The January 6 committee can’t convict Donald Trump – but it could help him go bankrupt

The Jan. 6 committee begins its much-anticipated national reckoning Thursday night by drawing attention to the brutality Capitol police officers faced 18 months ago and diving into details about one of the gangs involved in that dark day leading the violence.

While it’s doubtful the hearings will live up to the sky-high expectations of those who believed the committee would uncover open and closed wrongdoing by some of the country’s highest officials, the prime-time hearings will provide one thing: evidence in many of the lawsuits attempted to bring the former Actually making President Donald Trump and other vote-resisters pay for the violence.

“What the committee cannot do is hold people accountable. But that’s where law enforcement and civil litigation comes in,” said Edward G. Caspar, an attorney representing injured and traumatized Capitol police officers who are suing Trump in the wake of the violent riot.

This inability to hold Trump accountable to this special committee may sound surprising given the certainty that the committee chairs — Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) — have discussed how Trump ” proposed a corrupt plan to obstruct the counting of Electoral College ballots and a conspiracy to prevent the transfer of power”.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be ramifications from the work of the Jan. 6 House committee. After all, the committee undertook what investigator (and former Virginia Republican representative) Denver Riggleman has called “the largest data effort in the history of the congressional investigation.”

However, one of the great challenges to the panel’s investigation – with its contentious trials, secret interviews and promises to uncover the truth – is that it ultimately does not have the power to punish those responsible for last year’s Capitol attack are.

So far, legal scholars and progressive activists have focused their desperate calls to action on the Justice Department. But the real action could come from lawsuits like those brought by Conrad Smith and seven other Capitol Police officers in August against Trump, his campaign, organizers of the Stop the Steal counter-force movement like Ali Alexander and Roger Stone, and enforcement gangs like the Proud Boys and the militia of the United States Oath Keepers.

“The committee plays a crucial role for America here,” said Caspar. “When you think of the three means of holding those responsible for the attack accountable — congressional hearings, law enforcement, civil litigation — they’re like a three-legged stool. The committee can shed a very bright light on the evidence and present it to the public. The others cannot do that.”

The committee has plenty of that.

According to the panel, it has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and collected at least 140,000 documents obtained by subpoena and surrendered under oath. Lawyers working on cases against Trump are already considering how to convert this evidence — in some cases video or interview transcripts — into a form admissible for their cases in court. Fortunately for these attorneys, the witnesses who spoke to the committee were already under oath when they testified.

DC Attorney General Karl Racine, whose office in December sued the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper and individual members of each militant group, has indicated to The Daily Beast that he will be watching the hearings closely to see what evidence comes out help his case.

In fact, the committee’s first hearing, which begins Thursday at 8:00 p.m. EDT, is expected to touch on the Proud Boys’ role during the coordinated attack on the Capitol. The committee will hear from two witnesses: Nick Quested, a documentary filmmaker who was embedded with the Proud Boys around January 6, and Caroline Edwards, a Capitol police officer who suffered traumatic brain injury that day.

The witnesses and the excitement of the first public hearing should make for some pretty compelling television — at least as compelling as congressional hearings can be. Even the choice of venue has an element of television drama; The committee hosts the hearing in the seldom-used Cannon Caucus room, ostensibly to accommodate more press, but also to add an air of officiality to the proceedings, with the Corinthian columns and ornate chandeliers.

But the evidence revealed by the committee will likely be far more prosaic. No bombs are expected Thursday evening. And yet prosecutors and attorneys representing clients in civil cases may not need bombs. Instead, they just need enough legal fodder to drag certain people in the twice-impeached former president’s orbit — like Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) — back into the hot seat of justice.

In March, for example, US District Judge Amit P. Mehta dismissed Brooks as a defendant in the insurgency lawsuit brought by fellow congressman, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).

One of the attorneys on Swalwell’s legal team, Phil Andonian, believes new evidence could convince the judge that the Republican congressman bears some responsibility for the damage at the Capitol.

It was already known that on the morning of January 6, Brooks, a Trump loyalist who peddled all sorts of disproved voter fraud allegations, was wearing a bulletproof vest as he told angry protesters near the White House that their ancestors “did her.” sacrificed blood… and sometimes their lives.”

Brooks then asked the protesters: “Are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to do the same to fight for America?”

The Jan. 6 committee has received thousands of text messages from Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and others, including messages to Brooks that could further implicate the Republican congressman.

“This will be a good roadmap to discovery whenever we get to it. I’m certainly interested in a lot of the supporting cast that we’ve identified,” Andonian told The Daily Beast. “It seems almost certain that we will get information [that] Mo Brooks, Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani were more involved than the public information we had at the time the lawsuit was filed would suggest.”

“We all know that there was coordination and that there were people within the campaign who were part of the rally and were talking,” Andonian continued. “It’s only going to get stronger as this information finds its way out.”

Andonian reckons his team may have to refile the lawsuit instead of just amending it. But the bottom line would still be what they were looking for: accountability.

Until then, even those who strongly support the committee are aware of potential pitfalls.

Norm Eisen, an attorney and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who recently authored a report on the committee’s role in saving the nation’s republic, said this week that the committee has already done the incredibly difficult job of laying the groundwork lay to show that Trump and his allies knowingly committed crimes by attempting to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in the country’s history. But he acknowledged hearings could still go awry for some Americans.

“If it’s not bipartisan, that’s a risk. But they brought in one of the most conservative members of the GOP caucus, Liz Cheney, as vice chair, an administrative equal. Bipartisanship is a risk, but they’ve hedged that,” he said. “The second risk is not having anything new to say.”

Doug Jones, the former senator and federal prosecutor from Alabama, said the committee had to be extra careful with its messages from the start so as not to taint its results with the impression that it was purely politically driven.

“The committee has to be very careful about forgetting the fact that they are fact finders,” Jones said. “You shouldn’t give the American public the impression that this is an attack on Donald Trump. You find facts. The facts will speak for themselves. You will connect the dots.”

Those facts are still coming in.

Late Tuesday night in California, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered John Eastman to turn over potentially damning documents to the committee. Eastman is the disgraced attorney who extensively advised Trump on the stay-in-power ploy by pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence not to confirm Electoral College results and his e- Mails – which the judge says are likely evidence of an actual crime – were ordered to be delivered to the committee by 5pm on Wednesday.

These emails, if released by the committee, will only serve to fuel lawsuits against Trump’s inner circle. And even in the unlikely event they aren’t, attorneys suing Trump for damages will still fight to get them — and to expose them.

“Our cases will continue and we will be able to publicly and transparently hold these people accountable and inform the American public,” Caspar said. The January 6 committee can’t convict Donald Trump – but it could help him go bankrupt


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