What looming US Capitol riot hearings might tell us

The congressional committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol resumes its hearing schedule this week, with an afternoon session on the violent extremist groups that participated in the Capitol breach.

It will be the seventh hearing conducted this year, and the first since the “emergency” session in which former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided blockbuster testimony about Donald Trump’s activities on the day of the Capitol attack.

Here’s a look at where things stand at the moment – and what might be in store.

The extremists who led the charge

The 6 January hearings up to this point have focused considerable attention on how the committee believes Donald Trump and his advisers created a political climate after the 2020 election that set the stage for the Capitol attack.

Tuesday’s hearing will take a closer look at two right-wing extremist groups – the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers – who were moved to action. Their members, clad in military-style garb and body armour, were some of the first to breach the Capitol.

The committee, led by two lawmakers, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Stephanie Murphy of Florida, will detail the plans these militant groups made for 6 January and explore some of the connections they had to advisers close to the president, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone.

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Of particular interest to the committee is an 18 December White House meeting involving the president, Mr Flynn and Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell – which was followed the next day by a presidential tweet exhorting his supporters to come to Washington on 6 January for a rally that would “be wild”.

Mr Raskin told BBC US partner network CBS News that the meeting and the tweet had an “explosive” effect on violent elements of Mr Trump’s political base.

Steve Bannon’s gambit

Steve Bannon has long been high on the 6 January committee’s list of people it wants to interview. He’s also long been resistant to those efforts, along with accompanying document subpoenas, to the point of being held in contempt of Congress, a charge for which he has been indicted by the US justice department.

Now, it appears, Mr Bannon is willing to talk.

Mr Trump’s former senior White House adviser and 2016 campaign chairman was a central figure in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, whose intricacies he discussed in detail on his popular podcast.

In the days before the Capitol attack, he also made increasingly ominous warnings about how “all hell is going to break loose” on 6 January, framing the protests as a battle against “the forces of darkness”.

Mr Bannon may be able to provide information about communications between the militant groups at the rally and White House officials or shed light on the organisations that were funding the 6 January rally and the months-long attempts to undermine the 2020 election.

Initially, Mr Bannon claimed he was not permitted to talk with the committee because his conversations with Mr Trump and others at the White House were covered by executive privilege, a legal protection that allows presidents to receive candid advice from their aides. Over the weekend, however, the former president waived that protection, encouraging Mr Bannon to speak.

There’s still no guarantee that that will happen, however, as the committee may be reluctant to agree to Mr Bannon’s request to testify live, and not in a recorded deposition. And even if he were to appear, he may still claim a constitutional right to avoid being compelled to incriminate himself – a strategy employed by several former Trump aides.

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