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The House Jan. 6 panel will hear from more witnesses during 2nd hearing


A key witness will not testify this morning in front of the January 6 committee. The group is trying to prove former President Donald Trump knew he lost but continued to press false claims about election fraud anyway. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now for more. Deirdre, let's start with this new information that Trump's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, has abruptly pulled out of the appearance. What can you tell us?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning. The committee put out a statement this morning citing a family emergency. But our colleague, NPR's Claudia Grisales, has learned that Stepien's wife actually went into labor this morning. So that qualifies as a family emergency. We should note that the committee has already interviewed Stepien on camera, and a source familiar with the plans tells NPR that the committee is planning to play some video clips of his deposition instead of his live testimony this morning. The hearing was supposed to start right around now, but they've delayed it about 30 to 45 minutes.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So who will testify?

WALSH: Well, there are going to be two panels. The first one will include Chris Stirewalt. He's a former Fox News political editor. He was fired after Fox News accurately projected that Joe Biden was the winner of Arizona on election night in 2020. We know that Stirewalt and others at Fox News came under pressure after that call from people at the White House. Stepien was supposed to be on this panel, too, so maybe that's when we would see some of his clips. The second panel includes Ben Ginsberg. He's a longtime Republican election lawyer. People probably remember him from the 2000 recount in Florida. He represented the George W. Bush campaign. The other two witnesses that will be on the second panel are B.J. Pak, a former U.S. attorney from the Northern District in Georgia, and Al Schmidt, a former city commissioner from Philadelphia. Pak resigned, reportedly under pressure to investigate voter fraud in Florida. Then there was no significant fraud. Schmidt had threats against his security after he defended the election results in Philadelphia.

MARTÍNEZ: What about the structure of the hearing?

WALSH: Well, the select committee aides say that the chairman, Bennie Thompson, and vice chair Liz Cheney will give statements. Another member of the panel, Zoe Lofgren from California, is going to play a key role in the presentation. And like the first hearing on Thursday night, we're going to see clips of some of the witnesses' taped interviews on camera. Those are people that cooperated with the probe earlier.

MARTÍNEZ: Tell us how the committee will work to make their case.

WALSH: Well, select committee aides previewed last night that the members are going to walk through the decision by the former president to ignore the will of the voters and declare victory anyway. They're going to start with Election Day and election night 2020. They're going to present evidence from witnesses, as we talked about, both live and taped interviews, that the claims about election irregularities in multiple states were false. They're going to show evidence that people around Trump told him again and again that he lost. And even when the many court cases his campaign pursued failed, he continued to ignore the facts and just kept pushing the big lie.

Unlike the first hearing, which was in primetime, this is a morning hearing starting a little bit later than we expected. But it's more about going back to the Election Day and the weeks leading up to January 6. So we'll have less sort of visual emotional elements about the attack on the Capitol itself. But it's going to be a deep dive on the many people around Trump telling him he lost and him refusing to accept that.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh, thanks a lot.

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

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.