(NewsNation) — The 11-month House investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is over, and the long-awaited public hearings, in which a bipartisan committee of lawmakers will lay out their findings, are set to begin Thursday.
The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol will open a series of hearings focusing on far-right extremists who broke into the building, what role former President Donald Trump and his allies played, financing of the riot and security failures.
A high-profile production of a hearing like this rarely occurs.
“Never before in prime time have we had congressional hearings, and never before have we had things that were called ‘hearings’ that were television shows.” NewsNation’s Leland Vittert said on “Morning in America.” Vittert will co-anchor the network’s prime-time coverage of the hearing.
The “On Balance” host has been following the Jan. 6 investigation since the beginning, and joined the network’s morning show to discuss the focus of Thursday’s hearing.
“Obviously, Supreme Court confirmation hearings are political theater. You could argue the Watergate hearings — political theater. The McCarthy hearings — political theater. But they were hearings in the traditional sense,” Vittert said.
A “traditional hearing” is when there are witnesses, and members of Congress asking the witness questions, going back and forth with that witness for periods of time. Then there is a new witness, then another witness.
That’s not what will be seen at the hearing Thursday.
Vittert said the difference between public Supreme Court hearings in the past and the hearing Thursday is the hearing is a “made-for-TV special.” It will have various parts to it, including live interviews and highly produced video segments that are going to be sent out for broadcast.
“And then it’s going to have parts of video that were the interviews that the committee has done with other people, what we would refer to as long sound bites, or packages, that had been put together all to sort of build this case,” he said.
The hearing comes five months ahead of the November election, and Vittert doesn’t think it’s a coincidence.
“Everything in Washington is questionable. And everything in Washington has to be viewed through a political lens, as much as you’d hope that an investigation into what happened on Jan. 6 would be apolitical,” he said.
Vittert broke his reasoning down a little further by explaining that during July and August, people are usually gone and aren’t really paying attention to politics because of summer break. September and October are taken up with campaigning for the midterms. He believes that this is the Democrats’ last chance before they almost certainly lose control of the House.
“The other thing to think about and to watch for is how much of this is about specifically what happened on Jan. 6, who inspired it, and who was directly involved in planning, not simply a protest, which we know is something that happens every day in America, but specifically the unprecedented part, which was going into the Capitol,” Vittert said.
He added it’s important to look for answers to specific questions, such as how much of the hearing is about that? How much of this is about what happened on Jan. 6, and how much of this is saying Republicans don’t believe in democracy, therefore vote for Democrats in November?
Vittert analyzed the makeup of the committee, saying it’s important to take views into consideration. There are two Republicans, both very critical of former President Trump, and seven Democrats.
“Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, the only two Republicans on the committee, are both vehemently anti-Donald Trump,” Vittert said, “In America, you are entitled to a defense, even if everybody believes you to be guilty, and President Trump and his supporters were denied that by the committee.”
There is now a question of agenda, and whether what the committee says is taken seriously.
Another question that arises is whether Americans even care.
“If you go talk to folks and say, ‘Hey, what are your big concerns right now?’ Gas prices, the cost of food, the border crime in America — there’s not a lot outside of the political class who will offer up the Jan. 6 as a big concern now. There’s a baked-in feeling of unease in America. And the events of Jan. 6 certainly contribute to that, as (do) the partisan chips continuing to surround the events of Jan. 6,” he said.
The biggest challenge Vittert said the committee faces is to convince a certain percentage of Americans who have completely moved on, and don’t really care, that their investigation was fair. In addition, they must prove that their investigation came up with things that were new and relevant, and that it is important going forward for the American people to know and act upon those.
“That’s a very high bar. And considering how much has already leaked out of this committee, it’ll be pretty easy to question whether or not they have the goods. If the leaks are any indication, they’re still looking for those three things,” Vittert said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.