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Rep. Adam Schiff on what to expect in the final Jan. 6 hearing

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Tonight, the January 6 congressional hearings are set to end as they began - live on prime-time television.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible - there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.

SUMMERS: Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Over the course of the first seven hearings, she and the rest of the House Select Committee investigating that attack have made the case that the former president was at the center of an election fraud conspiracy that led to the attempted insurrection.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

ADAM KINZINGER: The president said, just say the election was corrupt, and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: The president said something to the effect of, I'm the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.

CHENEY: President Trump tried to call a witness in our investigation.

RICHARD DONOGHUE: And the president essentially said, Ken, I'm sitting here with the acting attorney general. He just told me it's your job to seize machines, and you're not doing your job.

SUMMERS: Tonight's eighth and final hearing, for now at least, will focus on the three hours from President Trump's speech on the White House Ellipse to when he asked protesters to go home in a pre-recorded video. Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, is a member of that committee. He joins us now. Welcome back to the program, sir.

ADAM SCHIFF: Good to be with you.

SUMMERS: Tonight, we expect to hear your committee recount in detail what President Trump was doing for those 187 minutes when he was out of public view. Why is that important to your case?

SCHIFF: Well, what we've already demonstrated is that when he assembled this mob on the Capitol Mall, that he was aware that it was armed and angry and dangerous. And his response when he was told that it was armed and people wouldn't go through the magnetometers because they didn't want their weapons taken away was to say, then take down the magnetometers. They're not here to hurt me. And when he saw this crowd attacking police officers, ransacking the Capitol when he watched from the comfort of the White House dining room, he wouldn't lift a finger to stop it. And what we'll show tonight is how many people intervened within the White House to urge him to do something, to say something, and why it was so difficult to get him to act. And indeed, he refused to act for hours. The actions he took in that time made the problem worse, in fact.

SUMMERS: Do you expect that we will hear from new voices that we have not yet heard from in tonight's hearing?

SCHIFF: Yes, the - my two colleagues who are conducting the hearing, I think they acknowledged that we'll have a couple of witnesses that have not been heard from before. We'll also be playing deposition testimony that you haven't seen before. And it will be, you know, a similar mix of information as the prior hearings where the new information will be combined with what was already in the public view. But we'll show how it all fit together and how the pieces fit together and the portrait of a commander in chief who was grossly derelict in his duty to protect the country and its government.

SUMMERS: Members of the committee have said that in these hearings, you'll draw a direct link between former President Trump and the violence that occurred on January 6. Sir, you're a former prosecutor. Do you believe there has been enough material to make a case to move towards an indictment?

SCHIFF: I think there was certainly enough evidence already presented to the public that warrants investigation of the former president over multiple lines of effort to overturn the election. And in that sense, I'm in complete agreement with what Judge Carter in California said when he wrote in a couple of opinions that he felt there was sufficient evidence that the president was involved in a conspiracy to defraud, in efforts to interfere with the joint session of Congress, in violation of the law. And I'm in complete agreement.

In terms of the violence of that day, I think he understood that the crowd was dangerous. He was made aware that it was armed. And if there's anyone who understood the psychology of a crowd, it was Donald Trump. And I think his actions were intentional, and the damage they did was intentional.

SUMMERS: Our latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows that while a majority of Americans blame the former president, 61% do not believe he will be prosecuted. Do you think after the hearings that we have already seen and the one that we'll see later this evening, that there is anything actionable there?

SCHIFF: I certainly think that his actions merit investigation by the Justice Department. I don't see any sign of that happening yet, which concerns me a great deal because I believe that the rule of law applies equally to everyone, and that includes former presidents. And when the evidence leads to someone, the Justice Department, I think, has a duty to follow that evidence. So it's been very slow to act. I hope that it will follow the evidence as the attorney general committed to doing. Whether they will ultimately conclude their proof beyond a reasonable doubt of crime, that will be a decision they will have to make. Our job is to expose the facts, to prescribe remedies to protect the country going forward. But we certainly hope that they're paying attention.

SUMMERS: You know, we hear from a number of conservatives who say they are not watching these hearings and they say that they are tuning them out because they are one-sided. This is, of course, not a court of law. There's no defense present. But we have not heard from supporters of the former president. How do you respond to that criticism?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, these same people - and I don't know that I would call them conservatives 'cause these are mostly just Trump supporters. I view Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger as conservatives. But these are the same people who rejected an independent commission. So they want to have it both ways. They didn't want an independent commission. They don't want the select committee. The bottom line is they don't want to see the evidence.

Now, I am very pleased, notwithstanding some who are putting their head in the sand, millions of Americans are tuning in, and they're Democrats, Republicans and independents. When I travel the country, I continue to have people come up to me to thank me for what we're showing in the hearings and to add that they're a Republican. So I do think that we're breaking through and getting good information to the American people, and that's all we can hope to do.

SUMMERS: Congressman, quick one here before we have to let you go for time - I understand the committee will produce a report in the fall, perhaps even more hearings. If so, any plans to call on the former president, former Vice President Mike Pence to testify?

SCHIFF: You know, we're not ready at this moment to make any announcement about that.

SUMMERS: OK.

SCHIFF: But we do want to pursue anyone who has relevant evidence to what took place on January 6. I certainly think those two do.

SUMMERS: All right. We've been speaking with Congressman Adam Schiff, member of the House Select Committee investigating January 6. Thanks so much.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.