The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol returned to prime time on Thursday to deliver what amounts to a closing argument in the case it has made against former President Donald J. Trump, accusing the former commander in chief of dereliction of duty for failing to call off the assault carried out in his name.
To do so, the panel is putting two military veterans — Representative Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia, and Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois — front and center to present evidence and question witnesses.
Ms. Luria, the only Democrat on the panel involved in a competitive re-election race, served in the Navy for more than 20 years and achieved the rank of commander. Mr. Kinzinger is an Air Force veteran who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the witnesses they plan to question in person, Matthew Pottinger, who was deputy national security adviser under Mr. Trump and the highest-ranking White House official to resign on Jan. 6, 2021, is a Marine Corps veteran.
In an interview previewing the hearing, Ms. Luria said the panel planned to document in great detail how Mr. Trump did nothing for more than three hours while his supporters stormed the Capitol, raising ethical, moral and legal questions around the former president.
“The captain of a ship cannot sit there and watch the ship burned to the waterline and not do anything to stop it,” Ms. Luria said, invoking her experience in the Navy, where she worked on nuclear reactors. “And that’s exactly what he did.”
Ms. Luria said the panel planned to elicit in-person accounts of what went on in the West Wing on Jan. 6 from Mr. Pottinger and Sarah Matthews, a former White House press aide who resigned in the aftermath of the riot. It also plans to play recorded testimony from Pat A. Cipollone, the former White House counsel, and others to document Mr. Trump’s inaction during three hours of violence.
“We have accounts from people who observed him,” Ms. Luria said. “There was no concern, anger, distress. He wasn’t upset by it.”
The committee plans to demonstrate that Mr. Trump had the power to call off the mob but refused to do so until after 4 p.m. that day — and then only after hundreds of officers had responded to the Capitol to support the overrun Capitol Police force and had begun to turn the tide against the mob, making it clear that the siege would fail, according to committee aides.
The panel also plans to show outtakes from Mr. Trump’s video remarks on Jan. 7 in which he struggled to condemn the violence and promise a peaceful transfer of power, according to a person familiar with the committee’s plans. The plans to show the outtakes were reported earlier by The Washington Post.
Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, is presiding over the hearing remotely after testing positive for Covid-19 this week.
Although Thursday’s hearing had been expected to be a capstone in the series of hearings throughout June and July, the panel plans to continue its investigation as it works toward the release of a preliminary report expected in September. The committee could also call more public hearings, members have said.