witness at a later hearing, along with Sarah Matthews, Cheney argued that her testimony couldn’t wait — that they couldn’t risk it leaking, and that Hutchinson’s safety was at issue. A hearing was scheduled for that same afternoon, in three hours. The script was completed. The video footage had been assembled and uploaded into the server. Hutchinson would be the afternoon’s stand-alone witness. “Each time we learned a little more than we learned the time before,” Thompson recalled of Hutchinson’s interviews. “So you’re trying to figure out: Are we being strung along? Can we believe this?” The members reviewed her statements carefully and found her credible. “It was clear that she was telling the truth,” Thompson said. “Based on that conversation in the SCIF, we went forward.”

Around 12:30 p.m., Hutchinson and her attorney were escorted by Capitol Police through the parking garage of the Cannon House Office Building to a holding room on the second floor, where she was met by two committee staff members. Just before 1 p.m., they led the witness to a back elevator and took it up to the fourth floor, bypassing the hearing room in order to be able to make a secure entrance. Before taking a stairway down to the third floor and into the Cannon Caucus anteroom, the deputy communications director, Hannah Muldavin and Hutchinson stopped in the women’s restroom.

Muldavin was only a couple of years older than Hutchinson. She coached several of the female witnesses on details like what to wear and how to sit during the hearings. Still, Hutchinson was the only witness, female or male, around whose testimony an entire hearing would be built. She was visibly nervous. Muldavin told her that her coming forward to testify was a show of courage that women and girls would look up to: “You’re going to be iconic.”


Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Elaine Luria reviewing Jan. 6 material in a secure reading room at the Capitol.
Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Elaine Luria reviewing Jan. 6 material in a secure reading room at the Capitol.

Even before Hutchinson’s surprise hearing that garnered 13.2 million television viewers and was acknowledged as a turning point — with the conservative legal writer and former assistant U.S. attorney Andrew McCarthy observing in National Review that “things will not be the same after this” — Goldston’s production team had gained the full confidence of the committee’s members and staff. The team began to take more chances as the hearings proceeded, employing “deep teases” early into the programs and exploiting any opportunities for wicked humor. During the July 12 hearing, footage was aired of a committee lawyer asking Ivanka Trump if it was true that she had attended the rally in hopes of calming her father. With an expression so blank that it appeared to be computer-generated, Trump’s daughter replied: “No. I don’t know who said that or where that came from.” The producers then cut to testimony by Ivanka Trump’s own former chief of staff, Julie Radford, affirming that her boss had attended the rally precisely for that reason.

The committee’s keeper of riot footage, Jacob Nelson, had discovered video of Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and several congressional staff members racing down a corridor of the Capitol to avoid the mob. Hawley had been photographed on the morning of Jan. 6 holding up a fist to show solidarity with the protesters outside the Capitol. During the rehearsal the night before the committee’s eighth hearing — devoted to the 187 minutes on Jan. 6 in which Trump did not use his authority to quell the riot — a video clip of Hawley and the others running was played to the members. Cheney, ordinarily a stoic presence, cracked up laughing. Then she had a request. “Could you run that again?”

Later that night, however, the production team was told that the Hawley footage would have to be shortened to avoid showing the faces of others who were not public figures. Around 2 a.m., the producer Melinda Arons found out about the drastically truncated footage. Just six weeks earlier, Arons had stood with Goldston in the control room before the first hearing, saying that she was about to throw up. Now she had a solution for the blink-of-an-eye image of Hawley in flight: She would run the video clip of him running first at normal speed and then a second time in slow motion.

The clip would go viral beyond anyone’s expectations. Luria and Kinzinger, as the military veterans on the committee, had requested that they lead this hearing to lend added emphasis to Trump’s dereliction of duty. About an hour into the hearing, Luria quoted aloud from a Capitol Police officer who observed how Hawley’s raised fist riled up the crowd. She added: “Later that day, Senator Hawley fled after those protesters he helped to rile up stormed the Capitol. See for yourself.” At the almost “Monty Python”-esque spectacle of the slender 42-year-old senator sprinting across a hallway in his suit and dress shoes, the hearing’s audience erupted in laughter. The footage would spawn a host of Hawley-running memes accompanied by soundtracks like the themes to “Rocky” and “Chariots of Fire.” Later that summer, Arons was vacationing far from Washington when she saw someone wearing a T-shirt bearing the words, “Josh Hawley Runs!”

