What we don't know about Jan. 6: What Trump's family told the committee, whether attack was organized

There's a lot we still don't know about the Jan. 6 Capitol attack: Who set the pipe bombs at the RNC and DNC buildings? What was Trump up to? What did his family tell the committee about that day?

  • The Jan. 6 committee opens public hearings Thursday and could fill some information gaps.
  • Trump's actions are a focus, but so are Pence's and members of extremist groups.
  • Trump's children also appeared before the committee.

WASHINGTON – With a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack set to hold a public hearing in prime time Thursday night, several key questions remain about what happened that day as an American presidential election came dangerously close to being overturned.

This summer’s hearings and the report the committee must submit by the end of the year could fill in many gaps about what exactly happened after a year and a half of sporadic news leaks the public has had to piece together. 

Among the unknowns: Who planted pipe bombs near the Republican and Democratic party committee headquarters the night before the insurrection? What was the plan for the fake electors? Was this a coordinated attack? What was former President Donald Trump doing for more than three hours while police officers fought for their lives against hundreds of rioters? What was Vice President Mike Pence saying while sheltering in the Capitol? 

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Here are the questions that remain unanswered heading into Thursday night’s hearing.

How organized was the attack on the Capitol?

Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

While the Department of Justice has brought seditious conspiracy charges against leaders of the extremist groups Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, no one has yet stitched together an overall narrative of whether different parties worked together.

Trump and supporters have asserted for months that the actual breaches of the Capitol were the responsibility of some bad apples. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who sits on the committee, disagrees.

“The committee has found evidence of concerted planning and premeditated activity,” Raskin told C-SPAN. “The idea that all of this was just a rowdy demonstration that spontaneously got a little bit out of control is absurd. You don't almost knock over the U.S. government by accident."

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Who has been arrested?:Who has been arrested in relation to the Jan. 6 riot?

What was Trump doing during the riot?

President Donald Trump addresses his supporters at a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as president in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

While accounts of what Trump did while rioters breached the Capitol have come out in bursts, no law enforcement or government agency has given a comprehensive account of his actions that day.

We know his speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally ended at 1:10 p.m., after he told protesters, “If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore.” He posted a video on Twitter at 4:17 p.m. asking the rioters inside the Capitol to go home.

He did not interact directly with the public in the 187 minutes in between.   

There's also a yet-to-be-explained 7½-hour gap in Trump's phone records, a period from 11:17 a.m. to 6:54 p.m. on Jan. 6 – a time in which he was known to have spoken with Pence, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, advisers and other lawmakers.

At various points that day, allies of Trump, including members of his family and McCarthy, met with or called Trump to urge him to call off the rioters. Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of dereliction of duty for not acting.

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What did Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner tell the Jan. 6 committee? 

President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. make their way to board Air Force One before departing from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia on Jan. 4, 2021.

Some of these questions could be answered in the testimony from Trump's children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., as well as top White House adviser Jared Kushner.

These family members have not discussed their testimony in public but reportedly told friends at the time that they had urged Trump to make a statement calling off the rioters.

At one point, Donald Trump Jr. texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: "We need an oval address. He has to lead now. It's gone too far and gotten out of hand." 

Ivanka Trump tried to persuade her father to issue a statement during the riots, according to Keith Kellogg, Pence's national security adviser. Kellogg, in testimony to the Jan. 6 committee disclosed in court documents, said he urged her to talk to her father because he thought he should try to calm the situation.

Kellogg said he saw her emerging from the Oval Office twice. 

"You know, I just thought what you did was to me pretty heroic," Kellogg said he told her. "And she said: 'Well, my dad's stubborn.'"

The Meadows texts:Mark Meadows' texts reveal what the White House knew about the danger in the Capitol on Jan. 6. Here's what they said.

What did Pence do and say while sheltering at the Capitol?

Vice President Mike Pence officiates in a joint session of the House and Senate to count Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

Pence was one of the mob’s key targets because of his role in counting the nation’s electoral votes, a position that Trump told supporters before Jan. 6 that he should use to help hand him the presidency.

The night before that vote, Marc Short, then Pence’s chief of staff, said he contacted the Secret Service to warn about security concerns over Trump's break with Pence, The New York Times reported. 

Why Pence is a central figure in the Jan. 6 investigation:Pence is central in Jan. 6 investigation as 'constitutional patriot' who defied Trump, became mob target

The day of the insurrection, members of the mob chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.” Trump reportedly made comments that appeared to be in sympathy with the rioters' threats, according to The New York Times.

Pence was hesitant to evacuate out of fear that rioters would be vindicated if they saw him leaving the premises, according to excerpts from the book “I Alone Can Fix It” by two Washington Post reporters. 

The book said that Pence’s security team repeatedly tried to get him to leave and that even though they finally got him to a secure underground location in the Capitol with his limousine waiting outside, Pence refused to go.

Prosecutors escalate case against extremists:Prosecutors charge former Proud Boys leader, 4 others with seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack

Who is on the Jan. 6 committee?:The January 6 committee holds its first public hearing Thursday. Who are its nine members?

Who planted the pipe bombs and why? 

The FBI released these images as part of an investigation into who placed pipe bombs outside the RNC and DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., ahead of the Jan. 6. 2021, Capitol riots.

On the night of Jan. 5, 2021, a masked person wearing a hoodie and a pair of expensive Nikes planted pipe bombs outside the Capitol Hill headquarters of the nation’s two major political parties: the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.

“These pipe bombs were viable devices that could have been detonated, resulting in serious injury or death,” Steven D’Antuono, assistant director in charge at the FBI’s Washington field office, said in a message to the public last year.

Police found the bombs on the afternoon of Jan. 6, at the same time Capitol Police was calling for backup as officers struggled to hold off the increasingly violent rioters on the west side of the building.

The FBI has published videos of the person walking around the neighborhood that night, sitting in a park and placing the bombs. The agency has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the person’s arrest. 

Carly R. Kennedy, spokesperson for the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said Monday that the agency is still asking the public to help identify who placed the bombs. The agency declined to comment on the motives of the person who planted the bombs. 

Liz Cheney:Rep. Liz Cheney calls Jan. 6 Capitol attack a 'conspiracy' and says threat is 'ongoing'

What is a subpoena?:The Jan. 6 committee has subpoenaed nearly 100 witnesses. What does that mean?

What was Trump’s involvement in fighting state results?

An election worker places a ballot in a counted bin during a hand recount of presidential votes on Nov. 15, 2020, in Marietta, Ga.

The committee has been looking to find out more details about the former president’s attempts to overturn the election in states he lost to President Joe Biden. How far did he go? That has not been answered.

In six states – Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – Trump aides and attorneys filed lawsuits, lobbied state lawmakers to change the results, and traveled to state capitals to protest what they falsely claimed to be voter fraud.

Aside from Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that has been public for more than a year, relatively little is known about whether Trump dealt directly with officials in any other states.

There are also a lot of unknowns about the development of "fake electors," slates of Trump supporters who organized and signed papers claiming Trump really won that state. Committee investigators are trying to unearth detail about those false elector slates, the subject of investigation by the Justice Department and an Atlanta grand jury.

Timeline:How Jan. 6, 2021 unfolded.

Lara Brown, director and professor at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, said she is not surprised there are so many unknowns, especially given all the "stonewalling by relevant witnesses," including former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and Republican members of Congress.

The committee "has had too much to unravel, and I don't even know that they have gotten to the bottom of it," she said. Brown said probably only future historians "50 years from now, if we survive as a democracy that long, will truly know the complete story."

Contributing: Bart Jansen

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