tv Discussion on January 6 Committee Congressional Investigations CSPAN January 31, 2023 1:00am-2:34am EST
hearing on american energy production expansion. you can watch evething live on c-span now, our free mobile video app, or online at c-span.org. >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government. we are funded by these tb companies and more, including buckeye broadband. ♪ buckeye broadband supports c-sp as a public service along with these other television providers, giving you a front row seat to democracy. next, a discussion about the january 6 select committee and impact on congressional oversight. the committee's chief counsel talks about its work, as well as
privilege and modernization. this is about an hour and a half. n university. this is about an hour and a half. >> i want to thank you all for coming today. this is an extraordinary event. it follows what was unfortunately, one of the greatest days in infamy for those of us who study congress, and who have worked in congress, and in my view, care about our constitution. january 6, hopefully, will never be repeated. but out of january 6 ashes gain -- came an extraordinary set of hearings in the last year about what exactly happened in the capitol, people who were
inspired to attack national monuments. we owe a great debt to the members of the january 6 committee, particularly those who put america above party alliances such as liz cheney, adam kinzinger, and to the chairman for running what in my experience was one of the most extraordinary hearings ever held by congress. i first came to washington as a fabey lawyer. i sat behind a man named arthur on the iran-contra investigation. however much i love arthur, i have to say those hearings didn't work out so well. i've learned some things from that and i took, and i just want to give profound thanks to the levin center for proposing this. they have done all the work here. i get to give you some lunch in a room and welcome you to georgetown.
but they have organized an extraordinary panel. i'm happy to see my friend lisa desjardins, we spent too much time on pbs talking about some impeachments. and so now i'm going to get it over to jim who will introduce our star-studded cast so we can learn what happened behind the curtain in the january 6th hearings. thank you very much. [applause] >> well, good afternoon and thank you. professor nourse. i jim townsend, the director of am the center for oversight and democracy, and before i introduce our wonderful panel to talk about the program, i want to say a word about the work we do and why we think this conversation is so significant. senator levin founded the levin center upon his retirement from u.s. senate in 2015, and our mission is to advance bipartisan
fact-based oversight and civic discourse as fundamental elements of our democracy. we do workshops and trainings on capitol hill with staff, sometimes with members and with lawmakers around the country, the state legislatures. we also do scholarship and commentary in the press and in the courts. and we do this not just to honor carl, who passed away in 2021, and we miss him dearly, but we do this because it's so important for the public to understand how important congressional oversight is to our democracy, to our ability to evolve as a society and solve problems. i like to quote some words from the supreme court that date back to 1953, in an opinion, united states versus rumbly.
and the court said congress, when it engages in oversight, becomes, quote, "the ice and -- the eyes and voice of the american people," unquote. how do we know what we know? very often there was a hearing or a report from congress or from one of its state counterparts bringing those facts to light and enabling america to move forward. so we're here to talk about a very significant example of congressional oversight and get into not the substance so much. there are other places to do that, but to talk about the process, about how they did the work and what it means for future congressional investigations. i want to say just that -- we really are, first of all, i thank georgetown, georgia law center. we really appreciate the venue and the partnership. we hope to do many more things together. i will talk about the program briefly. we're going to start
with lightning round, going to ask each member to say a few words about what they thought about the work of the committee, how it did its work. and then we are going to get into some specific questions. and then at about 1:00, let's see, we have some microphones available for the public to be able, i mean, for folks here -- i thought we had some microphones that would be -- they are on their way? ok. about 1:00 if you questions of your own we would welcome for you to come and ask questions of our distinguished panel. so let me get to our panelists. i will go in alphabetical order. christian was chief counsel for the house select committee to investigate the january 6 attack on the u.s. capitol. she's had a distinguished career in public service and in a private sector. i'm going to summarize briefly. she was deputy general counsel at the u.s. department of
transportation. she served as chief counsel for the house oversight and government reform committee. she served a similar role in the u.s. congress committee and was director of oversight in the senate commerce committee. to her right, reginald brown, a partner in washington, d.c. office of kirkland & ellis where his practice focuses on crisis management and government investigations. he represented i think several witnesses who were called before the select committee. he previously served in the white house counsel's office where he was the principal legal liaison to the department of the treasury and housing and urban development. to his right is lisa desjardins. lisa is a correspondent for "the pbs newshour," and we are so thrilled to have with us. she covers the u.s. capitol and she travels across the country to report how decisions in washington affect people around the country. she come for -- she, for her reporting on the before and after the events of
the january 6 than she direction, -- insurrection, she received a peabody award as well as several other significant awards. and then finally on the far right is david rapallo. dave joined the faculty of georgetown law center after spending two decades in high-level positions in congress, and the white house. he was staff director of the house oversight and reform committee. he also served as, in the obama white house as senior director and counsel on legislative oversight for the national security council, and dave is a 2022 recipient of the carl levin center award for excellence in oversight research. so that is our panel. so to kick things off, i'm going to sit down and as we get into -- i can't stand for 90 minutes. to start, i will do a lightning round. may be with alphabetical, take a couple minutes to get general
remarks about the work of the january 6th committee, again the process as opposed to substance, what was new and different, what worked, what didn't and how might the committee's action affect oversight congressional oversight in the future. christine, let me start with you. >> thank you, jim. many thanks to the team at georgetown law and levin center for the invitation to appear today. and good afternoon, everyone. at the outset i just want to note that my remarks are today are my personal views and don't reflect the official position of the january 6 committee. that said, i would like to kick things off by offering one overarching comment about the way that the select committee conducted oversight. many of the procedures that the select committee used to present its findings to the american public that had been characterized as new or different, like designating one or two members only to ask witnesses questions
