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January 6 committee eyes former Trump officials for coming hearings

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Rioters outside the capitol building in the US on Jan 6th.
The committee hopes to speak with more former cabinet secretaries in its investigation.(AP: John Minchillo)

The US congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack says it will interview more former cabinet secretaries and is prepared to subpoena the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The panel says it is deepening its inquiry into the conduct of former president Donald Trump after a series of eight hearings in June and July, which culminated in a prime-time session last week.

It plans to interview additional witnesses and reconvene in September to resume laying out its findings to the public.

"We anticipate talking to additional members of the [former] president's cabinet," Liz Cheney, the committee's Republican vice-chair, said.

"We anticipate talking to additional members of his campaign. Certainly, we're very focused as well on the Secret Service."

Ms Cheney did not identify the Trump administration officials who might come forward, but the committee has previously shown interest in speaking to those believed to have considered trying to remove Mr Trump from office after the January 6 riot.

Liz Cheney climbs staircase at Capitol building.
Vice chair Liz Cheney says the committee is interested in Secret Service text communications from January 6. (AP: J. Scott Applewhite)

Betsy DeVos, the education secretary at the time, has said she raised with then-vice-president Mike Pence the question of whether the cabinet should consider invoking the 25th amendment.

The amendment would have allowed them to remove Mr Trump from office if the vice-president and the majority of the cabinet agreed he could no longer fulfil his duties.

In her resignation letter on January 7, Ms DeVos blamed Mr Trump for inciting the mob at the Capitol.

"There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me," she wrote.

On the same day, Elaine Chao quit as transportation secretary.

Ms Chao, who is married to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, said the attack had "deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside".

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state at the time, and Steven Mnuchin, Mr Trump's treasury secretary, were also reported to have discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th amendment.

The committee has already aired testimony from former attorney-general William Barr, who said he told Mr Trump that widespread voter fraud claims were "bullshit" and had "zero basis".

In another hearing, the committee played testimony from then-labour secretary Eugene Scalia, who said he urged Mr Trump to call a cabinet meeting to discuss an orderly transition of power.

Potential conflicts of interest

Committee members also hope to learn more about Virginia "Ginni" Thomas's efforts to keep Mr Trump in office and the potential conflicts of interest for her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

A close up for Virginia speaking against a blue curtain backdrop.
The committee has requested an interview with Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.(AP: Susan Walsh)

Ms Thomas communicated with people in Mr Trump's orbit ahead of the 2021 attack and also on the day of the insurrection. The committee sent a letter to her last month seeking an interview.

Ms Cheney also said that while the committee had not decided whether to make a criminal referral regarding Mr Trump to the Justice Department, "that's absolutely something we're looking at".

While a possible prosecution of Donald Trump is a matter for the Justice Department, the committee has used its hearings to try to make a case about his political viability as he mulls running in 2024.

Some of the most damning testimony aired by the committee has come from Mr Trump's own top Republican advisers, military leaders, and confidants, who admitted to a loss of confidence in his judgement and dedication to the rule of law in the days leading up to and after the January 6 attack.

The committee also wants to get to the bottom of missing Secret Service texts that could have shed further light on Mr Trump's actions during the insurrection, particularly after earlier testimony about his confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol.

AP

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