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Unpacking the 1st night of the U.S. House select committee's Jan. 6 hearings

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tonight on Capitol Hill, we are witnessing a rare, primetime, televised congressional hearing. The House select committee began presenting its findings in a monthslong investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Chairman Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, opened the hearing.

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BENNIE THOMPSON: January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup - a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government.

KELLY: Representative Liz Cheney also gave an opening statement. She is one of just two Republicans on the committee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.

KELLY: Among those closely watching tonight's hearing is Ryan Goodman. He's a law professor at New York University and co-editor in chief of the Just Security blog. Ryan Goodman, welcome. Hi.

RYAN GOODMAN: Hi. Thanks for having me on.

KELLY: I begin with what, to me, was among the most revealing things we have heard so far tonight - we're about an hour and a half in - and that is testimony that Trump's attorney general, Bill Barr, gave the committee behind closed doors. What did you hear there? What is its significance?

GOODMAN: So I do think that Bill Barr has suddenly emerged as one of the greatest threats to President Trump. He tells the committee, point blank, that he informed the president on three different occasions that he would never say that the election had been stolen, that it was completely bogus. And coming from the attorney general, that's very compelling. And then we have Ivanka Trump there in a video of her - transcribed interview with the committee, and she says, you know, this is the attorney general telling me that. I believe him. He has a lot of credibility.

KELLY: She said, I trust him. Yeah, I was persuaded. We also saw some of the video testimony that Jared Kushner, her husband, delivered. Anything stand out to you from that?

GOODMAN: It was an odd snippet of an interview with him. He seemed to not be very cooperative with the committee. It was about his role in the pardons and how he couldn't be bothered with other things. It was a - that one was an oddity, and I'm not perfectly sure why the committee introduced it. Maybe because it's just - it is powerful to see how these different actors reacted to the moment and think back on it. But - yeah.

KELLY: How these, yeah, different interviews unfolded. I mean, let's turn to one of the central questions here, which is just whether this will cut through the noise. I mean, we know from polling that many Americans have made up their minds about what they think happened on January 6 and whether it matters or not. We're not even all the way through the first of what promises to be six hearings. But have you heard anything yet that would change minds, cut through the noise?

GOODMAN: So I do think that for people that even have been following it closely or hardly at all, to see the testimony of people who served in the highest parts of the Trump administration say things that are very incriminating maybe does cut through the noise. It's not the same as a text in which a news agency - (inaudible) - quoting anonymous sources. We see the people saying things that are very damaging - very damaging - to the president and how he behaved at the time, including from the sitting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So I do think that that maybe cuts through - it's Republicans, it's people who served in the Trump administration, saying things that maybe people will play, you know, differently in their minds, that they'll actually hear from them directly rather than it mediated through some other source.

KELLY: You mentioned something that caught your ear from General Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. What was that?

GOODMAN: So it's an extraordinary moment in the life of the country. He actually says that it was Vice President Pence ordering the military, which is not something for a vice president to do, to try to secure the Capitol, while at the same time, the president's chief of staff is saying, oh, you've got to play a different narrative.

KELLY: Right.

GOODMAN: Tell people that the president is in control. What an amazing moment that our country was in, and we had the chairman of the Joint Chiefs telling us that.

KELLY: And just the first of six planned hearings. Ryan Goodman, thanks for joining us with your insights so far.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

KELLY: He's a law professor at NYU and co-editor in chief of the Just Security blog. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.