in a long block of time at hearings, actually are tools that have long been in the toolkit of congressional oversight committees in both the house and the senate. but the foundational feature of the select committee's work that enabled use of these procedures was the commitment across the entire committee plus -- committees membership to work collaboratively to advance their investigative goal, which was to uncover what happened on january 6, why it happened, and make recommendations to make sure something like that never happened again. and this took a lot of elbow grease. the committee was comprised of nine members with widely differing political perspectives from very liberal democrat to very conservative republican. it came from different parts of the country. they had different types of expertise and experience, but they succeeded in reaching agreement on how to advance
their oversight goals. and this took a lot of work. democracy takes work, and this committee was willing to do that work. it required tireless, skilled leadership by the committee chair. it required continuing, courageous focus leadership by the vice chair and across the entire membership of all nine members, it involves a commitment to ongoing respectful conversation with each other, a spirit of accommodation, and a willingness to put the -- a willingness to put the overarching goals of the committee above individual egos. and as a result, the committee to this collaborative approach had some flexibility in how it presented information for the public. for example, members did not insist on exercising their
right to ask five-minute rounds of questions with witnesses in every hearing. so i think in terms of the take away on implications for future oversight, that the committee's success serves as an example of the possibilities of oversight, when members are working collaboratively with seriousness of purpose. i look forward to discussing these and other issues with the panelists today. thank you. >> thank you. rich? >> thanks very much, and appreciate the opportunity to be here. i would agree with kristen that it was extraordinary and it was a success, and that many of the tools that were used were not new. they were novel in the way in which they were pulled together. i think it was a select committee and in many respects
the committee selected the best approaches to oversight that have been used by past committees. one way in which it did feel novel to me as a defense lawyer, and just for perspective of defense lawyers, i did not think the iran-contra hearing went poorly. you know, sort of the response of brendan sullivan about being a potted plant was fairly dash -- fairly extraordinary and for defense lawyers, we were like wow, one of our guys actually 11 -- actually won one for once. but here i thought the one thing that was pretty novel was it was bipartisan in composition in a sense of, there were people on it from the left to the right. but it was organized under rules that did not give the minority party the full discretion that
it normally enjoys to pick its own members. and i think that will have some interesting, long-term implications that are worth discussing later. having said that, it was extraordinarily effective, both in terms of telling a story, and in driving action in other forms. again, as a defense lawyer, i approach this thinking not only about the work of the january 6 committee, but about doj inquiries, bar inquiries, the court of public opinion and the like, which all sort of flowed from that and hopefully we will have a chance to talk about some of these issues as well. >> good afternoon. i am lisa desjardins, and i'm incredibly honored to be here with this very esteemed panel that you are meeting now but whose reputation are very
well-known on and off the hill. so it's quite an honor to be here and to be talking about this. i was so interested, my ears perked up when jim said the work -- said the word process and stressed that this is about the process. usually in a newsroom whenever i pitched let's do a story about process, guys, you know, almost immediately everyone is thinking okay, we will listen to her and then say no. because that sounds terrible. but i really think of the processing program -- the process in congress and covering congress, stick with me here, it is sort of sexy. it is like a racecar. i think it is the decision about how congress moving forward, where it goes, the style, the tone, and i think of it as sexy and important like a car, a racecar. i think what this committee did was unprecedented in the number of levels, many of which as we're saying we will continue to feel and we are feeling now. at the top of my list as a reporter were the decisions by then speaker pelosi to reject two
republican members, and then by then leader mccarthy, they could not seat the remaining three republicans. that had a facts in multiple directions. one of course we may talk about this later, was a committee that was incredibly cohesive, which is rare. the point of congress is to be deliberative, to almost like a courtroom, to have two sides that represent their sides. but here you have a committee that had a sense of greater purpose. that's why they felt they were there. they were able to unify, and from that stemmed always -- all these other renovations -- innovations, many of which involved the media and the decision by the members and the focus on not just the final report but in telling it in a way that would change not just the pages of history which i think the committee paid a lot of attention to, but hearts and minds of now. this was a committee and i can speak a lot about my reporting, what people
told me that i feel confident in who have worked on this, they really were thinking about republicans and independents in this country that they think didn't understand the danger from the committee's point of view of what happened on january 6. and so from that, they said let's use video. let's tell the story in new ways. let's hire producers from abc to make this congressional hearing something that is compelling, as compelling as a subject matter we feel should be. so that's what you see, so iran-contra which did captivate the country fairly until a point when my understanding was the network said we are losing ratings, and they traded who would be erring this iran-contra hearings, versus let's go back further, 1912. the titanic hearings which i think were more of the electrifying kind of hearings that congress ever had. those are only a month long, 86 witnesses. iran-contra about 100 witnesses. here we are talking about 1000
witnesses, and just a deep amount of material that they put in a modern way to be engaging. it did create challenges for the press in how to cover it because we didn't know what we be seeing in each hearing. we didn't know what kind of material and we had a short timeframe to then understand it and present for our audiences, and also check it. and get responses from people, we would show a clip and say do you think this is accurately represented? there was a challenge for us but there's no doubt in my mind the way the committee did that was very important. and going for it i think we will see that positive be mimicked and i think we'll also see those reverberating you can't be on this committee because you took our people off your committee. i think that didn't begin with this but continues in this aided in that the idea of you versus us on committee assignments. >> great, thank you all to the levin center and welcome to georgetown law. i agree with i
