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The Jan. 6 committee will focus on extremist groups in its next hearing

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The committee investigating the January 6 insurrection plans a hearing tomorrow on the role of extremist groups. Prosecutors charged leaders of two far-right groups with seditious conspiracy. So what kind of contact did they have with former President Trump? Here's NPR investigative correspondent Tom Dreisbach.

TOM DREISBACH, BYLINE: The two major investigations into January 6, one by the Justice Department and one by the House Select Committee, have different goals and strategies.

JON LEWIS: The DOJ treated it like a crime scene from day one, right? So they started at the very bottom, slowly meticulously worked their way up.

DREISBACH: This is Jon Lewis. He researches extremism at George Washington University and. He says the Justice Department began by charging foot soldiers from extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, those who allegedly stormed the building. Eventually, they charged the group's leaders, who allegedly conspired behind the scenes to commit sedition.

LEWIS: As DOJ has worked from the bottom up, you've had the committee effectively working from the top down.

DREISBACH: The committee does not have the power to bring criminal charges. They have been more focused on the big picture, the role of former President Trump and the lawyers, advisors and officials who tried to overturn the election. What remains unclear is just how much these two inquiries might overlap. There are some possible clues, like the testimony of former Trump White House official Cassidy Hutchinson. Here's what she said about conversations involving Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani.

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CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I recall hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boys closer to the planning of the January 6 rally when Mr. Giuliani would be around.

DREISBACH: The committee did not provide more specifics, but we do know that the longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has close ties to Florida Proud Boys, including the group's now-indicted leader. And Stone got security help from members of the Oath Keepers. The leader of the Oath Keepers, also indicted, has said he provided security for Trump adviser Michael Flynn at an event in 2020. So we know they had those connections to extremist groups before the riot, but it's still not clear if those connections played any role in what happened next.

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LIZ CHENEY: The night before January 6, President Trump instructed his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to contact both Roger Stone and Michael Flynn regarding what would play out the next day.

DREISBACH: Congresswoman Liz Cheney asked Cassidy Hutchinson about that call.

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CHENEY: And do you know what they talked about that evening, Ms. Hutchinson?

HUTCHINSON: I'm not sure.

DREISBACH: Stone and Flynn have denied all wrongdoing. In their interviews with the committee, both asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Trump, meanwhile, personally attacked Hutchinson on social media. Both prosecutors and the committee have also been looking at other extremists, like Nick Fuentes. He's a live streamer best known for pedaling white nationalism and Holocaust denial and helping lead pro-Trump Stop the Steal events after the 2020 election. During the riot on January 6, he rallied people outside the Capitol with a megaphone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NICK FUENTES: Mike Pence has betrayed this president. And he has betrayed the people of the United States. And we will never, ever forget.

DREISBACH: Fuentes also has political connections, including the backing of pro-Trump Congressman Paul Gosar, who supported efforts to overturn the election as well. Prosecutors have not charged Fuentes, though one of his followers pleaded guilty to storming the Senate floor. Congressional investigators have subpoenaed Fuentes but have not yet disclosed what they've learned.

Tom Dreisbach, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Dreisbach is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories.