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Primetime coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings begins tonight

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol promises to deliver more findings in a prime-time televised hearing tonight. Seven Democrats and two Republicans sit on the panel. They've spoken with more than a thousand witnesses and reviewed more than 100,000 documents. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is part of our team covering these hearings, and she lays out the committee's goal for tonight.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: They're kind of seeing this as an opportunity to set the tone and remind the country about the story of that day. I guess you can think about it as an opening argument, setting the stage for more hearings later this month. They plan to do that with a pair of witnesses who were present that day. Caroline Edwards is a Capitol Police officer who was on duty during the attack. She can speak to the struggle to respond as people breached the security around the Capitol while the Senate prepared to vote to certify the election. The other witness is filmmaker Nick Quested. He's a documentarian who captured members of extreme right-wing groups that day. We're expecting video with explicit depictions of their action and very likely explicit language as the attack on the Capitol unfolded. And this will be the first time the public is seeing many of the photos and videos and hearing many of these firsthand accounts.

MARTIN: So, Kelsey, many Republicans have just refused the legitimacy of this committee. Only two Republicans are even participating in the investigation. How is the committee going to get over that partisan perception as it tries to make its case to the public?

SNELL: Well, members have repeatedly said that this is about creating a clear and compelling case that the events of January 6 were a coordinated attack on democracy. You know, committee member Adam Schiff told reporters yesterday that the events were dramatic and the threat to democracy is dramatic, and the hearings should convey that. They even consulted with a former head of ABC on how to present their case. But Jamie Raskin, another Democrat on the committee, told my colleague Deirdre Walsh that members are wary of the risk of overselling their findings.

JAMIE RASKIN: We're not in the business of entertainment. We're in the business of trying to communicate to the American people the gravity and the immensity of these events.

MARTIN: So this is just the first hearing. There are, what, five additional hearings?

SNELL: Yeah, they've announced six hearings total over the next several weeks, but they've been pretty quiet about what exactly those hearings will cover. We do know the committee has been looking into the ways former President Trump tried to pressure staff and even former Vice President Pence to help overturn the election result. We also know the committee has been looking into what Trump was doing during that attack. They talk about a gap of 187 minutes in his schedule. We're also looking out for more information from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and members of the Trump family. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told my colleague Claudia Grisales yesterday that the panel may show video of testimony from Ivanka Trump in a later hearing. But we're told they're still making decisions about who will appear and how the later hearings will play out. So far, it seems like different members will be charged with presenting different evidence over the course of those hearings.

MARTIN: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell - thanks, Kelsey. Appreciate you.

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