By the conclusion of the “187 minutes” hearing, the question was now whether the committee’s last scheduled hearing in October would, in the words of both Time and CNN, “stick the landing.” Every hearing required 20-hour workdays and 11th-hour revisions. Some committee staff members said they slept only two hours a night preparing for a hearing. Hearings were delayed, then sped up, then combined into fewer hearings, then expanded again. “Each one of these hearings was the equivalent of creating a two-and-a-half-hour documentary,” Raskin said, “and they were being done in a period of a week or 10 days.”

The staff members, many in their 20s, who spent untold hours culling through the footage of police officers being beaten found the images impossible to shake from their memory. At one point, the producers showed footage of Pelosi’s staff being evacuated to Terri McCullough, the speaker’s longtime chief of staff. McCullough recognized herself among those being herded out of the office and began to cry.

Perhaps the greatest psychological burden fell on the Purple Team, whose job was to investigate the role of militias, white-supremacist organizations and other domestic violent extremists in the attack. The team was headed by Candyce Phoenix, a former Justice Department civil rights attorney and a staff director for a subcommittee Raskin serves on. Phoenix and several other investigators on the Purple Team were people of color. The racial subtext among the overwhelmingly white mob — immediately apparent to the Black and Latino officers on the scene — became even more clear when the Purple Team began conducting interviews with some 30 extremists who faced charges for their actions on Jan. 6 and who, in the words of one investigator, “were only too happy to spew their racism.”

In two of his opening statements that Tim Mulvey had drafted, Thompson had inserted a few biographical sentences. They reflected the perspective of a Black Southerner who had come of age in the civil rights era, only to see a sitting president try to disenfranchise the people by attempting to overturn a democratically held election. Thompson often told a story from Jan. 6, when he was momentarily trapped with other Democratic members of Congress in the House gallery while the mob banged on the doors. A Capitol Police officer had urged Thompson and the other members to take off their House pins, so that when they made their escape they would be less easily identified. “There are people out there flying the Confederate flag,” the officer added.

Thompson refused. He would later recall, “I felt that taking that metal off would have been abhorrent to everything I believe in.”


Chairman Thompson addressing committee members and staff after the panel’s final public meeting on Dec. 19.
Chairman Thompson addressing committee members and staff after the panel’s final public meeting on Dec. 19.

As the stress and friction among staff and committee members grew, one constant source of conflict became increasingly acute: how Liz Cheney had turned the typically ceremonial role of vice chair into a position of unmatched power, much the same way her father transformed the vice presidency 20 years earlier.

Just as Dick Cheney had made sure to defer to President George W. Bush, his daughter was careful not to subvert the will of Chairman Thompson, whose moral authority all the members respected. Thompson often mediated disputes among them, putting his arm around them and appealing to “Brother Schiff” or “Brother Raskin.” On occasion, he asserted the chairman’s prerogative to make a more consequential judgment call. When some members expressed concern about the precedent it would set for a committee composed mainly of House Democrats to issue subpoenas to some of their Republican colleagues, they also worried about the risk involved — if anyone refused to comply with a subpoena, the committee would have to contemplate criminal referrals for contempt of Congress, or do nothing and appear to be ineffectual. Thompson was insistent that Republican leaders like Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy who were in contact with the president on Jan. 6 should not be able to avoid their legal obligation to provide testimony — although both would defy their subpoenas anyway. The committee would eventually refer them, and two other congressmen, to the House Ethics Committee for sanction.