think all the panelists in terms of the bipartisanship and the hard work that the members put into this process being responsible for their ability to have these innovations. as chris -- kristen mentioned, maybe i can give more context, the house normally operates under the five minute rule. so you go and one side and you go back and forth for the whole hearing. for years, the committee rules have allowed for extended questioning. but it's rarely used because members really want the five minutes and they are reluctant to give it up. the january 6 committee members were able to put it aside and take advantage of the innovation. however, to bookend the points in a little more context, i believe mccarthy made critical decisions that contributed to this outcome. first, after there was widespread support for 9/11 style commission, including from leader mccarthy who had three conditions. an even number of
members, equal treatment on subpoenas, and no predetermined outcome. democrats agreed with that, and a republican negotiated the bipartisan legislation with benny thomas -- thompson. but the day before it came to vote on the house floor, leader mccarthy reversed himself and opposed it. it's still past the house with republicans but it died in the 31 senate. second when the house then establish the second so to -- select committee, mccarthy's decision was members of the five members slate that a conflict or admit statements opposing the whole mission of the select committee. he did this after meeting with an officer pleading with him not to put obstructionists on the panel. when speaker pelosi rejected those members, leader mccarthy decided to pull his slate of five members. speaker pelosi named liz cheney added adam kinzinger and disallow did the committee to operate with a common purpose that we all saw. just to close this point, the results should
have been foreseeable. in 2005 house republicans set up the hurricane katrina select committee. back the democrats didn't join because of what they viewed as an an in adequate scope for the committee. but several democrats in the region participated anyway. fast forward to the benghazi select committee. democrats had an internal debate over whether to join because there had been seven or eight previous investigations. as adam schiff wrote in his book, he argued for the boycott while my old boss elijah cummings argued that democrats should participate. ultimately democrats decided to participate. as congressman schiff mentioned in his book, after the internal debate speaker pelosi appointed him to the benghazi committee which he said he wasn't sure whether it was a punishment or reward. however, after he went through the entire process being on inside of that investigation he said in his book pelosi's and company had been right. that is part of the reason you
see democrats are going to be joining these new republican select committees they are setting up in the house. >> thank you all. those are really insightful comments and setting this up really for great conversation. so i'm going to shift back and forth between the investigation and talking about the hearings. but i talked about the hearings and i want to pick up on the point that was made about how scripted the hearings were. kristin, i would like to start with you. you were on the inside as part of the team was guiding this process. how difficult was it to create those kinds of conditions where members were willing to accept having such a script where there was a limited amount of opportunity for members to speak and two or one member was really driving the process on any particular hearing? was it really hard? in an environment where there might be more political division or less
consensus let's say about mission, would it be impossible till -- to replicate? >> i think as i said in the beginning there was quite a bit of diversity on the select committee with members ranging from conservative republican to liberal democrats, and you know, working collaboratively is a day-to-day process that takes work. but across the political spectrum of the committee, the members were focused on their shared goal of getting the facts right, and that collaborative spirit enabled them to present their narrative and facts and have dialogue with the american public about their findings in a unified way. i will say, and dave touched upon in his opening remarks, there are a number of
house and senate rules that gives members the opportunity to express opposing views at congressional hearings and other phases of congressional oversight. for example, the rule that we've already talked about which is central that provides in hearings that every member has a right to ask at least five minutes worth of questions to witnesses that are before the committee. it's true in the house and it is true in the senate. there are variations in the senate but they are similar. but if every single member of a committee took their five minutes to express views that were divergent from each other, there would be a very disjointed presentation of the information at a given hearing. another example is the house deposition regulation provision, which says
that if the ranking minority member on a committee objects to the release of information from a deposition, which is presumptively confidential, then if the chairman of the committee wants to override that objection, the ranking member can force a committee vote in order to release deposition material. if a committee is trying to structure a hearing around presenting excerpts from different depositions, it could be pretty cumbersome to face the need to have full committee vote in order to release material. i think there are many locations -- occasions where it's important, effective and in the public interest for members to assert some or all of these rights, depending on the circumstances. in the case of the select committee, members
were working collaboratively and were able to send their findings in a unified way. >> other panelists want to chime in on this? were you surprised by what transpired in terms of the way those hearings were run? >> i thought it was very effective for telling certain aspects of the story that needed to be told. i thought they did an extraordinary job of figuring out what was going on in the executive branch that gave rise to the rally on the plaza and march on the capitol, and the extraordinary level of anger felt by some of the people who participated in that. but they also did an amazing job of telling the story of how close we came to losing aspects of our democracy, having the government sort of crumble. the only way to do that was my
-- by limiting the number of speakers, and focusing on particular parts of the narrative by using video and live, in person testimony. there probably were some aspects of what happened that are important that may be are told in the final report but were not told publicly. i think probably the area where i feel like -- and i be in the minority here in may thinking this, the security story of the capitol, i think there was more that could be done to safeguard the capitol from what came. i think that probably suffered a bit but there are only so many stories that could be told. i thought they did an extraordinarily effective job of doing that. and they divvied it up so even though everybody didn't get five minutes every time, i think each
of the members got a chance to lead part of the storytelling. it was a very clever and appropriate compromise. >> this is an incredibly made-for-tv series of hearings. as a congressional reporter i often get dinner party jokes about -- such great television, congressional hearings. but this is a case where it was, and it was the use of compelling video and very carefully scripted wording which was tailored to each member i think, and driven by each member. and i also think this committee was able to do something unique in that by choosing different themes and establishing one kind of captain member in charge of that theme or promotion of the theme, it was almost as if they were establishing subcommittees of one for each topic. that really allowed an incredible amount of cohesion, and focus.
