Facebook Twitter

Did the Jan. 6 hearings change anyone’s mind?

And what will happen with Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the lone Republicans who took on Trump?

SHARE Did the Jan. 6 hearings change anyone’s mind?
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., arrive as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., left, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., arrive as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2022.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

At least one thing can be said of the Jan. 6 committee: it delivered on its promised blockbuster ending. 

Thursday’s final hearing included outtakes from former President Donald Trump’s recorded statement about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, where he vacillated over saying protesters broke the law. Witness testimony also revealed Trump sat in the Oval Office’s dining room and watched the events unfold on Fox News. And Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail feared for their lives — a chilling detail about the day’s events.

Co-chairing the hearing was Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of the lone Republicans to join the commission, alongside Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. In his opening statement, Kinzinger was optimistic.

“Here is what will be clear by the end of this hearing: President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the Ellipse and telling the mob to go home. He chose not to act,” he said.

Cheney went further: “We have received new evidence; and new witnesses have bravely stepped forward. Efforts to litigate and overcome immunity and executive privilege claims have been successful, and those continue.”

“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” she added.

The two endured scorn from their own party and constituents for months as they tried to convince Americans that Trump acted unlawfully. What did they actually accomplish?

Legitimized investigation

It could be argued that by participating in the investigation, Cheney and Kinzinger legitimized the committee as a bipartisan effort and opened the door to convincing Republican officials and supporters of the panel’s findings. 

Their presence in the committee may also have encouraged witnesses and former Trump allies who would have otherwise remained quiet before an inquiry led only by Democrats. 

Is Cheney right?

When it comes to evidence, the committee has uncovered a wide array of new facts, including that Trump was told by close advisers that they lacked evidence to support his claims that the election was stolen. Trump also knew that many of the rioters were armed, and reportedly tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from a Secret Service agent to join the mob at the Capitol.

The committee had cooperation from several key Trump allies and has successfully charged at least one uncooperative former aide with contempt of Congress. Steve Bannon refused to provide documents or testimony to the committee, but his claims of executive privilege were rejected, and he was found guilty of two charges of contempt of Congress on Friday. Bannon will be sentenced on Oct. 21. Each charge carries a minimum of 30 days in jail, according to the Department of Justice.

However, the House committee has declined to recommend charges for Trump or his associates, instead turning evidence over to the Department of Justice.

The court of public opinion

Is Cheney right that the dam is beginning to break? That remains to be seen. Through its televised hearings, which began on June 9, the committee has tried to make its case directly to the public. Here it has been marginally successful.

According to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday morning, a majority of Americans have paid attention to the hearings and blame Trump for the attack on the Capitol. But there is a large partisan split — Republicans are far less likely to have followed the proceedings and to view the events of Jan. 6 as a threat to democracy.

Trump’s popularity with his followers does not seem to have suffered. His favorability rating sits at 41.3% compared to 40.7% in December, according to YouGov’s weekly tracker. Nearly 8 in 10 Republicans still view the former president favorably, although some former allies think the steady drumbeat of news from the hearings has begun to weaken Trump’s standing with the GOP establishment.

Republican primary election polling seems to back that up. In June, a University of New Hampshire poll showed Trump virtually tied with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a potential Republican primary. A New York Times/Siena College survey released last week found that Trump is the preferred candidate for 49% of Republicans, followed by DeSantis, 25%, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 7%, and former Vice President Pence, 6%.

What’s next for Cheney and Kinzinger?

Cheney and Kinzinger face uncertain futures in the GOP. Many in the establishment consider them pariahs and RINOs (Republican in name only). Kinzinger announced he would not seek reelection last October, after redistricting set him up for a primary against GOP incumbent Rep. Darin LaHood, who is more closely aligned with Trump. “Unity is no longer a word we use,” Kinzinger said at the time.

Cheney is running for reelection as Wyoming’s sole representative but faces an uphill battle against Republican challenger Harriet Hageman, whom Trump endorsed. Wyoming voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2020, and Hageman leads Cheney by more than 20 points in some polls.

Some think Cheney may be mulling a presidential campaign. Wyoming state Rep. Landon Brown, a member of Cheney’s campaign leadership team, thinks she can muster support from moderates on both sides of the aisle.

“The fringe right and the fringe left all hate her,” he said. “But you’ve got this overwhelming, massive majority of people in the center who believe that what she’s doing is the right thing. Frankly, it’s the type of person that we need in the White House.”