Skip to content
The Morning Dispatch: A Preview of the January 6 Hearings
Go to my account

The Morning Dispatch: A Preview of the January 6 Hearings

Plus: A roundup of Tuesday’s notable primaries.

Happy Wednesday! Any Aussie KFC fans in the house? If so, you have our condolences: crop-destroying floods in Australia have forced the fried chicken chain locations there to temporarily combine the lettuce on their sandwiches with cabbage. Blech.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Former Kansas resident Allison Fluke-Ekren pleaded guilty Tuesday to leading an ISIS women’s battalion. The former teacher converted to Islam and left the U.S. for stints in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, training women and girls—including her daughter—to fight and planning terrorist attacks until her detainment in 2021, according to the Department of Justice.

  • The FBI has seized the electronic data of retired Marine Gen. John Allen as part of an investigation of his connection to illegal lobbying on behalf of Qatar in 2017. Allen led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and heads the Brookings Institution, an influential think tank.

  • The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the U.S. trade gap—the difference between U.S. imports and exports—fell 19.1 percent in April thanks to a drop in domestic demand for foreign goods. A slowing global economy, pandemic disruptions, and the war in Ukraine will likely continue to depress import demand, and the World Bank on Tuesday lowered its global growth forecast for the year from 4.1 percent to 2.9 percent.

  • The Labor Department estimates that improper unemployment payments doubled from 2020 to 2021—going from a 9.2 percent improper payment rate to 18.9 percent—the Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday. By mid-March, the Labor Department had opened more than 38,000 unemployment fraud investigations, GAO said, warning that gaps in federal and state worker data mean unemployment is still at “high risk” for waste and fraud.

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed Tuesday that Russian forces have conquered 97 percent of the Luhansk province—one of two Donbas provinces in eastern Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an independent republic as a pretext for the invasion.

  • A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday recommended the agency approve the Novavax vaccine against COVID-19 for adults, finding the shots 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. The Novavax vaccine—already available in Australia, Canada, and elsewhere—is protein-based rather than made with the new gene-based mRNA technology driving other COVID-19 vaccines, so FDA officials hope hesitant Americans will be willing to get a dose.

  • At least 6,000 migrants—many from Venezuela—are walking through southern Mexico toward the United States. Mexico has dissolved previous, smaller migrant caravans this year through force or by offering transportation to northern cities but has made no move so far to disband this caravan, which set out Monday.

What to Expect From This Week’s Jan. 6 Hearings

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Bennie Thompson, and Liz Cheney(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

After 11 months of investigation—interviews, records requests, subpoenas, and endless controversy—the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is ready to reveal its findings in six hearings over two weeks. The first is this Thursday at 8 p.m. eastern, so today we’re excerpting new reporter (and old intern!) Price St. Clair’s roadmap of what to expect, plus comments by committee leader Rep. Liz Cheney from last night’s Dispatch Live. Buckle up.

Cheney acknowledged those criticizing the committee’s Democratic skew. “The committee is certainly not an ideal entity,” she told Steve and David last night. “But once that bipartisan commission had been rejected by my party, by the Republicans, the question became—are you going to investigate, or are you simply going to say, ‘Too bad, we’re gonna throw our hands up and walk away?’ And I don’t think that there’s any way that we could have.”

The scope of the committee’s investigation, Price writes, extends beyond the storming of the Capitol itself. The basic events of January 6 have been clear since they occurred. But several important questions remain, especially regarding the degree to which former President Donald Trump and his allies and supporters, including groups like the Proud Boys, prepared in advance to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

“This was a violent assault on the United States Capitol, and it was provoked by a sitting president of the United States,” Cheney said. “He oversaw a multipart plan, [the] objective of which was for him to stay in power, to overturn the results of an election and stay in power. And I would say to people, as you’re listening to some of my colleagues and others who think that the way to respond to this investigation is with politics and partisanship—those people are not acting in a way that is healthy for the country.”

While the committee’s internal deliberations have been kept secret, its work has been divided into five color-coded groups, at least on paper. Even if the hearings and report don’t follow this exact pattern, the five color groups give a good sense of the breadth of the investigation:

Gold: The efforts by Trump and some in his inner circle to pressure federal, state, and local officials to overturn election results. 

“We have talked to close to—maybe over, now—a thousand people,” Cheney said. “You will hear from Republicans who worked in his administration. You’ll hear from Republican state officials.”

Blue: Law enforcement and intelligence failures. The FBI and the Capitol Police both had intelligence about potential violence but were unprepared on the day of the attack. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley also expressed grave concern about the prospects of violence and the potential for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which enables the president, under certain circumstances, to “deploy regular military and National Guard forces to suppress domestic unrest,” according to a Brookings Institution reference sheet. Miller’s fear was that Trump might “politicize the military in an anti-democratic manner.”

Purple: Domestic extremist groups including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory. The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers both have close ties to longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, and members of both groups have been indicted for seditious conspiracy in connection with January 6.

Red: The “Stop the Steal” movement and the January 6 rally at the Ellipse in Washington immediately preceding the riot.

