Stranger Things? or Lost?

The House Select Committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th 2021 and former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the result of the previous year’s election will hold the first of six televised hearings today.

It’s going to be a big day for the media – and democracy.

Today’s session aims to set the scene of that day’s events and the involvement of key figures  – from the Trump White House to militia groups and organizers of the Stop The Steal rally – in a way that the Committee hopes will pull together a convincing narrative about any potential criminality.

New information, beyond what the Committee has already released, is expected to be presented. Rep Liz Cheney, one of just two Republicans on the Committee, told CBS Sunday Morning that the Jan 6th attack was part of a “well-organized” conspiracy. “It is extremely broad. It’s extremely well-organized. It’s really chilling,” she said.

The Committee has enlisted James Goldston, a former President of ABC News, to help “hone a mountain of explosive material into a captivating multimedia presentation,” according to Axios.

Today’s show will air in US primetime – beginning at 8pm ET – as will the final potentially-climactic episode of the series, reinforcing the notion that our democracy has inevitably become “must-see TV”. But the big question is whether the American people will tune in, beyond those who have already made up their minds, and what effect, if any, the revelations will have on the impending midterm elections.

It’s fair to say expectations are mixed on both sides.

Jacob Bacharach writes in the NYT: “Even if they manage to drag a few million American eyeballs away from the streaming platforms for a few evenings with some measure of spectacle and the promise of comeuppance for some of the minor and expendable figures from Trumpworld, their scope and impact are likely to be minor. The modern Democratic Party has not often shown itself to be capable of transcendent political showmanship, and the televised congressional hearing, as a genre, has likewise been in decline for a long time.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fox News will not be covering the hearings and has ramped up its efforts to assist with GOP counter-programming. Dan Pfieffer, former adviser to President Obama, told CNN that Fox is “actually a participant in the story. They are the ones who spread the big lie… they are not observers, they are participants.”

Media critic Dan Froomkin writes that the Jan 6th Committee is doing what the nation’s news organizations have failed to do: join the dots on the extent and threat of the events before and since the attack.

“They [media organizations] have failed miserably to communicate what’s at stake in the midterm elections, and how the choice voters face in November is not simply between two parties, or a referendum on President Biden, or the economy, but is about either succumbing to or resisting a slide into autocracy and patriarchal theocracy.”

The next hearing will be on Monday June 13th at 10am, with the rest of the sessions over the next two weeks.

Update: With Republicans regaining control of the House in the November midterms, it appears likely that the Jan 6th Committee will be finally wrapped up. It had planned to complete its work by the end of the year in any case; but it now depends on the DOJ to act on any evidence it has uncovered.

On November 18, Attorney-General Merrick Garland – citing political conflict of interest after Donald Trump declared his candidacy for 2024 – announced the appointment of a Special Counsel to take over the DOJ investigations into two federal cases involving the former president – responsibility for the insurrection of Jan 6th and the Mar-a-Lago missing documents case.

Unsurprisingly, opinion was split over the decision.

The Washington Post editorial board wrote:

“Appointing a special counsel carries risks, not least the possibility that the investigation could drag out or lose focus, potentially letting Mr. Trump off the hook. It will take tremendous focus to prevent that from happening...”

“[Jack Smith, the Special Counsel] will be in charge of the probe’s day-to-day activities, but the attorney general still oversees the special counsel’s work, accepting or rejecting any recommendations. Mr. Garland should guide the investigation so that it is fair, focused and, within reason, fast. Accountability should remain the priority — delivered, as he has taken pains to ensure, according to the rule of law.”

Here are some thoughts the “morning after” the 2022 midterms:

Democracy Dodges A Bullet, For Now…