But Thompson also had chairman duties for the Homeland Security Committee. Cheney, by contrast, had stopped going to House Republican conferences entirely, spent almost no time campaigning for re-election in Wyoming, lived in the Washington area and maintained a Captain Ahab-like focus on Donald Trump as a singular threat to American democracy. Cheney participated in numerous depositions. Those interviews that she was unable to monitor, she often delegated to her counsel, Joe Maher, or to John Wood. Cheney spent hours in her hideaway reading the committee’s interview transcripts. “She was singularly obsessed with this,” a committee member said.

Daughter of Dick Cheney that she was, the vice chairwoman drove the committee’s agenda from the start. It was Cheney who, in March 2022, insisted that each hearing focus on a separate election-stealing scheme. Though entire teams had been developed to investigate the money behind the riot (Green Team), the riot’s violent instigators (Purple Team) and the law-enforcement and security lapses before and during the riot (Blue Team), Cheney saw to it that each facet was made subservient to the case against Trump.

Cheney had a significant hand in the writing and editing of the scripts. She also shaped the committee’s interview process, down to who was served subpoenas and lines of questioning. Some staff members worried that the vice chairwoman could be using the committee’s platform to advance her own political future. Though reviled by the Republican base and its avatar, Trump, Cheney did not renounce her party affiliation, and her roots remained deep. Unlike her father when he accepted Bush’s invitation to be his running mate in 2000, Liz Cheney had at no time publicly vowed that her designs on higher office were behind her.

What seemed to rankle most about Cheney was not her career ambitions but her lack of interest in tending to the wounded egos of others. The investigative team included seasoned federal prosecutors who were not used to being pushed around by a politician. Often, they complained to Goldston, whose approachability and calming demeanor masked the fact that he and Cheney usually saw eye to eye. During run-throughs, Goldston would sometimes furtively send texts to Cheney to convey his opinion that a particular staff presentation fell short of compelling. Then, a few minutes later, Cheney would voice her judgment, which was exactly what the producer had privately expressed.

At rehearsals, Cheney was occasionally accompanied by Philip Perry, a former Justice Department official who stood out from the other lawyers in the room because he happened to be Cheney’s husband. Perry had an incisive mind and was careful not to step on toes. Still, he was the only spouse present at more than one rehearsal, and there was no confusion as to whose side he was there to defend.

But the true source of Cheney’s power was Nancy Pelosi. Throughout the committee’s 18-month life span, the speaker’s role in its affairs was both opaque and unmistakable. On the few occasions when Pelosi hosted all the members in her conference room, she handed out chocolates and said very little. Still, it was understood that her adviser Jamie Fleet was on hand not just as proxies for the speaker but specifically to make sure that Cheney was given the resources she needed to carry out her prerogatives. Or so it appeared, as one member expressed later: “That’s one of the frustrations. Is Jamie Fleet giving her that power through the speaker? Or is she just doing it, and nobody has the power to push back? I don’t know.”

What was impossible to ignore, in the end, was Cheney’s contribution to a committee that was expected to flounder as so many other congressional hearings had before it. The vice chairwoman was its most public-facing member, and her position of leadership complicated the assertions by members of her own party that the Jan. 6 inquiry was nothing more than a Democratic witch hunt. (So did the committee’s near exclusive reliance on the testimony of Republican witnesses.)

It was in her role backstage, the source of most of the internal criticism against her, where Cheney’s singular standing was especially felt. The fruits of the Cassidy Hutchinson hearing that she orchestrated did not end with Hutchinson’s damning testimony. Both publicly and through legal channels, Cheney urged Trump’s 56-year-old former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, to risk incurring the former president’s wrath and come forward as the 25-year-old White House aide had done. Cipollone had agreed to testify and then reneged on the day he was due to appear. After the Hutchinson hearing and bowing to Cheney’s pressure, Cipollone submitted to an eight-hour deposition in which he avoided talking about his one-on-one conversations with Trump but otherwise confirmed nearly all the key details of Hutchinson’s recollections.