Green: The fundraising and financing behind the other prongs, likely including the Stop the Steal effort and an “Election Defense Fund” drawn from small-dollar donors.

The committee’s investigation is distinct from, but also overlaps with, an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice. Many of the same people and events are subjects of both investigations—and the DOJ has asked the House committee for access to transcripts of depositions and interviews it has conducted—but the House committee lacks the power that the DOJ has to actually prosecute people for crimes.

The House committee is expected to release a final report with some legislative recommendations, but whether and how to act on those recommendations will be up to Congress—and such actions would need to happen sooner rather than later. If Republicans retake the House in November’s midterm elections, as they are expected to do, they will likely eliminate the January 6 committee or restructure it beyond recognition.

“If we really want to understand why January 6 is a line that can never be crossed again, then we really do have to sort of put the politics and the partisanship aside,” Cheney said. “Let’s understand what happened. And let’s do everything we can to protect ourselves from it in the future.”

Breaking Down Tuesday’s Primaries

We’ve hit a period of relative calm in this year’s midterm primary schedule, with few high-profile swing-state Senate contests and the like on the docket for a bit yet. But that doesn’t mean interesting races aren’t still taking place if you look in the right places. The players who will determine who controls the House and Senate are taking the stage now. Here are a few interesting results from primaries in California, Iowa, and Mississippi last night. 

California 22nd District—Jungle Primary

There aren’t a lot of Republicans in solid-blue Democratic districts that it’s worth your time to keep primary tabs on, but last night’s contest in CA-22 offered an exception. The San Joaquin Valley district, which supported Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a double-digit margin in 2020, is currently the bluest in the country to be represented by a Republican congressman: Rep. David Valadao, a five-term moderate who voted to impeach Trump following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Valadao and state Assemblyman Rudy Salas, a Blue Dog Democrat, appear likely to be the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s jungle primary. With about 30 percent of the expected vote counted, Salas has 48 percent to Valdao’s 25 percent, with Republican Chris Mathys at 19 percent.

That wasn’t for lack of trying, though, on the part of national Democratic groups, which bought ads in the district hoping to boost Mathys, a dyed-in-the-wool MAGAite who ran a campaign based on punishing Valadao for his impeachment vote and lobbied unsuccessfully to be listed on the ballot as a “Trump conservative.”

The ads from the House Majority PAC, which is affiliated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and run by former Hillary Clinton adviser Robby Mook, praise Mathys as “the pro-Trump Republican running for Congress” while superimposing black-and-white photos of Valadao and a rhinoceros.

Democrats plainly believed they’d have an easier time carrying the district with Valadao out of the picture, and they’re likely correct. But trying to knife a moderate Republican for voting to impeach makes an odd contrast with this week’s goings-on in Washington, where Democrats on the January 6 committee are preparing to make the case that Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election represented a generational threat to representative government.

Iowa Senate—Democratic Primary

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the 88-year-old Iowa Republican and member of Senate leadership who is running for an eighth term this year, now has his November opponent locked. But it isn’t the Democrat many expected to see—onetime rising star Abby Finkenauer, who became the second-youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2018 before losing her seat in 2020, and who had piled up a significant list of endorsements around the state. Instead, Finkenauer was outdueled by a political newcomer: retired Navy admiral Mike Franken.

Despite lacking name recognition going into the race, Franken took advantage of Finkenauer’s unexpected clerical struggles—a judge briefly ruled she had not gathered enough petition signatures to appear on the primary ballot—and significantly outspent her on advertising in the closing days of the race. In ads, he contrasted the patriotism of his own military service with images of the January 6 attack and denunciations of Republicans’ attacks on “democracy, voting rights, and civil rights.”

Regardless of the Democrat running against him—and his own age—the Iowa institution that is Chuck Grassley is going to be tough to beat. No Democrat has come within 20 points of knocking him out of his Senate seat since 1980, and demographic party shifts have only made once-purple Iowa redder in recent years.

Mississippi 3rd District—Republican Primary

For a demonstration of why most Republicans haven’t been willing to touch the January 6 committee with a 10-foot pole, look no farther than the Republican primary in Mississippi’s 3rd District, where Navy pilot and MAGA insurgent Michael Cassidy last night forced a runoff election against two-term incumbent Michael Guest. Guest did not vote to impeach Trump but did vote in favor of a committee to investigate January 6. Cassidy has used this vote, as well as Guest’s support of military aid to Ukraine, to paint his opponent as a RINO squish. With about 89 percent of the vote in, Cassidy had captured nearly 48 percent, with Guest short of 47 percent.

In addition to his attacks on Guest, Cassidy has campaigned hard on social issues, pledging to fight back against “the Left’s twisted social doctrines” and, with echoes of the Q-Anon conspiracy theory, “weirdos grooming our nation’s children.” He has also campaigned on election-security issues like moving from voting machines to paper ballots and argued that members of the military who have been discharged for refusing to receive COVID vaccines should be reinstated.