and the member driving it was able to put in their own words in a way, know the script and use the soundbites that that -- they thought were most important. it wasn't just made-for-tv. it was also made for social media. it was i think one of the most savvy committees in terms of tackling issues and a huge topic that you could see. and because of that there really wasn't much discussion of what wasn't on the table which i agree with the security, what happened with police, what have -- happened with the pentagon. those are mentioned in the report but if you look at the recommendations i think there are recommendations, it really 12 is not the heart of what this committee was about. they were focused on former president trump throughout, and so because of that focus and because they did in such an engaging way, it really wasn't noticed what was left out. but you know you can't cover everything and it's part of my job to talk about that. >> i would say i worked on the hill for 20 years, i don't know how many hearings i participated
in or witnessed. hundreds for sure, and my opinion was these hearings were among the most compelling and effective at, one, it really was effective. in some ways it had to be a little scripted because it was so much evidence that they would were disclosing at every single hearing. they had done about a year before these hearings took place, and did 1000 interviews and they have all this information there trying to disclose, so logistically had to be somewhat scripted to get information out. i was going back watching some of hearings and for one i counted. there were over 100 video clips, scenes from the capitol, tweets, letters, all of that in a two-hour hearing. even with that i would say as i , watched just as a person on the outside, i still thought there were moments that were surprising to me as i watched,
like when rusty bowers was testifying about, i got really choked up about how the president had asked him to violate his oath that he taken before god, and that was something he could not do. i mean, that was really compelling. or when kathy hutchinson testified about how she walked into the office of mark meadows, the chief of staff, scenes of violence on tv screen and he was staring blankly down at his phone, because he already knew that the president didn't want to do anything. so those moments in the hearings were surprising to me. i thought very compelling. >> that's important. it was scripted, but it wasn't inauthentic. people, the witnesses were not scripted. they knew what the general questions are going to be. in some instances, video was going to be used. but the words that they chose where their own. it they just sort of knew what the topic was in advance. i did not want anyone to think scripted means fake narrative
that was not authentic or not true. it was true but only as for the topics. >> i think what this reveals more than any other i've ever seen is the reality that in most cases the hearings are not about , gathering information. the hearings are about relaying information that had already been discovered by the committee and its staff. a lot of times people focus on a revelation coming out of a hearing. they think members of the committee did not know about it before it was publicly put out. there are a few exceptions to that rule, but even the famous revelations about the tapes, there were previous discussions that took place before in the public domain. i want to stay with you and ask about switching over to the witnesses. the norm is witnesses are given an opportunity to give an opening statement. that is contemplated in the rules. here in a lot of cases, that did not happen, although there were
a couple exceptions where people are allowed to get sort of lengthy remarks. what do you think about that approach? you represented people in front of congressional committees. do you think that approach will be adopted more widely? >> i hope it won't be adopted more widely. in most hearings, it is five minutes on either side and the only time the witness gets to tell their story is in that opening statement. i hate to lose that. here, i think because of the agreements that were reached in advance, there was not a sense that the witness themselves would be asked to say something that wasn't true. their own truths were able to be revealed. we were about to submit written statements which my client did because i cared about additional forums, where different parts of the story might play out and i wanted to make sure there was a
record of that. it was a very reasonable compromise under those circumstances. in the norm, it is a matter of due process and that the witness would have to show up and you are welcome to have a few minutes to tell their side of the story, particularly in that agreement. here i think most people who are willing to testify felt like the committee was being true to their narrative. so there was not a need for that five minutes. >> just to add to what reg said. the witnesses that appeared before the select committee were cooperative witnesses. it may be that in a hearing where the witness is a hostile witness, they find it's more important to make sure they make a statement upfront.
so i think treatment of witnesses goes on a case-by-case basis. >> lisa, i would like to turn to you now, and again these sort of innovations or maybe not entirely innovations, but the positives and negatives as well as the implications for the future about what a lot of people commented on. i was showing excerpts of taped depositions. what is your perspective on that? i thought it was incredibly effective, and more than that i think it helped really accentuate the news that was happening in real time in a way that is unusual. all of us had to make decisions, every network, pbs, are we going to show these in real time? are we going to have it across the country? at pbs, we have an incredibly high bar. pbs was i think the only national network that did not go to september 11 coverage when i
that was happening because we have children's programming. there was a strong feeling that that needed to be available. we needed a place where families were not seeing september 11 coverage. so for pbs to put, especially daytime news event across all of our, over 330 stations, which is 100 more than any any of the network by the way, is a very, very big decision. we operate a little different than most networks him more of a co-op of a network. anyway it was a very large decision, very high bar for us. we did the first one and we said wow, we learned more than we thought. there were more surprises than we thought. every hearing after that, we went into it saying i think this is falling short of expectations. expectations were really high. they were coming up with important, engaging and scintillating things. each hearing except for one, we were remarking at how powerful
the material was and they were meeting the expectations which they had set to be very high. i think a new part of that is because you were seeing the words of the people who were first-hand witnesses and involved themselves. you were hearing them answering questions in a way that was being accountable to the committee, but the way it was presented was like they were accountable to the country. i think that kind of connection using video was important. on the other hand, i think something that does not get talked about, you were right to point out the witnesses were not scripted, however the choice of witnesses was something the committee did and they were very purposeful highlighting, especially republican witnesses, because they wanted to get across this kind of thinking that led to january 6 was something that was rebuked my many republicans. however, there were republicans
who thought differently that were highlighted and that was a choice they made. but because there was not both parties contributing to this because there is not a minority report, not that kind of pushback, five-minute questioning, you saw one flavor of witnesses, many of them, which was unusual to talk -- have so many republicans talking about problems in their party. >> i have to say something about the news cycle. my first solid memory about the congressional hearing was something called watergate. [laughter] which trumped sesame street. i was a young child and very angry about the fact that i could not see sesame street. >> exactly. >> in this thing called watergate, there was no water and no gate. >> exactly that's where we were
like, we have to be careful. maybe in the future. >> others want to comment? >> looks move to something with a lot of discussion, the formatting of the hearings such as they were presented as documentaries. you said it was like each hearing became an unofficial subcommittee in that respect. maybe david, with your experience having worked on the hill for two decades and done a lot of hearings, what is your sense of whether that kind of approach is feasible in other circumstances? this has not been done a lot if ever. folks who have one topic or trying to be that nero is something that will translate? >> i thought it was phenomenal in terms of getting the evidence
and found things -- findings out there in a compelling way. others have said it before, but it is like watching a two hour documentary where you have the same characters as members of congress, new witnesses at the beginning of the hearing, a recap of what happened last time and a preview of what will happen tonight. at the end of the hearing, a recap of what you heard today and what will happen the next time. i thought it was efficient. the challenge is, can you plan it ahead of time? you are right, it has been done before. senator levin has done it. kristin and i worked for henry waxman in the fall of 2008, we held a series of hearings on the financial collapse. we brought in lehman, aig, the credit rating agency, regulators in a two-month period.
in terms of teams, you could stagger the hearings with different teams, but it is really hard to plan a series while doing an investigation. the big difference i think with january 6 is they had a year. not all of it, but a huge portion of their interview and document collection were able to plan out that summer into the fall. >> go ahead. >> you can do this where there is a general consensus about the facts and who the good guys and the bad guys are. the financial crisis, everybody knew the stock market and the economy were a bad place. telling the story about wall street, it wasn't huge divides. there were divides around some issues, root causes here. there where in fact very different narratives that were out there.
