Home investigators plead for the American public in a prime-time hearing that the violent uprising of President Donald Trump’s supporters should not be forgotten.
While the basis of the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack is well known, the history commission is trying to tell the story of how it happened and how to prevent it from ever happening again. The made-for-TV hearings — including video of police officers being brutally beaten and right-wing extremists leading the crowd to the Capitol — come because some have tried to downplay the violence.
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“We can’t sweep under the rug what happened,” said Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairperson, when he opened the first in the series of hearings Thursday night. “The American people deserve answers.”
Takeaways from the committee’s first January 6 hearing:
Thompson released the commission’s initial findings that Trump was leading a “sprawling, multi-step conspiracy to undo the presidential election.” The panel’s vice chair, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, called it an “advanced seven-part plan.”
The commission plans to look at how Trump pushed through his false claims of widespread fraud and how this ultimately led to the violence at the Capitol. They claim his lies are driving far-right extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers to spring into action.
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of a coup attempt, a brutal attempt,” Thompson said.
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The commission conducted more than 1,000 interviews with people involved in the siege and collected more than 140,000 documents. They will use that evidence in the course of the hearings this month to show how the attack was coordinated 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 the Trump’s efforts started it all.
“The attack on our Capitol was not a spontaneous riot,” Cheney said.
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The hearing included never-before-seen video testimony from former Attorney General Bill Barr and others who told Trump at the time that his fraud claims were of no value. Barr, who said publicly at the time that the Justice Department had found no fraud, said he told Trump it was “bull__.”
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The panel also showed video testimony from Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who spoke to the committee in April. Ivanka Trump said Barr’s statement “affected my perspective”.
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“I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he said,” she told the commission.
‘This is not easy to watch’
The commission showed a new graphic video of the uprising moving through a timeline of the violence. It started with rioters angrily marching toward the Capitol, then showing themselves to be breaking through thin police barriers and brutally beating the police.
Using security footage, police cameras, video of those breaking in and audio from the police scanner, the video showed rioters using flagpoles, tactical gear and other weapons to beat officers while overpowering them and breaking inside. Some body camera images were looking up from the ground as officers watched their assailants beat them.
At the same time, it showed what happened early in the joint session to confirm Biden’s election win and, ultimately, some lawmakers, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who fled the violence.
And it showed the rioters chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” referring to the vice president who had defied Trump’s orders to try to thwart Biden’s certification, and “Nancy! Nancy!” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The committee took the unusual step of launching the hearings with a primetime show – aimed at amassing as many viewers as possible.
It’s still unclear how many people will tune in, but the panel is producing the hearing in hopes of becoming a must-see television, featuring never-before-seen video footage of the violent uprising.
The hearing room was also set up for impact, with a huge screen hanging over the lawmakers.
Lawamers who were held together in the House during the uprising attend Thursday’s hearing after eating together. The lawmakers were trapped in an upper gallery of the room as rioters slammed on the doors.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., said House members, who were eventually evacuated without damage, are stunned that an event that exposed the fragility of democracy “was somehow persecuted by tens of millions of people.” could be whitewashed, including many…here in Congress.”
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Some GOP lawmakers have tried to downplay the uprising, claiming Democrats are overly focused on trying to thwart the peaceful transfer of power.
“We want to remind people, we were there, we saw what happened. We know how close we came to the first non-peaceful transfer of power in this country,” Phillips said.
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