On January 6, 2021, supporters of former US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol as Congress members were ratifying Joe Biden’s election victory, spurred on by a conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen.
Nine people died in connection to the riot, over 130 police officers were injured and more than 700 people have been arrested.
After almost a year of investigations involving over 1,000 interviews and over 50 subpoenas, the democratic-led US House of Representatives January 6 Select Committee revealed some of the uncomfortable truths it has uncovered so far, including new evidence against Trump and other operatives.
The January 6 Select Committee is made up of seven Democrats who formed the panel after Republicans blocked attempts to set up a full independent inquiry. The Committee includes:
- Mississippi Democrat and Committee Chair Bennie Thompson
- Congressman Jamie Raskin, who made the case for Trump to be convicted in his second Senate trial for inciting the Capitol attack
- David Buckley, staff director for the select committee and former CIA inspector general
- Tim Heaphy, chief investigative counsel for the select committee
The Committee also included two resolutely anti-Trump Republicans, Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger and Committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney, who was ousted from the House Republicans last year for repeatedly criticizing Trump for inciting the Capitol attack. Cheney said that Trump “summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”
🗓️ Thursday, June 9th at 8:00pm
The Select Committee will hold a hearing to provide the American people with a summary of our findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 2, 2022
Sure enough, aired on prime-time Thursday evening television, the hearing was geared to reach huge audiences across the US with just over two hours of content from the committee’s findings that Trump had orchestrated an “attempted coup.”
The presentation featured never-before-seen videos from the attack, weaved together with live testimonies and videotaped depositions.
Yesterday’s hearing revealed evidence that Trump did not want the riot to stop and that members of his family and team, Ivanka Trump and her husband and ex-senior adviser Jared Kushner, had in the meantime turned their backs on him.
The hearing also showed witness testimonies of US Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards and Documentary filmmaker Nick Quested who testified against two of America’s “most militant far-right extremist groups”, now introduced to the American public in the hearing.
At the hearing, Thompson said that Trump’s intention on January 6 “was to remain president of the United States despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his constitutional obligation to relinquish power”, a clear breach of the constitution.
Footage was aired of testimony by former US Attorney General Bill Barr saying he had told Trump multiple times that his fraud claims were wrong.
“We can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election,” Barr said.
The hearing also featured a recording of Ivanka Trump saying she “accepted” Mr. Barr’s rejection of her father’s voter fraud, with her husband and ex-senior adviser Jared Kushner also providing useful information to the committee.
According to a report Committee Vice-Chair Ms. Cheney read at the hearing, Donald Trump was “aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence’” and responded with the following sentiment:
“Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.”
At the time, Trump was furious that Pence (his Vice-president) didn’t reject the certification of Biden’s victory, as Trump had pressured him to do.
Thursday’s hearing was remarkable in its revelations that the crowd clearly took cues directly from Trump, reading his tweets on megaphones, as well as threatening chants to find Nancy Pelosi in office.
It was Pence who eventually called the National Guard, not Trump.
The House also heard from Nick Quested, a documentary filmmaker who was following the Proud Boys, an American neo-fascist male group, and has shed light on their activities in the lead-up to the riot. Quested, who was with the Proud Boys when they converged on the Capitol before Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, presented evidence that showed that the Proud Boys weren’t interested in the rally but rather were eyeing up the Capitol in order to storm the entrance.
The Committee brought up evidence that there was indeed a link between Trump and the Proud Boys, showing new testimony from the group’s leaders saying they interpreted Trump’s comment in September 2020, where he said that the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by,” as a call to arms.
Caroline Edwards, a US Capitol police officer who sustained brain injuries on the day, also gave a personal testimony of her experience, recounting that the scene was like a “war zone.”
“It was carnage. It was chaos”, Edwards said, a stark reminder of the violence and suffering inflicted on January 6.
Warning: Graphic video of violent assault on officers at the U.S. Capitol entrance pic.twitter.com/AwNQkgQ1dD
— John Kruzel (@johnkruzel) January 10, 2021
What will happen during the rest of the hearings?
Meanwhile, Trump remains unrepentant, dismissing the House inquiry as a “political hoax” and continuing to push unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was rigged by voter fraud, as per the posts on his own ‘Truth Social’ media platform:
“January 6th was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our country to Make America Great Again,” Trump said on his social media platform ‘Truth Social’.
Yet more disruptively, Trump has urged former aides to disregard Committee subpoenas. The House has voted to accuse the following associates of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate: Mark Meadows, Trump’s final attorney general, as well as former top Trump administration figures Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino.
Convictions could imply prison time of up to one year and a fine of up to $100,000.
The hearing is the first of six expected this month, in which the Committee aims to provide a comprehensive account of not only the 6 January riot but the overall attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Although the Committee was created to determine a definitive account of the riot and to avoid any future repetition, the investigation could also send criminal referrals to the Justice Department if it uncovers evidence of illegality. Such referrals do not hold any legal consequences but would lead to more scrutiny and political pressure on Washington.
The hearings will resume next week, after which the committee plans to produce a report and possibly hold another hearing in September to summarize their findings and offer suggestions for reforms to the US electoral process.
The symbolic importance of the hearings
The hearings are crucial for identifying the grave threat the riot posed to American democracy then and now. The American public must know that the Capitol riot was not a spontaneous act of violence but the culmination of a plot by Trump and his supporters to undermine the election results.
As CNN pointed out, “the Committee’s hearings will try to tell the story of January 6 to the American people.”
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson argued that American democracy “remains in danger,” a statement confirmed by some Republicans using the idea that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump in their own election campaigns.
In this sense, shedding light on Trump’s complacency in the riots could help Biden in the upcoming midterms, and could weaken Trump’s presidential campaign for 2024, if he follows through on his recent declarations.
Broadcasting how truly atrocious and violent the riot was is also crucial to ensure that the events at the Capitol do not become insignificant, especially as polls show Trump is still retaining Republican support.
However, the trial has also received some criticisms as only the prosecution is presenting the case, with no defense witnesses allowed; as a result, it is perceived by some as a “show trial” to intimidate political opponents.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: January 6th Insurrection – Capitol Hill Featured Photo Credit: Flickr.