we kind of thought the mainstream consensus view, there is still a view on the right that has not been shared yet and i think it will be interesting to see whether people take outtakes from the videos or the interviews and try to craft an alternative narrative or not. i do think that the hearing moved the country a little more to a consensus, but there is another narrative that did not get pulled and you kind of can't do that through the normal give and take of a bipartisan committee were each side gets to pick their own people because the narratives in general are so far apart. >> and i think because of that, there is a group of americans that believe in the narrative
that wasn't told they see that and president trump is inflaming that as evidence that they are right and they are being shut out. is something that is a part of politics that has ruled itself. we'll see how the republican majority in the house handles that and what they do coming up. >> i'd like to shift gears a little bit, four of the five of us are former congressional staffers. [laughter] so our inclination would be what folks on the staff do which is merited. i want to ask about member involvement and the extent to which members played really significant roles even in come so far as gathering information. everybody knows about this, but as somebody who represented people before committees, i would like to ask about lynne cheney and what you come to understand about her role.
she played a significant role in gathering certain information, particularly from cassidy hutchinson. in fact, there was an entire hearing devoted to hearing from her that really liz cheney was very much a leader of. can you talk of a bit about what you know she feels about this and what you learned about this? there is something, an award, a profile encouraged a profile encouraged award. i don't know if liz has gotten one yet. she deserves one because she put her whole career on the line to do what she thought was right because she felt like democracy was more important. and she did something that not a lot of members take the time to do. carl levin was of course the best at it which is she dove absolutely deeply into the facts. i remember bringing a witness in for interview.
the interviews are normally on the staff and there was liz cheney going through questions to get at the facts well beyond where the staffers were. carl levin had that gift. he got his way in hearings by waiting until everybody else left. [laughter] then he would keep going four hours if necessary until he broke the full record. i thought she exhibited extraordinary courage at great personal cost to tell a story that was very very important to her. her father was actually a creature of both the congress and executive branch so it probably touched her and family in a personal way that was different than perhaps it might have touched others because she could have envisioned her father being in the executive branch
where running a risk of the mob wanting to hang you and being in the legislative chamber, she probably grew up seeing it desecrated and the like. kristin probably has a better perspective because you watched the members. >> i would add two notes. it is hard to imagine any individual demonstrating anymore commitment to public service than what the vice chair demonstrated in her service on the january 6 committee. my other note would be she participated regularly. it is not uncommon for regulars to participate in depositions.
i remember members participating in my very first investigation i worked on looking at campaign-finance practices in the clinton administration. >> my reporting is she had a key role especially in deciding what the message should be. everyone is involved, this is a committee that i think everyone was functioning with a lot of muscles, very engaged. which i think sometimes is hard for staffers to figure things out themselves. [laughter] my reporting is she had a lot to do with the idea of who is the audience that is the most important here? republicans and independents. we need to clear these mines and tell them what we believe happened. this is where we will affect how january 6 was seen. we believe democrats already see it the way most democrats in the house see it. we heard from them.
i think she voiced behind the scenes, this is a group of americans that we really need to connect with. that was i think something she needed to do. >> chairman thompson deserved a tremendous amount of credit as well for allowing the vice chair to play that kind of a role, and for very important decisions he made early on, the use of subpoenas, doing depositions on video, the structure of each of the variance, the rulings that were made to go after people for contempt and the like. all of which are really big decisions, and i think it is rare to see a leader get all of those decisions right. time and time again, i thought that was extraordinary. i'm sure he had good advisors but it's up to the chair to decide whether they are going to
listen or not. i thought his leadership, also deserved a lot of praise. i want to shift the focus sort of behind the scenes now to the -- >> i want to shift the focus from behind the scenes to the national archives. most of us don't think about the national archives all that much, but they became a very important part of this investigation. the committee requested, sought information from the national archives. maybe that's happened before but it got a lot more focus this time. i would love anyone to comment on what happened and do you think that will happen more and more? >> i would say there was part of it that was novel and part of it that wasn't. our committee had jurisdiction over the archives and presidential records act. the pra has a provision that lets committees request
documents from previous administrations and provision to notify the previous president in case there is some assertion of privilege. that part was not novel. in this case you had a former president trying to assert a privilege and a current president not and it was litigated. in terms of going to the archives for information, that is more of a routine thing. i think the coronavirus committee also did that and on the senate side when they do nominees, supreme court justices that previously worked in the white house, documents would be requested from the archives and sent over. i would like to flag one thing, he flagged that the archivist, the nominee for the archivist did not get through in the last congress. that is a critical position not just for disinformation, but additional questions about handling classified documents. it should be a focus for the senate. >> it's actually worrying for me
about the executive branch and the ability of the president to get candid advice. the decision around whether or not the current president or former president controls privilege and whether or not it ought to be waived i think will have long-standing implications and there may be a tit-for-tat kind of impulse here. but presidents need to be able to hear really raw, really candid advice, and there is some value to knowing that that advice is going to be secret or confidential for at least a long period of time. it usually impacts what people write down and what they say. not to say those provisions are
not being officiated by tell-all books and other things, but i worry about that and the role of the archivist over time. that decision was decided between the administrations. i'm not 100% sure we got that right. >> i agree there should be an expectation of privacy for advice to the president but executive privilege is not absolute. even separate from the archive process. in this case, a federal judge has said trump and his aides likely engaged in criminal activity. that can pierce executive privilege. in this case, it is hard to imagine a case where it wouldn't have. >> i mentioned earlier, we have talked about this system of oversight. it is really an ecosystem.
it focuses on congress and executive branch, but also the media and the public. one of the ways that was expressed in the process was the control room. the first effort to have a control room really coordinate and execute the technical matters around conveying these hearings. i want to hear all of you or any of you want to comment on what that process, may be certain of you because you were present, what it was like. do you think that technique will be used in the future customer >> i think whether it is used in the future is really a leadership decision that is similar to decisions members in leadership make about allocations of resources members are demanding like when they demand access to skiffs and what
people consider classified information. often there's competition for access. i think whether there's an appetite for use of the control room is a question that has yet to play out and there will be considerations leadership have to take into account and manage that. >> everything i needed to learn about congressional hearings i learned at carl levin's committee. i think maybe the control rooms are more formal now but they have existed for a long time. it might be a staffer whispering behind the scenes. i remember having a matter where i had a witness who did not have a larynx. so he testified using a machine. it was pretty jarring to see the machine read back the words in a computerized voice.
