meaningful takeaways appear during chief-time hearing into attack on the U.S. Capitol
U.S. House investigators made the case to the American public in a chief-time hearing on Thursday that the violent insurrection by former U.S. president Donald Trump’s supporters should not be forgotten.
While the basics of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol are well known, the committee is trying to tell the story of how it happened, and how to prevent it from ever happening again, for history.
The made-for-TV hearings — which included video of police officers being brutally beaten and of right-wing extremists leading the crowds into the Capitol — came as some have tried to downplay the violence.
“We can’t sweep what happened under the rug,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the panel, as he opened the first in the series of hearings. “The American people deserve answers.”
Takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee’s first hearing:
Thompson laid out the committee’s initial findings that Trump led a “sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election.”
The sun sets behind the Capitol in Washington on Thursday, as the committee held its hearing. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)
The panel’s vice chairwoman, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, called it a “complex seven-part plan.”
The committee plans to look at how Trump pushed his false claims of extensive fraud and how it it ultimately prompted the violence at the Capitol. They argue that his lies prompted far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers to jump into action.
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt,” Thompson said.
The committee has conducted more than 1,000 interviews with people connected to the siege and collected more than 140,000 documents. They will use that evidence over the time of the hearings this month to show how the attack was co-ordinated by some of the rioters in the violent mob that broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory — and how Trump’s efforts started it all.
“The attack on our Capitol was not a instinctive riot,” Cheney said.
Testimony from Trump’s inner course of action
The hearing featured never-before-seen video testimony from former attorney general Bill Barr and others who told Trump at the time that his fraud claims had no merit. Barr, who said publicly at the time that the Justice Department had not found fraud, said he had told Trump it was “bullsh-t.”
WATCH | Barr and Ivanka Trump in never-before-seen testimony:
Ivanka Trump, William Barr testimony aired at U.S. Capitol riot hearings
The U.S. congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riots started its televised hearings on Thursday by showing its video interview with former attorney general Bill Barr, who testified he told Donald Trump that his election fraud claims were ‘bullsh-t.’ The panel also showed testimony from Ivanka Trump.
The panel also showed video testimony from Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who spoke to the committee in April. She said Barr’s declaration “affected my perspective.”
“I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he said,” she told the committee.
Bid for attention
The committee took the uncommon step of launching the hearings with a chief-time show — aimed to gather as many viewers as possible.
It’s nevertheless unclear how many will tune in, but the panel is producing the hearing in hopes of becoming must-see television, featuring never-before-seen video footage of the violent insurrection.
The committee’s interview with former White House adviser Ivanka Trump is shown as committee members look on, on Thursday evening. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)
The hearing room was also set up for impact, with a huge screen hanging over the lawmakers.
Lawmakers who witnessed the attack
Lawmakers who were retained together in the House during the insurrection attended Thursday’s hearing after having dinner together. The lawmakers were caught in an upper gallery of the chamber as rioters beat on the doors.
Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota, said the House members, who were ultimately relocated without harm, are dismayed that an event that exposed the fragility of democracy could “somehow be whitewashed by tens of millions of people, including many … here in Congress.”
Some Republican lawmakers have tried to downplay the insurrection, charging that Democrats are overly focused on the attempt to thwart the peaceful move of strength.
“We want to remind people, we were there, we saw what happened. We know how close we came to the first non-peaceful change of strength in this country,” Phillips said.
The committee took the uncommon step of launching the hearings with a chief-time show — aimed to gather as many viewers as possible. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)
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