That Hutchinson had been so forthcoming to begin with was a result of Cheney, a fellow conservative, having spent considerable time earning her trust. She had done the same with Sarah Matthews and other Republican witnesses who might otherwise have been disinclined to reap the whirlwind by offering testimony to a mostly Democratic committee, including Rusty Bowers, the Arizona House speaker whose refusal to do Trump’s bidding and subvert the state’s contested election results led to death threats and accusations that he was a pedophile. Citing Bowers and other witnesses, a senior staff member said of Cheney: “She was the reason they felt comfortable. They weren’t going to do it for Adam Schiff.”

Kinzinger went even further. “I think, frankly, when this is all done, she’s going to be the whole reason this was successful,” he said. “I’ve been frustrated with her on a number of things. But with all her faults, this would’ve been a complete failure, I think, without her.”

From the outset, Trump ridiculed what he referred to as the “Unselect Committee” and maintained that its endeavors amounted to a “witch hunt.” Even before its inception, however, the Trump-fueled invective toward Cheney had led to death threats against her. By May 2021, Cheney was accompanied by a security detail assigned to her. At one point, she deemed it unnecessary and requested that it be removed. It was not long before the security team was reassigned to her, however. Cheney did not discuss what happened with anyone outside her family, other than to say that the situation was “threat level-based.”

Trump vilified Cheney as he had no other Republican. “To look at her is to despise her,” he declared in one statement emailed to supporters. He called her Pelosi’s “new lapdog RINO,” a “low-polling warmonger,” a “smug fool” and “bad for our Country.” He made it his personal mission to defeat her in the August 2022 primary, throwing his weight behind a handpicked Republican opponent, Harriet Hageman (who had been a supporter of Cheney), while warning his supporters in a fund-raising email that Cheney and her committee were “trying to destroy the lives of many wonderful people, including YOUR President.”

On Aug. 16, Hageman demolished Cheney by 37 points, an unthinkable margin even a year earlier for the once-ascendant House Republican chairwoman. Cheney conceded early that evening. Noting that she had garnered 73 percent of the primary vote just two years earlier, Cheney said: “I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear.” It was a path well trod by her own party: subscribing to Trump’s lie that the 2020 election had been stolen and enabling his “ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic.” Cheney chose the opposite path, knowing the political consequences for doing so. In the same factual tones that had become familiar to millions of committee-hearing viewers, Cheney recited the plain truth: The voters had spoken. Hageman had won. Cheney conceded. It was the way democracy worked, once upon a time in America.

Two months later, on Oct. 13, the Jan. 6 committee conducted its final public hearing. It had been delayed; the official cause was Hurricane Ian, but an additional reason was that Cheney’s heavy hand in writing the script had antagonized members and staff members who felt that it relied too heavily on information that had already been shared in previous hearings. Even Goldston, a Cheney ally but also a journalist, implored her to allow more newsworthy material into the script. But in Cheney’s view, the final hearing needed to be a legalistic argument about Trump’s intent. Indeed, at its conclusion, Cheney offered a resolution that Trump be subpoenaed by the committee. The nine members voted unanimously to do so. Trump, like his congressional acolytes, did not comply with the subpoena.

One week after the hearing, Cheney asked her longtime chief of staff, Kara Ahern, to find the contact information for the historian Ted Widmer. In December 2020, Cheney had begun reading Widmer’s recent book, “Lincoln on the Verge,” a historical narrative of the president-elect’s perilous 13-day train voyage from Springfield, Ill., to his inauguration in Washington during another time when the nation’s fate appeared to be at stake. She remembered standing in her kitchen about two weeks before the Jan. 6 attack with Widmer’s book in her hands, transfixed by his account of how Gen. Winfield Scott secured the Capitol with federal troops while the 1860 electoral votes were being counted, lest a mob seize the wooden boxes in which the ballots were kept — as they were kept on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Please, call me Liz,” Cheney requested when she got on the phone with Widmer, after he addressed her as “Congresswoman,” a title she would be relinquishing in about 10 weeks. She told the historian she wanted to thank him for writing something that had meant so much to her in a moment of struggle. Looking back, she told him, she found that the book had mentally prepared her for a calamitous event that had not yet arrived.


