This week: Jan. 6 hearings continue, Senate to move toxic burn pits bill
The Jan. 6 select committee is scheduled to hold three more public hearings this week, as the panel looks to sell its case to the American people that former President Trump was at the heart of a plan to keep himself in power.
The hearings — set for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — come after the select committee held a prime-time hearing last week that featured emotional live testimony, gripping new footage of the Jan. 6 attack and clips of people in Trump’s inner circle speaking with the panel’s investigators.
The next three hearings, scheduled to take place during the day, are set to focus on how Trump knew his allegations of election fraud were false, his efforts to compel the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open probes into his claims, and the then-president’s attempts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block the election certification on Jan. 6.
Each hearing will center on a component of Trump’s “sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the panel, said last week.
On the Senate side, lawmakers will continue consideration of toxic burn pits legislation, which would increase Veterans Affairs (VA) health care eligibility for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. Passage of the bill could happen as soon as this week.
Senators will also likely be discussing and weighing in on the newly announced bipartisan agreement on firearm legislation, which laid out nine proposals to deter gun violence.
Jan. 6 hearings
The select committee’s second hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, will center on Trump’s “big lie,” focusing on how the president knew his claims of election fraud were false.
“Tomorrow’s hearing is focused on the big lie: the decision by the former president to ignore the will of the voters, declare victory in an election he lost, spread claims of fraud and then decide to ignore the rulings of courts when the judgment of course didn’t go his way,” a committee aide told reporters on a call.
“The former President didn’t have the numbers to win the election; he was told, he chose to declare victory anyway. The claims of fraud the former president embraced were baseless. He was told that again and again, and he continued to repeat those claims anyway,” the aide added.
To make that case to the public, the committee is set to hear testimony from former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who led the ex-president’s 2020 reelection campaign.
The panel issued Stepien a subpoena in November, writing that he “supervised the conversion” of Trump’s presidential campaign around “Stop the Steal” messaging and fundraising.
Stepien also reportedly led a campaign “asking states to delay or deny certification of electoral votes and by sending multiple slate of electoral votes to the United States Congress,” according to the committee.
The former campaign manager is currently an advisor to the campaign of Harriet Hageman, the Wyoming Republican mounting a primary bid against Cheney. Hageman has Trump’s endorsement.
Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox News political editor, will testify alongside Stepien on Monday, according to the committee. Stirewalt was among the group of people at Fox News who decided to declare President Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona.
In a second panel on Monday, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia BJay Pak, ex-Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, and conservative election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg are scheduled to testify.
The hearing will mark the first time Pak has spoken publicly since resigning from his post. He stepped down after Trump became outraged when the DOJ would not probe his claims of voter fraud. Schmidt, a Republican, became a target of Trump’s anger when he declined to call the 2020 presidential election rigged.
Wednesday’s hearing, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., will focus on Trump’s efforts to compel the DOJ to launch a probe into his claims of election fraud in an effort to delay the election certification, according to Cheney.
The vice chair said the panel will illustrate that “President Trump corruptly planned to replace the Attorney General of the United States so the U.S. Justice Department would spread his false stolen election claims.”
And on Thursday, the panel will center its presentation on Trump’s attempts to pressure Pence to block the certification of the election results.
The committee has not yet released the witnesses for the third and fourth hearings. The panel has said it will hold eight hearings in total.
Toxic burn pits legislation
The Senate will continue its consideration of toxic burn pits legislation this week, with potential passage as soon as Wednesday.
The bill, titled the Honoring our PACT Act, seeks to broaden health care eligibility for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits. To achieve that, the legislation would establish a presumption of service connection for about two dozen types of cancers and respiratory illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma.
The Senate filed cloture on the bill last week. The upper chamber is slated to hold two amendment votes on the legislation before final passage.
The House passed the toxic burn pits legislation in March, 256-174. The vote mainly broke along party lines, with just thirty-four Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the measure.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called on the Senate to pass the bill in the coming days.
don“This week, Congress must do right by our toxic-exposed veterans and pass the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act. Our vets and their families cannot wait any longer,” Tester wrote on Twitter Sunday.
Last week on the Senate floor, Tester said the upper chamber was “on the verge of honoring our commitment to our country’s toxic exposed veterans and their families.”
Senators unveiled a bipartisan gun agreement on Sunday with 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans signing on in support, giving it a good chance of passing the full chamber.
The announcement was the culmination of two weeks of bipartisan negotiations, which began after last month’s mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas. Ten Black people were killed at a grocery store in Buffalo, and 19 students and two adults were fatally shot at an elementary school in Uvalde.
The group of 20 senators called the agreement “a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country.”
The agreement announced on Sunday only represents a framework of principles — the senators still have to release legislative text.
The nine-point proposal would give states and tribes resources to establish red flag laws — which seek to keep firearms away from people deemed a threat to themselves and others — and invest in mental health and suicide prevention programs.
Additionally, the plan would put resources into programs to establish safe measures in and around schools, require enhanced reviews of gun buyers under 21 years old, and enact penalties for straw purchases of guns — when individuals who cannot clear a background check buy guns firearms through a proxy.
President Biden on Sunday said he would sign the proposal, writing in a statement that it “would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.”
“With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House,” he said. “Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”
The president noted, however, that the proposal “does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.