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Politics chat: Jan. 6 findings; gun legislation; Oz and Fetterman on PA ballot

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Seventeen months ago, there was chaos at the U.S. Capitol.

(CROSSTALK, YELLING)

RASCOE: A mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the grounds, fought with police, breached both the House and Senate chambers, all in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. Five people died as a result of the attack. This week, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection will hold its first hearings in primetime on what it has learned so far. Joining me now to talk about this and other political news is NPR's Scott Detrow. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Ayesha. Good morning.

RASCOE: So we have a date and a time, Thursday, 8 p.m. Eastern. What should we expect to see? And why so late? Some people have to go to bed.

DETROW: (Laughter) Well, I mean, I think that really tells us a lot, right? 8 o'clock - prime time, it is clear - they're hoping to draw a big evening audience and hoping to make an impression and lay out a case. This committee has done a lot of work over the past year, including a lot of interviews - sometimes reluctant interviews - with people in Trump's inner circle. They've gathered a lot of evidence, like those text messages that have been in the news to and from chief of staff Mark Meadows as the attack was taking place. A lot of the investigation has also focused on Trump's broader efforts to overturn the presidential election in the weeks leading up to January 6. And at this first hearing and over the coming weeks, they're going to present what they found, hear from key witnesses. And they're going to really try to make a compelling case that this was a dangerous attack on American democracy.

RASCOE: And there will be more public hearings later this month, Scott. But we have been through two sets of impeachment hearings over the last few years. You were there. I was there. And while testimony before Congress can be gripping and we cover it, it doesn't seem to really have that huge of an impact on the public. Like, what is the committee trying to accomplish?

DETROW: Right, and we should say that some of these later hearings will not be past our bedtime. So that's important to note.

RASCOE: That's good, yeah.

DETROW: Well, look; what they're trying to do is provide accountability and show how serious this attack was. But it's going to be tough, right? They have uncovered a lot of new details. But remember; this was the central goal of that second Trump impeachment that we covered, and at the time - and it doesn't get any more of a high-profile congressional hearing than a Senate impeachment trial - Democratic impeachment managers filled their presentation with really graphic, disturbing details about the attack. Seven Republican senators did vote to convict Trump, but it wasn't enough to get that two-thirds majority. And what have we seen since then? We have seen this harden into a partisan issue with the Republicans who backed impeachment on the outskirts of the party, not Trump. We have even seen Republicans win primaries this year who backed Trump's efforts or who were even at the Capitol or around the Capitol on January 6. So this really seems to be a last-ditch effort to break that logjam in a lot of ways.

RASCOE: So there are these bipartisan negotiations for gun legislation going on. Senator Chris Murphy tweeted last week that there's some momentum to get something done. What is that something that's being discussed?

DETROW: Well, that something is still kind of unclear, but I think we know it would be pretty limited. Talks are focused on things like safe storage of firearms, addressing mental health and school safety. There is a lot of talk about red flag laws but not a national one, just kind of incentivizing state-level laws. President Biden gave that big speech at the White House last week, but he was asked the other day, are you going to go to Congress, get involved in negotiations? And he said, staff is in touch. I'll do what I can to try and see if we have some real progress, which did not quite seem to have that same level of urgency as that speech earlier in the week.

RASCOE: Finally, in the minute we have left - we know who's on the November ballot in Pennsylvania to fill that open Senate seat there. You got Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiac surgeon, and then he's going against Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. Tell us more about that.

DETROW: Yeah, that Republican primary was razor-thin. Less than a thousand votes separated Oz and David McCormick. A recount was underway, but McCormick conceded. Look; this is a key race. It could determine control of the Senate, which, as we know, is tied 50-50 right now. So the Republican nominee is a Trump-backed celebrity candidate, and the Democratic nominee is John Fetterman, who had a stroke right before the primary. And the campaign got a lot of criticism about not sharing details about what exactly happened. A few days ago, Fetterman put out a statement, said he had a serious heart condition. He had avoided going to the doctor for several years, and it got worse and worse. Now he's had a pacemaker implanted. He is recovering. His doctor says he should be able to campaign and serve if he sticks to his medical plan. But we do know now that Fetterman will be spending a lot of time dealing with one very specific doctor through November.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Thanks, Scott.

DETROW: Any time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.