i saw members ripping up their questions, deciding they would leave this guy alone. i thought, i finally got one in. [laughter] that was a control room decision about whether it would be disruptive to the flow of what people wanted to tell. i don't know that i think that is itself a massive innovation but it's bringing people who have not been in the process in the past. the lighting was much better. [laughter] in the size of the room. >> so it will be a matter of resources and capacity going forward. >> maybe in space. i don't know about the palatial offices on the senate side. [laughter] but in the hearings, if you've
ever been back there, there is a lot going on. holding meetings and taking calls and all sorts of things so they would have to literally find physical space. every committee wanted its own skiff but it is a similar dynamic. are you going to find space and resources and keep it up? >> i think it depends on the material. i spoke to someone involved in the committee and there were so many stars that aligned in terms of the kind of material and witnesses and video, the stories they were telling and a cohesive argument this one committee wanted to make. i think we could see it but it was special to this committee the way that fell in line. should there be another investigation like this, i could see it but there were some unusual things happening here. >> we are not outdone yet but i'm starting to feel the plot.
i wanted to get to more things. one is criminal contempt. this is the first time in many years there have been prosecutions for contempt of congress. i would like your comment about that process and whether we will see more of these prosecutions and more efforts to enforce subpoenas through criminal prosecution. i don't know who wants it. >> i'll take it because i have clients. it's one thing when the people in charge of the inquiry and the people in charge of the justice department have the same political affiliation and/or the same view about what is and is not appropriate. the executive branch makes an independent decision i believe about whether or not it will follow-up on the referrals for
contempt. i think that is an important authority. we will probably see a fair number of referrals for contempt in the new house and they ask for things the executive branch doesn't want to provide. it will be interesting to see whether or not there is a willingness to go along with contempt and to bring the cases as much as there won't be, it may be that there is a unique alignment of political and legal interests that allow for that to happen. > i don't want to comment on pending cases, but for historical context, i guess the last prosecution was brought by the department of justice for criminal contempt of congress in the 80's with and eat -- epa
official that was unsuccessful although she was convicted of lying to congress. before that, the last successful prosecution for criminal contempt was watergate around that time frame. i will add that the trump administration, based on my experience on the house oversight committee engaged in unprecedented obstruction of investigations across the board. if you remember, he went out on the white house lawn and declared we will fight all the subpoenas with no substantive basis at all, three or four months into the democratic control of congress and it continued on from there. to me, the contempt citations are not unprecedented action, it would be obstruction. >> there are a few places where people who were not in the executive branch were serving executive privilege seemed a little edgy.
[laughter] but in general, you had a very different view of the executive power that was being articulated by the trump administration. i don't believe it was outside of the norm in many instances of what executive branch asserted in the past. if you were in the executive branch, the way they got around those was to say this is unique. i don't fault them for having a robust view of the executive power except at the margins of the claims that were frivolous. to his credit, president trump did not assert executive privilege over for instance the conversations he had with the acting attorney general. as a lawyer talking to the
president. he allowed those conversations to be shared with committee without sending it to the court. it is a complicated narrative by think. >> it is now 1:00 and i'm trying to keep my promises. i think we have microphones for members of the audience who want to ask a question. i will stand so i can see you. just raise your hand if you have a question. >> can you hear me? hello. you guys have said a number of times it has been a very effective committee. i wonder what your measurement of effectiveness is, how would you measure it? >> fair question. >> sure, i look at it in terms
of moving public opinion, which i think it did, threats made and threats realized in terms of response to contempt. the amount of material, this is not a small body of work, that is revealed and prepared in a short amount of time. there are two select committees i can remember for the current house committee, on government and select committee on china and in some respects we are imitating and following the example of the january 6 committee. it is a couple of benchmarks. >> i think we saw the membership
was strong. very strong. it was not just livestreaming and coverage as it was happening. we saw people coming back again and again to different parts of the hearings in a way we did not expect frankly. i just looked up the first hearing, 20 million viewers. the nfl is still way ahead, but this is a congressional hearing with 20 million viewers. that is right out of the gate extraordinary and i think they really kept people coming back to watch. >> i think these were mentioned, but the number of court rulings in favor of the committee positions. this year a number of witnesses from inside trump's inner circle. i know we mentioned another narrative, but the other officials were invited. a lot of them took the fifth. others refused and claims privilege. it was not that there was no
opportunity. i would also add the committee vast public disclosure in december of hundreds of depositions, transcripts, huge troves of documents. i could speak for myself but when i read the final report, i was convinced donald trump was the prime mover of this multi point plan because the evidence was there. >> thank you all. if president trump or none of his inner circle face any repercussions for anything that happen, would you still consider the committee and its work to be successful? >> i'm not sure who can answer that appear. -- up here. [laughter] i am grateful that there was so much interest by the public. we had over 50 million viewing
of the hearings. the fact that the committee was able to provide findings to a wide audience and had the ability to produce a voluminous report that provided transparency was a step forward. >> i don't know that i except a premise there have not been repercussions already. for the president and his inner circle. frankly many people in the president's inner circle actually stood up for the law, particularly the white house counsel's office which did well under extraordinary circumstances where people had to face a decision of don't agree with this, but if i leave,
god knows what will happen. they stayed and stopped some things that could have put the country in a very very horrible place. but there have been repercussions already in terms of the president's stature, former president stature, and the like. >> i would add that we will not know for some period of time, part of it is historical, if you look back at very important congressional hearings that have taken place, there was an investigation into the ku klux klan in the 1870's. it generated a lot of attention, but of course we all know what happened in the failure of reconstruction and what followed that. and watergate, president nixon was pardoned. there was some accountability
surrounding that but the chief actor in the whole drama escaped accountability, at least legally. the >> >> one that i'm worried about is, you can see it from here, the safety and security and command structure around d capitol and how things get decided, who gets to do what, whether it is the national guard or capital committee. that is a real problem. you look at the back and forth between the mayor's office, the states and defense department and justice department and the like. that is an issue because it was not as public and i'm hopeful at least privately, people have done what they call an autopsy
to figure out what did not work and what could be improved. i'm sure it is in the written report but that is an area that i think whether you are on the left or the right, you ask yourself could this happen again? the answer is yes it could. >> i know they plan to look into some of that. we will see if the bar is high for that to be a serious investigation and watch. they have said specifically, the park police and capitol police, they have not had the conversation yet. >> thank you. my name is steve katz. like a lot of the panel here, i spent years overseeing the federal government working for a variety of terrific people in the house and senate. let me express admiration for
senator levin and his staff, the levin school and everything going on. when you work in the senate, and senator lipton is the head of privilege of getting to know his brother as well in the house, to see people today, they are really the a-team, the people the rest of us looked at and this is how you do it. the fact that you are bringing this legacy forward and members of the panel who worked for him, that is not that common. there are people who stayed for years but the staff did not stay. they did not insist on remaining with that subcommittee or committee for years. this is a real legacy and i want to express my admiration. it is true i wandered into politics having a masters in american history never thinking it would come so important in my work.
