For weeks, critics of the J6 Committee have noted that the committee members promised to present compelling evidence to support criminal charges, but it has not yet presented that case after nine hearings. Even some Democratic figures, including former prosecutor and former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), do not believe a strong case has been made for an indictment. Now, Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) is making the same claim that there is “much more” undisclosed evidence but says that the Committee will not release the evidence (including possible criminal referrals) until the Fall — just before the midterm elections.
At the start of the hearings, committee members promised they had the long-sought smoking-gun evidence — new material that would close the circle on Trump. Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) indicated he thought there was now “credible evidence” to support a variety of criminal charges. His colleague, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), said the committee would show that Trump organized a “coup” on Jan. 6, 2021.
No sooner had the hearings begun when many in the media declared that the criminal case had been conclusively proven — even though most of what was being presented was already generally known.
Looking objectively at the evidence, the committee never supplied “credible” proof of crimes. That is not to say the evidence is not shocking. Indeed, it is like a series of “jump scares” involving Trump and others raising unfounded or unconstitutional courses of conduct.
Now, on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” Cheney said
“The committee has been, I think, very thorough and laying out much of what we know. There’s much more that we have not yet shared in hearings, and we anticipate we will share in the fall. We will also make decisions about criminal referrals, and ultimately the decision about prosecutions is up to the Justice Department, but I would anticipate the committee will have an opinion on that.”
CNN Chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt did not ask about why the Congress would wait to disclose the information. Instead, she responded “You obviously have a lot more information than the general public does in your head about what happened that day. But when you started these hearings earlier this year, did you have any idea how much you would know by this point?” Spoiler alert: Cheney said no.
In reality, some of us have written that the J6 Committee has released a great deal of new details and accounts, but that information has largely amplified known allegations rather than add new material evidence in a criminal case against Trump.
The obvious unasked question would raise the fact that the delay of any new releases would coincide with the midterm elections. Cheney has been criticized by critics for participating in a one-sided series of hearings devoid of alternative or dissenting views. Some have called it a “show trial” with members reading off teleprompters in tightly scripted and controlled hearings. As if to fulfill that show trial portrayal, Cheney ended the last hearing by calling for more officials to come forward and noting that Trump family members and former officials have now come forward with their own public “confessions.”
At the same time, Cheney and the Committee Chair have repeatedly stressed that voters cannot allow Trump to return to power and made repeated references to the upcoming election. The lack of any balance in the scope of examinations or presentation of evidence only magnifies the appearance of an investigation tailored to political rather than investigative priorities.
So now Cheney is saying “stay tuned” once again like a sequel that never quite ends. Of course, the members know that their control will end if the midterms result (as expected) in the GOP retaking the House. The Republicans have stated an intention to conduct their own investigation into why the House was unprepared for the riot despite warnings of possible violence.
The Jan. 6 committee has made a case against Trump personally and politically. It has not done so criminally. Timing further releases to coincide with the election will do little in establishing an interest in building a criminal rather than a political case.