Cheney kept the focus on Trump. At its final public meeting on Dec. 19, the committee made historic criminal referrals of the former president to the Justice Department.
Cheney kept the focus on Trump. At its final public meeting on Dec. 19, the committee made historic criminal referrals of the former president to the Justice Department.

With its expiration date of Jan. 3 looming, the committee spent its final months in a frenzy of activity occasionally marred by bitter contentiousness. Cheney, unsurprisingly, was at the center of the conflicts. One point of disagreement was over her insistence that the committee make criminal referrals of Trump; John Eastman, the lawyer who advised Trump that Pence could overturn the election; and others to the Justice Department, which initially struck Lofgren as an empty symbolic gesture, until Thompson stepped in and helped form a consensus around Cheney’s position.

Far more controversial internally was Cheney’s adamant position that the committee’s final report focus primarily on Trump’s misconduct, while marginalizing the roles of violent domestic actors, their financial organizers and their sympathizers in law enforcement. Informed of this decision in early November, current and former staff members anonymously vented their outrage to news outlets. Some members aligned themselves with the dismayed staff, while other members agreed with Cheney that some of the chapters drafted by different aides did not measure up to the committee’s standards. Still, it seemed excessive to some on the committee when Cheney’s spokesperson claimed to The Washington Post on Nov. 23 that some of the staff members submitting draft material for the report were promoting a viewpoint “that suggests Republicans are inherently racist.”

Senior staff members had resigned under less than amicable circumstances throughout the committee’s tenure. The senior technical adviser and former Republican congressman Denver Riggleman left for another job after several committee members suspected him of leaking material to the news media (which he denies having done). In September, the former federal prosecutor Amanda Wick and others left over disagreements about the committee’s direction. And in November, similar disgruntlement compelled Candyce Phoenix, who led the Purple Team investigating domestic extremists, to step back from her duties even as the final report was nearing its closing stages.

The writing of the report continued to be a mess. There was great confusion about how the report would be written and what role different people would play in putting it together. After months of dysfunction and infighting, Thomas Joscelyn, a writer brought on board by Cheney who at one point was told he would not be working on the draft after all, ended up submitting drafts that would constitute significant portions of the report. The final product, however, was a group project, prompting concerns that it would read like one.

Amid these tensions, one factor helped galvanize the committee during its final days of working together. Four of its nine members were either defeated during the 2022 midterms (Cheney and Luria) or decided to retire from Congress (Kinzinger, whose district had been redrawn to favor Democrats, and Murphy). As December came and the Washington offices of those four departing members were stripped of their furnishings to make way for new occupants, the final duty they discharged was that report: a roughly 450,000-word document, which would be posted on the committee’s website. Like every committee report before it, the text would be sent over to the U.S. Government Publishing Office on North Capitol Street to be printed, featuring colorful graphics and engaging fonts not typically found in a government publication — a final appeal to a larger audience that began in earnest when the committee asked James Goldston to assemble his production team in May 2022.

How many would ever read the document, and be convinced by the evidence it held, would be unknowable, but also beside the point. The Government Publishing Office is a hoary federal institution that was created by a congressional resolution in 1860 and began operation in 1861, after Lincoln’s inauguration and just before the country descended into civil war. It printed the Watergate White House transcripts in 1974 and the Sept. 11 Commission Report in 2004. Soon it would also place the Jan. 6 committee and its findings in the American historical record, as the lasting artifact of a congressional inquiry premised on the belief that if democracy was sacred, then so was the duty to investigate an attack on it. “The Congress had the highest obligation to conduct these hearings,” Judge Luttig would say of the committee’s efforts. “And the hearings themselves have been historic, and perhaps never to be replicated.”

Robert Draper is a contributing writer for the magazine. He is the author of, most recently, “Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind.”

Philip Montgomery is a photographer whose current work chronicles the fractured state of America. His new monograph of photography, “American Mirror,” was published earlier this year.

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