Washington (AFP) -
The conspiracy that drove a mob to attack the US Capitol in January 2021 still poses a threat to American democracy, the head of the congressional committee tasked with investigating the deadly riot will warn Thursday at the panel's first public hearing.
In a live prime-time presentation, the committee will offer the first conclusions from a year-long probe into the assault -- and seek to outline a deep-rooted and ongoing plot to undermine the US Constitution and overturn Donald Trump's election defeat.
The hearing will serve as an 'opening statement' on the January 6 insurrection, according to aides of the House committee charged with laying out for the American public the causes of one of the darkest days in the history of US democracy.
The committee's Democratic chairman Bennie Thompson will say, according to excerpts of his introductory remarks, that his panel's work is about more than looking backwards, as US democracy 'remains in danger.'
'The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over,' Thompson will say.
'There are those in this country who thirst for power but have no love or respect for what makes America great: devotion to the Constitution, allegiance to the rule of law, our shared journey to build a more perfect Union.'
The panel aims to demonstrate that the violence was part of a broader conspiracy by Trump and his inner circle to illegitimately cling to power, tearing up the Constitution and more than two centuries of peaceful transitions from one administration to the next.
'We will be revealing new details showing that the violence of January 6 was the result of a coordinated multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden,' a select committee aide said.
'And indeed that former president Donald Trump was at the center of that effort.'
A slickly-produced 90-plus minutes of television -- and five subsequent hearings over the coming weeks -- will focus on Trump's role in the multi-pronged effort to return him to the Oval Office as an unelected president by disenfranchising millions of voters.
Trump has defiantly dismissed the probe as a baseless 'witch hunt' -- but the public hearings were clearly on his mind Thursday as he launched into a largely false tirade on his social media platform, defending the insurrection as 'the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again.'
The case the committee plans to make is that Trump laid the groundwork for the insurrection through months of lies about fraud in an election described by his own administration as the most secure ever.
His White House is accused of involvement in several potentially illegal schemes to aid the effort, including a plot to seize voting machines and another to appoint fake 'alternative electors' from swing states who would ignore the will of their voters and hand victory to Trump.
- 'Chilling' conspiracy -
The select committee's Republican vice-chairwoman Liz Cheney said Sunday that the assault on the Capitol was part of a 'chilling' conspiracy.
'It is extremely broad. It's extremely well organized,' she told CBS.
The committee is planning to present live testimony Thursday from two people who interacted with members of the neofascist organization the Proud Boys on January 6 and in the days leading to the violence.
Thompson and Cheney will make opening arguments before explaining how each of the six hearings, organized by theme, is expected to play out.
They will feature previously unseen video clips of the violence itself and excerpts from a trove of 1,000 interviews, including a 'meaningful portion' of discussions with Trump's senior White House and campaign officials -- as well as members of his family.
Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, as well as the former president's eldest son Don Jr., have all cooperated voluntarily with the committee.
British documentary filmmaker Nick Quested will testify Thursday about his experience shadowing members of the Proud Boys in the days leading up to January 6 and his interactions with them on the day itself.
The Emmy Award-winning director's evidence is seen as crucial, said a committee aide, because he was on the scene during the first moments of violence against the Capitol Police and 'all the chaos that ensued.'
- Court of public opinion -
Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was present at the breach of the first barricade, will describe sustaining head injuries in clashes with the far-right group, which saw its leader and four lieutenants charged on Monday with seditious conspiracy.
The hearings will differ from Trump's two impeachments, however, in that he will not be represented in the room as he is not on trial -- except perhaps in the court of public opinion.
Nevertheless, a number of his most loyal counter-punchers are expected to circle the wagons on Capitol Hill, questioning any damning testimony and challenging the validity of the investigation.
'It is the most political and least legitimate committee in American history,' the leader of the House Republican minority, Kevin McCarthy, told reporters at the Capitol.
In fact, Congress has wide-ranging oversight powers, and a Trump-appointed federal judge last month emphatically rejected Republicans' arguments that the committee is illegitimate and overtly partisan.
The committee has not confirmed its plans for after the initial slate of hearings, but at least one more presentation and a final report are expected in the fall.