my very first investigation -- >> if you could maybe just go ahead, we are running short. >> in the 1980's, 15 years before monuments men, i spent stacks in the archives. on the security issues, it felt like the capitol police had been redshirted and suddenly the super bowl was big-time and they were not ready. i just want to ask kristin something. in my conversations with some of your colleagues, they recognize this would not go on forever. they needed to work as an investigative committee and not an oversight committee and that the records they created and relied upon were going to be the drafts of history going forward. can you talk a little bit about how you manage that process ?
the other day, the article in the footnotes of the washington post, that told the story of the discipline and focus. >> dave has talked about this in some of his comments today, but over the course of both the hearings the select committee put on and ultimately in the final report, the committee took great pains to show the basis for the statements and conclusions and findings that they were laying out for the public. after all, just like with the legislative process, congressional oversight ideally involves a dialogue between elected officials and the public they are representing. you saw in the committee record hearing by hearing, when members talked about testimony they
received, they showed clips and released supporting documents. similarly in the committee report, the committee not only assiduously footnoted the various findings it made throughout the report, but it made every effort to provide the public the underlying information so that the public can draw their own conclusions and evaluate the basis of the committee's findings. >> a question outfront. >> thank you, panel. my name is laura like kelly, i'm setting up a new democracy program. this is a silver lining process nerd question. there are a number of people who work with the house committee the last four years and it seems
there's an opportunity to bolster the legitimacy of congress simply if we can make the submission of things like video as testimony into the routine. and congress is developing the production values to do this. i'm wondering, do you see this as a possibility? i was home in new mexico for much of the pandemic and three of my neighbors randomly testified on zoom. it brightened their day and lit them up and away they saw themselves and their own democracy in a way that was unprecedented. wondering, that is something we really need and might be something to carry forward. how can we push or advocate for that? any committee can do it. they all have their own rules and discretion of the chair. any ideas or hopes on that front? >> you are in the wake of covid so you have that experience.
i'm not 100% sure but i think the new house rules went backwards and restricted the use of zoom for testimony in that thing without certain special circumstances. i think it can be used effectively and can enlarge the number of people who can offer testimony. i personally would like it. it would have to be in the rules. the idea of videotaping depositions, if there's one of these innovations that might stick going forward, i think it is that. january 6 committee showed how effective it could be done, but it might have to be a conversation about the rules. right now the rules cover deposition transcripts but not necessarily interview transcripts. there has to be a discussion about i think. >> i'm against this. [laughter] as a lawyer, although the rules allow nongovernment witnesses by zoom.
there is an important truth seeking function that should be abetted in oversight. one of the ways in which we further this is an adversary. i have concerns that the due process rights for witnesses are few and far between when dealing with congressional oversight. the judge and jury are one and the same. there is some risk with videotaped depositions or zoom testimony that you won't get the rigorous cross-examination that you would with that truth telling function and you might have more witnesses decide to take the fifth if they know that everywhere they say and videotape deposition is going to live forever and may be used in collateral proceedings and the like. i think the balance is likely
still a little too far on the government side, and going much further than that can have real civil liberty concerns for witnesses. >> anybody else want to comment on that? one more question. >> i think a follow-up question. >> i want to give our panelists an opportunity to give closing comments. >> [indiscernible] [inaudible] >> the question was can you force a witness to be videotape in a deposition? >> a witness has a right to take the fifth. whether they make them take the videotape, i don't think that has come up recently. usually there are levers because of the headache it would take to
go through the process where people reach an accommodation. i think as these things progress , the consequences are extraordinary. anyone that got deposed but has some exposure on january 6 will think about process later. those issues will come up again in a corporate context and the like. there's just a lot of equity to be weighed and we should be mindful of all of the. >> not all of the witnesses where videotaped. one that comes to mind is general milley. my educated guess is there were conversations. i don't know what the enforcement mechanism is and who has power but there were at least some conversations about comfort levels and preferences. >> ok. we are now going to move to
closing remarks. i suppose we will go in reverse order if that's ok. >> thanks again. i appreciate the leaven center and georgetown for hosting this event. i will make two quick points. over the past week or two, house republicans, there have been press stories about whether republicans will use the same tactics. aro the opposition playbook and house gop playing the ultimate tit for tat. another one, republicans wanting to soup up the bite in investigations by taking cues from the january 6 groundbreaking playbook. i understand why people are interested in those but i think there is a eager question. house republicans may emulate the tactics and innovations we talked about in future committees and congresses might emulate them as well. what will they emulate what kristin started off with, which
is that collaboration and the putting of personal or peru carrillo -- parochial and political interests to the side and do the hard work it takes to compromise and develop these innovations for the purpose of their investigation? as the new chairs are just now and barking -- embarking on chairmanships, this is something they could consider. the second point, as a longtime hill staffer, i would like to say words about congressional staff. they work extremely hard, both democrats and republicans, in challenging environments and challenging personalities. a small mistake can be magnified with media coverage. they rarely seek the spotlight and almost never get the recognition we deserve. kristin, i know you are a friend. let me just tell you all, she is a sharp legal mind, kind person
and one of the most patriotic people i know. she and others on her team make -- made great sacrifices in the last two years putting incredible hours and nights and weekends. if i can come on behalf of georgetown and levinson, how about around of applause for kristin and her team? [applause] >> that was not scripted. [laughter] >> congressional staff getting credit needs to happen far more often. i'm glad you said that. when i think about this time, i think we are living in a time where journalists and family members who are ahead of you will look back and wish they could be in the rooms we are in. they will wish they can have the conversations we are having. i think this is an important series of inflection points that are clustered together right now.