Lots of that is par for the culture-war course. But one of his campaign pitches is truly something we haven’t heard before—a proposal to provide “newlyweds with a $20,000 wedding gift, paid back if the couple divorces.” Who says Republicans never come up with new ideas?

Recall Election for San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin

You wouldn’t necessarily expect the deep-blue Bay Area to be the site of a backlash against progressive law enforcement. But on Tuesday, San Francisco residents voted overwhelmingly to recall a district attorney, Chesa Boudin, who was elected in 2019 on a platform of decreasing criminal enforcement, incarceration, and racial disparities in sentencing in the city. The Associated Press called the race shortly after 9 p.m. PT, with 45 percent of the vote counted and 61 percent of voters supporting the recall.

Rising crime and public anxiety that authorities were doing little to combat it turned sentiment against Boudin, who reduced San Francisco’s jail population by a quarter during his first year in office. The effort to recall him was spearheaded in large part by Chinese-American activists who thought Boudin had been too lenient on perpetrators of anti-Asian hate crimes. A poll last month found two thirds of Asian-American voters supporting the recall, compared to half of Hispanic and white voters and one-third of black voters. 

Worth Your Time

  • Europe and the U.S. are both buffeted by high inflation right now—but for different reasons, economist Jason Furman argues in the Wall Street Journal. “The U.S. has higher underlying inflation—which is potentially more persistent and is appropriately being treated with aggressive monetary tightening,” Furman writes. “In contrast, more of Europe’s inflation is imported—which makes it more painful than U.S. inflation but also likely more transitory, and so the European Central Bank should follow a comparatively restrained response. … Both the U.S. and Europe have a combination of persistent domestic demand-driven inflation and transitory global supply-driven inflation, but the ratios are very different in the two economies. It would be a mistake for U.S. policy makers to overstate the degree to which inflation is global and neglect addressing the many U.S. specific causes. Conversely, Europeans should take a more measured approach and not overreact to the disproportionate amount of global inflation they are facing.”

  • Ukrainian civilians may—under the international rules of war—be sacrificing their protected status when they pick up their cellphones to report Russian troop locations. That doesn’t mean they should stop, Lukasz Olejnik writes for Wired, but it does mean we should consider how the official rules of war interact with the digital age. “Technically speaking, as soon as a user in a war zone picks up a smartphone to assist the army, both the technology and the individual could be considered sensors, or nodes, in the practice known as ISR—intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance,” Olejnik writes. “Inviting citizens to become a potential element in a military system, as the e-Enemy feature does, might blur the lines between civilian and combatant activity. The principle of distinction between the two roles is a critical cornerstone of international humanitarian law—the law of armed conflict, codified by decades of customs and laws such as the Geneva Conventions.”

  • Speaking of Ukraine, this piece by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak in the New York Times gives an on-the-ground look at the challenges for Ukrainian soldiers quickly learning to use advanced weapons technology flooding in from the West. “I have been trying to learn how to use [a range finder] by reading the manual in English and using Google Translate to understand it,” one sergeant told the Times. Training by Western instructors doesn’t reach everyone. “For Sergeant Pysanka’s gun team, the only instructor available for the laser range finder is a soldier who remained behind from the last unit and had taken time to translate most of the 104-page instruction manual,” the article says. “But it’s still trial and error as they figure out what combination of buttons do what, while searching for ad hoc solutions to solve the lack of a mounting tripod and video monitor (both of which are advertised in the instruction manual).”

Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • When it comes to gun control, Europe isn’t the right comparison point for the U.S., David argues in the latest French Press (🔒). He takes a page out of Scott’s book with a string of charts comparing U.S. gun violence to Europe and Brazil, and concludes that reducing gun violence in the U.S. will require more than banning guns.

  • In yesterday’s edition of The Sweep  (🔒), Sarah, Audrey, and Harvest unpack polling on gun control and abortion and how single issues drive (or don’t) ballot box results. They also hit some advice from Tony Blair, another test of a Trump endorsement, Wisconsin’s governor race, and what your favorite superhero says about your voting habits.

  • On the new Dispatch Podcast, Steve welcomes Chuck Todd, moderator of Meet the Press and NBC News political director. They preview the upcoming January 6 hearings, discuss political primary season, and consider whether their work years ago at “The Hotline,” a popular aggregator/tip sheet that obsessively covered campaigns and elections, contributed to the deteriorating political media environment today. Oh, and there’s five minutes of self-indulgent talk about the Green Bay Packers at the end, too.

  • Tuesday’s potpourri edition of Advisory Opinions dashes through three boring Supreme Court cases before answering a heap of reader questions—on everything from the Ninth Amendment to David and Sarah’s greatest disappointments. 

  • On the site today, Price breaks down what you need to know heading into the January 6 hearings, Jonah implores Democrats not to use the hearings for their own partisan gain, Rep. Liz Cheney joins David and Steve during last night’s Dispatch Live, and Andrew Fink explains how Russia is benefiting from a global food crisis it helped create.

Let Us Know

Do you plan to watch the January 6 hearings? Are you interested to see what we learn from them?

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.