House Democrats are banking on the Jan. 6 committee’s prime-time hearing at 8 p.m. Thursday to renew interest in the 2021 Capitol riot among voters in a tough election year for the party.
Members of the committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, have teased that their “mountain of evidence” about the riot will stir up the public and convince voters it was a preplanned attack directed by the Trump White House.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat who serves on the panel, said Wednesday that he hopes the work of the committee will get the attention of people across the country.
“We’re going to try and reach everyone that has an open mind and is interested in knowing more about the plot to overturn the election,” Mr. Schiff said.
Another Democrat on the panel, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, said the committee will “tell the story of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block the transfer of power.”
“This is an extraordinary and unprecedented event in our history,” he said at an event Tuesday hosted by The Washington Post.
Although committee members hope to engage the public with the hearings, other Democrats aren’t sold on the riot as an issue that resonates with voters outside the Beltway.
“I was out in our district for two weeks, and not a single person asked us about Jan. 6,” said a Democratic aide who works for a vulnerable lawmaker in a swing district. “It was not at all on the minds of voters, and those were the high-information voters who come to a political event or know their member of Congress well enough to ask them questions.”
One staffer working on a Democratic campaign in the Midwest said there is little interest in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, in the middle of the country.
“People in Wisconsin, people in Illinois, they’re not talking about this,” the staffer said. “No one in the Midwest, no one on the ground, is talking about this. I have not heard this come up for a single voter.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat who barely survived a primary challenge against a liberal rival, said the hearings have the potential to sway some people but must compete with other issues that are top of mind for those in his district.
“Right now, we’ve got gun violence, border security and other issues, but I think once they do this Jan. 6 hearing, it’ll refresh people’s memories about the crazy stuff that happened,” Mr. Cuellar said.
Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr., Georgia Democrat, said he frequently hears concerns about the future of American democracy and that his constituents tie the threat to the Capitol riot.
“They’re concerned about the insurrection and the run-up to the insurrection and how we came close to losing our democracy and our basic freedom,” Mr. Johnson said. “I hear about that all the time from my constituents.”
Mr. Johnson said the TV audience for the hearings will be a mixed bag.
“There’s a group of people out there who don’t care about what happened,” he said. “For them, the hearings are something that they’re going to ignore. But for the majority of Americans, I think they are interested in seeing what the results of the Jan. 6 committee investigation will yield.”
A recent poll from the University of Massachusetts Amherst showed that while 52% of Americans wanted to learn more about the riot, 48% said it’s time to move forward.
An NBC News poll out this week showed a drop of 7 percentage points, from 52% to 45%, in the number of Americans who blame former President Donald Trump for the riot.
Democrats have touted the committee’s investigation into the riot as a necessary, apolitical study to find out what prompted an attack on the Capitol. Republicans say the panel is conducting a politically motivated attack on conservatives.
“While Democrats obsess over this illegitimate hearing, House Republicans will be setting the record straight and telling the truth about lame-duck Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sham, political witch hunt,” said Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York.
Ms. Stefanik and other members of the House Republican leadership characterize the hearings as a distraction from issues directly affecting people. She tied Democrats to high gasoline prices, soaring inflation, illegal immigration and the baby formula crisis.
“Today, in my hometown of Columbia City, my constituents are paying $5.25 for a gallon of gas,” said Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican. “There hasn’t been a single committee hearing on Capitol Hill about rising gas prices, let alone one in prime time for all the American people to see.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana have said they won’t tune into the hearings.
President Biden probably won’t be watching, either. He will be attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
“He might catch it here and there,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “It is an independent committee, and clearly he will be very busy.”
The committee is expected to call documentarian Nick Quested and Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards to testify.
Mr. Quested will describe his experience filming members of the far-right Proud Boys in the week leading up to the riot, and Ms. Edwards will discuss working during the riot.
Ms. Edwards was injured as part of an altercation with the Proud Boys.
Most major broadcast stations and cable news networks, minus Fox News, will air at least portions of the hearing live.
Fox News’ sister channel, Fox Business Network, will carry special coverage of the hearing starting at 8 p.m.
• Mica Soellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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