From Liz Cheney to Donald Trump: winners and losers from the January 6 hearings

As the House January 6 committee is set to publish its report, here are some of the key standouts

The House January 6 committee is set to publish its report on the attack on the Capitol that shocked both America and the world . After a year of dramatic hearings and bombshell testimony, here are some of the key winners and losers to emerge from its work.

Liz Cheney

Who: Wyoming Republican congresswoman, with Adam Kinzinger of Illinois one of two GOP members of the committee.

Winner or loser: Winner.

Why: As vice-chair to Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who began his political career in Mississippi under Jim Crow, the Wyoming Republican and daughter of ex-vice-president and neocon’s neocon Dick Cheney helped bring genuine bipartisan spirit to the committee’s proceedings. Once the committee was in session, Cheney emerged as its star prosecutor. Witheringly focused, she rode losing her own seat in Congress to a Trump-backed challenger in August to keep her eyes on the prize: establishing Trump’s culpability for January 6 and stopping him ever returning to power.

Jamie Raskin

Who: Democratic Maryland congressman and professor of constitutional law who endured the attack on Congress shortly after losing his son.

Winner or loser: Winner.

Why: To vastly oversimplify (and not to discount the other committee members), if Cheney was the star prosecutor, Raskin was the best defense attorney the constitution, Congress and even the Capitol building could have, launching heartfelt appeals to the spirit of American democracy while making clear the enormity of the crime in hand. Never far from a reference to Abraham Lincoln or the founders, Raskin provided perhaps a softer public face than Cheney, but one no less determined.

Cassidy Hutchinson

Who: Former aide to Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, and special assistant to the president.

Winner or loser: Winner.

Why: In taped testimony and in person, Hutchinson described Trump’s approval of chants from Capitol rioters about hanging his vice-president, Mike Pence, and attempts by Republicans in Congress to have Trump issue pardons before leaving office. She added details of the behavior of Trump, Meadows, Rudy Giuliani and other key figures before January 6 and throughout that day. Among extraordinary scenes described by Hutchinson: Trump lunging for the wheel of his vehicle when told he could not go to the Capitol with his supporters; Trump throwing food at the White House walls; and Meadows refusing to do anything at all to rein in his boss.

Mike Pence

Who: Trump’s vice-president, who rejected the idea he could stop certification of election results.

Winner or loser: Winner.

Why: The panel seemed to make a political decision to portray Trump’s doggedly loyal vice-president as a hero, for not supporting the scheme to overturn Joe Biden’s win. Pence did seek counsel as to whether he could do what was asked but he did not do it and faced real danger at the Capitol as the mob shouted for him to be hanged and gallows went up outside. Since the hearings, Pence has continued to shape his likely challenge to Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024, conducting a fearsome balancing act: discussing his role in stopping Trump’s assault on democracy while evincing pride in what he says the Trump administration achieved before it.

J Michael Luttig

Who: Conservative judge who advised Pence he had no power to stop certification.

Winner or loser: Winner.

Why: Luttig delivered devastating testimony with undoubted authority – and a chilling warning. “A stake was driven through the heart of American democracy on January 6, 2021,” he said, adding: “Almost two years after that fateful day … Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger.” That, he said, was “because to this very day the former president and his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican party presidential candidate were to lose that election, they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way they attempted to overturn the 2020 election, but succeed in 2024 where they failed in 2020.”

John Eastman

Who: Conservative law professor who claimed certification could be stopped.

Winner or loser: Loser

Why: Eastman was shown to have been the brains (if you can call it that) behind Trump’s election subversion, trying to justify what Pence was asked to do: refuse to certify electoral college results in key states and throw the election to Congress. Video showed Eastman refusing to answer questions, a tactic also pursued by the already infamous Roger Stone, an operative entangled with far-right street fighters like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, members of which have been convicted of seditious conspiracy or face such charges. Eastman’s quest for a pardon also landed in the spotlight. Not a good look for a law professor, all in all.

Mark Meadows

Who: Former congressman and Trump’s fourth and last White House chief of staff.

Winner or loser: Loser.

Why: Meadows cooperated with the committee – up to a point. After that point, he was referred to the justice department for criminal contempt of Congress but escaped charge. But what Meadows did surrender to the committee has proved tremendously embarrassing, not least given the decision of a one-time panel staffer, the former Republican congressman Denver Riggelman, to publish Meadows’s texts. Not only was Meadows uninterested in stopping Trump, as Hutchinson showed, but he and other Republicans seem to have been up to their necks in the plot. With the special counsel, Jack Smith, now examining Trump’s machinations, the former congressman from North Carolina cannot yet sleep easy.

Josh Hawley

Who: Populist Republican senator from Missouri who may run for the presidential nomination in 2024.

Winner or loser? Loser.

Why: If Hawley does run, it is hard to see his treatment by the January 6 committee as too damaging to his standing on the hard right of the GOP. But the panel’s decision to show surveillance video of him actually running – the senator who raised a fist to demonstrators sprinting through the halls of power when those demonstrators broke in – prompted laughter in the hearing room and one of the breakout moments of all the hearings.

… and Donald Trump

Who: Twice-impeached former president, candidate for the Republican nomination in 2024 and politician and businessman in extensive legal jeopardy.

Winner or loser: Loser.

Why: In 2016, Trump famously said Republicans were “going to win so much” under him, they were “going to be sick and tired of winning”. There are signs the party is finally sick and tired of losing, the January 6 hearings having added considerable grist to the utter milling Trump took at the ballot box in November even though, predictably, he did not comply with a committee subpoena. Trump’s culpability for the Capitol attack seems clear and though the committee is going away the Department of Justice, the special counsel and assorted state authorities will not leave him be. And yet … even though the January 6 hearings have been so bad for Trump they have made Ron DeSantis look like a winner simply for not being mentioned, Trump is still ahead of or level with the Florida governor, his only serious rival, in most polling regarding the GOP nominee. Nobody will count Trump out just yet.


Martin Pengelly

The GuardianTramp

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