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The next steps for the Jan. 6 committee as hearings come to a close

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Tomorrow night, the curtain is set to fall on the January 6 committee's series of summer hearings. The House select committee has offered polished presentations and videos, as well as testimony full of bombshells, giving the public an inside view of what led up to the Capitol attack. To talk about where it goes from here, we're joined by NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales, who has followed the committee closely since it was created more than a year ago. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: The schedule has kept changing all summer. So to start, is this really the last hearing?

GRISALES: Right. They're expecting this to be the last hearing for several weeks at least. At least, they're expecting that for now. For example, Chairman Bennie Thompson recently joked with reporters that they could schedule their August vacations. But he also told us if they get new, compelling evidence, they could hold another emergency hearing, as we saw last month with ex-Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony. Also, members are reluctant to call what they're heading into now this committee's last chapter. One member, California Democrat Pete Aguilar, simply called it the next chapter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETE AGUILAR: There's questions that we want to get to the bottom of and significant progress that we've made within the hearings to date. And it's been a pleasure to work with these members. And I look forward to carrying forward and doing more work. But ultimately, you know, we made a commitment to find the facts and chase the truth, and that's exactly what we seek to do.

SHAPIRO: Well, Claudia, I'm glad you can take your August vacation.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: But November is around the corner - when Republicans who have opposed this committee's work are expected to take back control of the House. Are there political considerations here, especially if the committee drops its report just before the midterms?

GRISALES: Right. Members say they're clearly aware of this timing, but they echo Aguilar's remarks there that they're committed to unearthing every finding they can by year's end.

SHAPIRO: OK. So where do you expect them to head next?

GRISALES: Well, they're currently planning this year a first report this fall, maybe in September, followed by a final report later this year with perhaps more hearings. But as Thompson told my colleague Deirdre Walsh earlier this week, new evidence keeps extending their schedule. That includes tracking down allegations the Secret Service deleted messages during a two-day period surrounding the January 6 attack. Now, under a panel subpoena, the agency turned over thousands of documents. I talked to another committee member, Florida Democrat Stephanie Murphy, last night about this new fight with the Secret Service. Here's part of our exchange.

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STEPHANIE MURPHY: I think the important thing to note is that they did not turn over the texts that we were looking for in particular.

GRISALES: Yeah, they were talking about doing a forensic analysis, but they didn't seem very hopeful that they could recover them.

MURPHY: My understanding is that they are some of the best in the world at forensics analysis, and so I hope that they do the best they can to comply with the subpoena.

GRISALES: So it's a reminder their to-do list for new evidence could be extensive, perhaps until the end of the year.

SHAPIRO: And besides the question of Secret Service texts, what other questions did the hearings raise that you think the committee is going to need to publicly address?

GRISALES: Well, the Cassidy Hutchinson testimony presented some of the most alarming evidence yet, and the committee is working now to corroborate some of that with other witnesses. For example, they're working to confirm her story of a physical altercation involving then-President Trump by talking to members of D.C. Metropolitan Police. There's also a question of whether they'll issue a formal criminal referral for Trump to the Justice Department or even formally call him or former Vice President Mike Pence to testify.

SHAPIRO: Washington loves to issue reports, and they often collect dust on a shelf. So do you expect this one would lead to any tangible action?

GRISALES: Well, for one, the committee could include recommendations for legislative fixes going forward - for example, reforms to the Electoral Count Act. Many have said that it was weak enough to allow Trump to try to manipulate the 2020 elections by trying to force his vice president to overturn the results last year. And then today, a bipartisan group of senators announced a deal on legislation that addresses that and additional election issues they say could perhaps Trump-proof the next election. So that could lay the groundwork for negotiations between the chambers on the next steps here.

SHAPIRO: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.