i think and know that our country is paying very close attention. voters of all stripes across the country. pps is lucky that we have one of the greatest reaches in rural america of anyone. you can get us for the longest without going digital and we have more stations. i know the country is playing -- paying close attention. passions are very high. love of this country is very high. that's why i think something like this is feeding a real appetite for information about our democracy and what is happening. as a journalist, the more transparency and more information, the better and i think this committee hosting all of its transcripts, allowing all the documentation, having the report, 600 pages before the appendix, it is critical and speaks to an appetite for americans to hear and see their
decision-makers and the people behind the scenes more than ever. i hope we continue to see that. i do think this was special in that we had a cohesive unit driving the committee and that was important. i think we are in an era of very sharp politics and it does worry me. i think the committee structure can be very useful. we will see what happens with the upcoming house republican hearings, which can get very heated. we've seen political heat turned into real-life violence. it is something that is on my mind, but i know it is something this committee tried to present in a factual way and hopefully that kind of tone is what we will see ahead. i don't know if we will. >> i will my voice to those. kristin got a call on a cell phone should probably did not think i had the number two. she was on the committee staff because i felt like that was
someone i could deal with and her word would be her bond. the quality of the staff and expertise, the people looking at technical issues, following the flow of money and the like was top-notch. there are people who could have done other things. the fact that so many of them were willing to put other pursuits on hold and work together on this was extraordinary and history as the richer for it. as to accommodation and compromise, that is the first refuge in the minority. it is the political reality here. we are in fact going to see tit for tat as it were. in some instances, that may lead to more fights but maybe in more instances than that, it won't.
it will just lead to more noise. i'm not quite sure what we do about that. i think it starts with leadership. there are a couple things i would take away from the work of the january 6 committee, the importance of leadership, the chairman and vice chairman, the tone they set. chairman leaven always gave the minority the right to run their own investigations. in an fist -- in addition to that investigation, he understood the importance and power of compromise. demand you work for, even though i don't agree with him politically, was a hero to me, elijah cummings, who was also engaged in compromising. i know people on the other of the aisle speak of him with great respect. it will turn a large part on the leadership skills of the majority and minority going
forward. but kudos kristin to you and your team, you should be blushing because what you did is extraordinary and history will be kind to you and your people. >> well, thank you. [laughter] i want to start by thanking my fellow panelists for the kind words and it was a privilege and honor of a lifetime to work with such a dedicated and talented group of members and staff in my work on the select committee. i want to express my thanks again to the leaven center and georgetown law school for the opportunity to participate today. i'll just conclude with one comment, i am encouraged to see a large turnout of students in the audience today. i think the fact that the select committee has such a broad tent of professionals with different talents working on the
investigation highlights that there are many different ways that smart, creative people can be involved in public service. i would just invite students who are considering options for career paths to think about whether it is appealing to work on a congressional investigative staff, or maybe ultimately as an elected member of congress. even for those who are not interested in pursuing that at the professional pathway, there are many ways that as private citizens, people can have an influence on congressional oversight like current and ongoing investigative work and reaching out to elected officials if you have thoughts about what issues merit attention or other ways they can do effective oversight. i hope today's discussions
peruse additional interest and conversations among students. >> thank you all. professor, did you want to say some final remarks? >> i just want to thank you all for coming. it is a terrific panel and i want to thank the leben center for helping me put this together. we brought some lunch in. i learned a lot today. one of the things i hope people take away from this is people actually do work across the aisle in congress, despite our very divided world, i remember working for a guy named biden on the senate judiciary committee who routinely loaned me to orrin hatch. in that spirit, i want to thank the bipartisan panel because we know things can get done and give them a huge round of applause. [applause]
>> before we break, i have a final word. i want to thank professor nourse and the whole team at georgetown for putting on an amazing, this is a beautiful place to hold an event, so we appreciate that. i also want to thank my colleagues at the leaven center, the washington office, and the program manager who did excellent work to put this all together and assemble this incredible group. i want to thank them in particular. i want to thank panelists for your insight and time. i spoke of the oversight ecosystem. this is a pretty good representation of that ecosystem. the government, the media, and the public -- the person who represents members of the public , i suppose. it is very very important we get that accommodation and help
people understand that this conversation is what is really at the heart of our democracy and oversight is at the heart of that conversation. what we heard today was this is about good faith. we have got to demand good faith from elected representatives. i was struck by, i think david's comment about leader mccarthy's conditions or participating in the special commission that was considered to look into the january 6 attack. those are the things we at the leaven center teach. bipartisan balance. following the facts wherever they lead. giving people equal time. that is what we support and we hope that good faith, even when there's a lot of partisan rancor and disagreement, can be something the public demands. if we don't have that, it is
hard to have fact-based investigation and people don't act in good faith. lastly i would say that we appreciate the courage here. this has been broadcast live on c-span. i'm sure a will be available as well as on our >> permit a plug we will have a panel on development in case law related to congress passing information. a lot of litigation the last couple years related to this. we are looking at these recent cases and implications for the future. the rear eighth, it will be virtual, growth to the center.org. with that, i want to thank you, think our panels. another round of applause please. [applause]
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