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Rep. Pete Aguilar discusses the Jan. 6 panel's progress as anniversary approaches


As the one-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol approaches, the House investigation into the insurrection continues. The committee, made up of two Republicans and seven Democrats, has hit many speed bumps over the year, finding resistance from those within former President Trump's inner circle. We wanted to get an update on where things stand and to get a sense on where the investigation is headed. For that, we called Congressman Pete Aguilar. He's a Democrat from California and a member of the committee, and he joins us now.

Welcome, Congressman.

PETE AGUILAR: Good to be with you.

NADWORNY: So to start off, can you give us an update of where things stand with the investigation?

AGUILAR: Well, right now, we continue to make significant progress within the investigation. Over 300 interviews have been conducted, and each and every day, even during this holiday season, we continue to take concrete investigative steps that follow the leads and help aid our efforts in telling the complete story of what happened on January 5 and January 6 and to make sure that this never happens again.

NADWORNY: This week, the committee released a request to speak with Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. What are you hoping to gain by speaking with him?

AGUILAR: Well, we take Congressman Jordan at his word that he has nothing to hide. That was the quote that he said before. And so we are sending a communication over to him to ask for him to detail his conversations with the former president on January 6 and what his role in the lead-up to that event was, including efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election in the weeks prior.

NADWORNY: It seems unlikely that Jordan will comply. You know, fellow Republican Scott Perry also declined to speak with the committee. Would you subpoena a fellow congressman?

AGUILAR: Well, we're not there yet. And so, you know, we've sent this over. We have heard back from Congressman Perry. We'll wait back to hear from Congressman Jordan, and then we'll evaluate and see where we go from here. But there is precedent to require members to come speak before committees historically. So we will see what options are available to us and make the appropriate decision.

NADWORNY: Former chief of staff Mark Meadows was voted in contempt for not complying with the committee's subpoenas, but for a time period, he did hand over a lot of documents, so you've got a lot of documents for the investigation. How are those shaping the direction of where this is going?

AGUILAR: They're aiding in the investigation without a doubt. Over 9,000 pages of documents that we had gone through, e-mails, text messages, attachments - these are documents that many should have gone to the Archives under the Presidential Records Act. We appreciate Mr. Meadows complying and submitting this documentation before he stopped, at the former president's request, cooperating. But these are significant documents that are helping aid in our investigation and helping give us additional leads that we could follow.

NADWORNY: A committee colleague of yours recently said that the committee is looking into if former President Trump acted criminally. Can you tell us more about that?

AGUILAR: Well, what we've also said is that we're not going to be deterred and that we're going to keep making progress. We're going to keep moving. But right now we're just looking at January 5, January 6, the rallies, the timeline, which includes the pressure campaign to turn away a lawful election, the safest election ever conducted, in 2020. Those are the things that we're looking at. But that key timeline from the Election Day until January 6 is pivotal, and if the former president was responsible for some of this activity, then we'll follow the evidence to get there.

NADWORNY: You know, a big portion of the country still doesn't accept the 2020 election results. What do you think the select committee's role is in reestablishing trust in elections?

AGUILAR: Well, that's absolutely significant. What we are charged and mandated to do is to look at legislative vehicles and to tell the complete story of what happened on January 6. And if there are pieces of legislation that we feel could ensure that this never happens again, then that's something that we will recommend to the full House.

NADWORNY: So looking ahead, 2022 means we're going into midterm season. Democrats have an uphill battle to keep the House. And if Republicans were to take control, they will almost certainly end the committee. Does that in any way shape your decision-making as you move forward with the investigation? Do you see it as a deadline?

AGUILAR: Well, we want to get our work done before next November. We don't want this to get caught up in the political season, but we want this to be sober. We want this to be cleareyed. And so our plan is to get this done before the election season.

NADWORNY: You know, as the anniversary of January 6 approaches, I wonder how you're taking the time to reflect on that day. I know you were on the House floor.

AGUILAR: Yeah. I've gone through some of the messages - some of the text messages that I sent to my wife and to friends. You know, I'll have my own opportunity to reflect. I'm going to be going to Washington D.C. to be part of the activities to commemorate January 6. And hopefully, we continue to tell the story and shed some light on what happened but also remember that lives were lost and Capitol officers were injured. Some of them may never put the uniform on again. And so those are the things that I'm mindful of and I think about as we do our committee work, but also as I reflect back on the day of January 6.

NADWORNY: Well, that was Congressman Pete Aguilar. He's a Democrat who represents California's 31st District. Thank you so much for being with us.

AGUILAR: Thank you for having me.


NADWORNY: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elissa Nadworny
Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.
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