How are the January 6 hearings different from any other?
The typical congressional hearing features a pileup of long-winded statements — what some might consider bloviating. There are harsh partisan exchanges that can obscure the substance at hand. Visual presentations tend to involve an easel. The television audience is largely on C-SPAN.
But the congressional hearing has been utterly, if perhaps temporarily, redefined over the past month by the House select committee investigating President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to hold on to power.
The five sessions the panel has produced so far this month resemble a tightly scripted television series. Each episode has a defined story with a beginning, middle and end. Heroes and villains are clearly identified. Only a few of the committee members speak at any given hearing, and those who do often read from teleprompters.
The committee has been aided by James Goldston, a former head of ABC News, who leads a small team that is sifting through the hours of depositions and vivid, sometimes disturbing footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to put together the presentations.
But the panel’s ability to draw on all that material traces back to a decision its members and investigators made months ago to videotape depositions with witnesses, a move largely unheard-of on Capitol Hill.
Armed with thousands of hours of recorded depositions, the investigators and producers working for the committee have identified just the snippets they need for their storytelling. It is a tactic that keeps the narrative flowing but also has another big benefit: Having the option of using edited video means the committee does not have to call for live testimony from witnesses who could seize the opportunity to help Mr. Trump.
The committee has only been able to pull off its approach because the House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, decided last year not to appoint members to the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked two of his choices. The result is that the only Republicans on the committee, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chairwoman, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are in sync with the Democrats in judging Mr. Trump to be a danger to democracy.