CBS News’ Robert Costa on the return of the January 6 committee hearings and their role in the “battle for the future of American democracy”

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On January 6, the Committee holds possibly the last public hearing on Thursday, as it tries to present to the public a story about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

It is expected that after the summer break, the hearings will be the last chance for the committee to outline its findings ahead of the midterm elections, in which a number of Trump defenders are looking for positions that will control the next presidential election. Everything points to the fact that the afternoon hearing will again use production techniques in the style of TV news, quickly presenting evidence using graphics, clips and brief testimony.

Among those covering the January 6 hearings and aftermath was Robert Costa, who joined CBS News earlier this year. He wrote “Danger” with Bob Woodward, and in March they reported that Jeannie Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent a text message to then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, urging him to make efforts to challenge the election results, citing a bunch of conspiracy theories. She has since been interviewed by the committee.

Since the last hearing in July, the Justice Department’s investigation has intensified, as has the investigation of Trump and his allies in Fulton County, Georgia. The FBI also conducted searches at Mar-a-Lago and the legal disputes that followed, as well as a new civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“The January 6 Committee is well aware that this is no longer the only game in town, that so many other investigations have begun to gain momentum in the national consciousness,” Costa said in a recent interview. “On the part of Congress, this is very important, but it’s also what they need to make an impact, to break through to people who have a life, a job, a job and a family, and who can only track a very large part of the history of January 6.”.

He said the looming question is whether the hearings will affect voters. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), running for a Senate seat, told Costa in a recent interview that he thinks it resonates. With that in mind, Costa will be reporting from Pennsylvania on Thursday during the CBS report. “The midterm elections are not just a confrontation between red and blue, right and left, it is a battle for the future of American democracy,” he said. “The January 6 Committee plays an important role in this discussion in some way.”

Costa spoke to Deadline about what to expect from Thursday’s hearing — and what questions are likely to remain unanswered afterwards.

DEADLINE: What do you most expect from the committee at the hearing?

COSTA: The Committee sees this hearing as an opportunity to begin presenting to the American people its latest arguments in favor of its work. In a sense, this will be a summing up of the committee’s work, and it will affect several areas, from the pressure campaign on Vice President Pence to an attempt to field alternative voters in the states. detailed by various committee members based on what I hear.

New information will also be presented to the American people, including new documentation on the exchange of information between the secret services during the attack on and around the Capitol. This area of investigation was of particular interest to the committee in its final stage here, when it learned more about how the Secret Service, various agents and leaders of this organization communicated, how they described the attack, how they described then -the behavior of President Trump. This has become a new direction in recent months as they continue to dig into exactly what was going on behind the scenes. And in recent weeks, the committee has often worked unnoticed. People still come to them, take statements.

DEADLINE: So much has been said about how different these hearings are from past Congressional hearings. Former ABC News president James Goldston was an adviser. And some House Republicans have attacked the committee for some of the more spectacular aspects of the hearings. What do you think about it?

COSTA: It’s generally assumed that congressional committees overdo it when they have evidence that gets out of hand. What distinguishes this special committee from the traditional congressional committee is that it is well coordinated and prepared. This is because there is cohesion between the Republican and Democratic sides in the committee. You have a vice chairman and a chairman [Liz Cheney and Benny Thompson] who share a vision and approach when it comes to this committee, and that has allowed James Goldston and other committee advisers to prepare it in a way that almost no one else has. A congressional hearing is being held. So often there is a struggle for testimony and interrogation. So rarely do we see a congressional committee on the same page….Because of its unique nature, because of the bipartisan cohesion at the top of the committee, they were able to do it in such a way that it worked on television and on social media. Let’s not forget that even though this is a television production and a media event, the reason this committee remains important is that on January 6, 2021, American democracy was on the brink, and people across the country are still questioning why and how it happened.

DEADLINE: Do you think the message that democracy is under threat resonates with voters in the midterm elections?

COSTA: When I was talking to Vice President Kamala Harris, I asked her, “What is the key issue in the midterm elections?” And she said: “Democracy”… and we found out that it was President Biden with his speech about democracy. In Philadelphia, or Vice President Harris speaking to Face the Nation, many Democrats have started putting democracy first on their agenda when it comes to informing voters about the importance of these midterm elections. But many Republicans have also raised the issue. Liz Cheney, perhaps more than anyone else, turned to the Conservatives. I recently covered her speech at the American Enterprise Institute, where she called on conservatives to side with current democracy, civic discourse, and warnings about former President Trump.… Candidates traveling around the country who support election opponents get questions about this, which is good. As the press, reporters should ask Republicans and Democrats how they feel about American democracy. The issues of right and left, red and blue have dominated our politics for decades. This is how I thought about politics when I was growing up. But this is no longer a suitable prism. Partisan politics does not allow us to understand the current American political scene. For American political journalism to succeed in this turbulent atmosphere, we must vigorously cover not only the party, but also American democracy.

DEADLINE: What surprised you the most about the way the hearings were presented?

COSTA: What surprised me the most was that they attracted an audience. I always knew that this story was interesting and important. Working with Bob Woodward on Peril, we spent months digging into January 6th. But after spending almost a year on a book related to January 6, I acutely realized that this story has the volume of a book in the sense that there are so many different parts in this story. And it’s like watching “Game of Thrones” or some kind of television program where you need to track different ideologies, different political tribes, and I was wondering if the American people have enough patience and time to digest this complicated story. . I was encouraged by the report that people are interested in learning more about what is happening in their country with their government, with American democracy, and to see how people are paying attention, whether in prime time or in the afternoon.

It’s not just scrolling on social media or clicking on a link. This is something that takes time. We all don’t have much time these days, but the networks, particularly CBS and others, have found the time, and it’s so important.

DEADLINE: What questions do you suspect will remain unanswered?

COSTA: Question: After this committee completes its work, what will the Ministry of Justice do? Their ongoing grand jury investigation into alternative voter schemes on January 6 into an alleged plot to cancel the 2020 election. Thus, the committee, after it closes its chapter, will now move on to the head of Attorney General Merrick Garland and the grand jury investigations, along with other investigations. …What will they do on January 6th? Will they issue indictments or not?

DEADLINE: How often do you get asked if you think Trump will be charged?

COSTA: Almost every day. I say the same thing every time. It’s not for me to predict an indictment, whether it’s former President Trump or not. But I can tell you that this is a congressional investigation and the number of subpoenas issued to them, grand jury investigations with their continued issuance of subpoenas, with their work out of sight, they cover a lot of issues. They’re both complex, sprawling investigations. …At the end of the day, Merrick Garland is going to have to make a very difficult decision, and it’s going to be based on evidence, and we’re going to have to see what he does… But for now, our job is to consider subpoenas. find out what people are saying, find out where the story is coming from. It is not for us to decide who to judge and who not.

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