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Jan. 6 panel postpones public hearing due to Hurricane Ian

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

In light of Hurricane Ian bearing down on Florida, the January 6 committee investigating the attack on the Capitol has postponed its highly anticipated ninth hearing. It had been scheduled for tomorrow. When hearings began in June, Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney said the panel would demonstrate former President Donald Trump's central role in the insurrection.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.

SUMMERS: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now to talk about that delay and what comes next. Hi there.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So what's happening? When do we expect the next public hearing now?

WALSH: We don't know. The chair, Bennie Thompson, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney released a short statement this afternoon saying the hurricane approaching Florida was the reason for the delay. They said their investigation goes on, and they're going to announce a new date soon. But the reality is the calendar is short for this committee. Congress is also expected to wrap up business soon so members could go home and campaign for the fall midterms. In the committee's charter, it has it expiring at the end of the year. They're working on a report that has to be done by the end of December.

SUMMERS: OK, so big picture here, I know that there was skepticism that these hearings would yield many new details. Remind us. What evidence did they uncover?

WALSH: A lot of evidence. They interviewed more than a thousand witnesses, many behind closed doors, some in the public hearings that we've been covering for months. Some include familiar names like former Attorney General Bill Barr. One of the most compelling witnesses was Cassidy Hutchinson. She was an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She was present for many conversations with top aides and, in some cases, the president. Here is Hutchinson telling the committee this summer that the president knew the crowd at his rally the morning of January 6 was armed, and he still wanted them to be allowed in the area near the White House.

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CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Let them in. Let my people in. They can march the Capitol after the rally's are over. They can march from the Ellipse. Take the effing (ph) mags away.

WALSH: Hutchison also recounted a conversation with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was pushing back against President Trump's desire to join protesters and head to the Capitol that day. Hutchison said Cipollone told her, quote, "we're going to get charged with every crime imaginable" if that happened.

SUMMERS: And, Deirdre, something else that got a lot of attention is Vice President Mike Pence - former Vice President Mike Pence's role. What did we learn there?

WALSH: He was just under intense pressure. We heard from senior aides to Vice President Pence, White House lawyers and others who detailed how, repeatedly, the former president was told he lost the 2020 election. He was told the plan by this small group of outside lawyers to overturn the election results was illegal. But Trump continued to push his vice president to derail the official counting of the electoral votes on January 6.

SUMMERS: And we just saw some new details about just how close the rioters came to Pence, right?

WALSH: Really close. Pence's counsel Greg Jacobs appeared before the panel in the summer and told the committee the rioters came within 40 feet of the vice president. Jacobs also recounted how Pence resisted an effort by his Secret Service security detail to evacuate him from the Capitol. Here's Jacobs.

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GREG JACOB: And the vice president had said something to the effect of, Tim, I know you. I trust you. But you're not the one behind the wheel. And the vice president did not want to take any chance that the world would see the vice president of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol.

WALSH: Pence did signal he was open to talking to the committee over the summer, but members of the panel say his camp around him has walked that back. So it's unlikely that Pence is going to appear even behind closed doors.

SUMMERS: OK, so this is the final stage of the probe. And the panel is directed to produce a report. What do we know about what that might include?

WALSH: Well, Thompson has said that the report will come out by December 31. As we said earlier, that's when the committee expires. That report is expected to include findings and also recommendations to protect democracy. The House already passed one bill drafted by two members of the committee that updates the law that governs how Congress certifies the presidential elections. The panel could also, in its report, include criminal referrals to the Justice Department. But the department is already conducting a broad investigation, so it's unclear whether that would really impact what they're already doing.

SUMMERS: That is NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you.

WALSH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHARK QUEST'S "SIN THE MOON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.