By LISA MASCARO, MARY CLARE JALONICK and FARNOUSH AMIRIA
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the January 6 U.S. Capitol uprising put the blame on Donald Trump on Thursday night, saying the attack was hardly spontaneous, but a “coup attempt” and a direct result of the defeated president’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 elections.
Featuring an never-before-seen 12-minute video of the deadly violence and the startling testimony of Trump’s most intimate circles, the House 1/6 Committee delivered poignant details by claiming that Trump’s repeated lies about electoral fraud and his public bid to help Joe Biden win led to the attack and jeopardized American democracy
“Democracy remains in jeopardy,” Deputy Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the panel, said during the hearing, timed for prime time to reach as many Americans as possible.
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of a coup attempt, a brutal attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after Jan. 6, to overthrow the government,” Thompson said. “The violence was no accident.”
In a never-before-seen music video, the panel played a joke on former Attorney General Bill Barr, who testified that he told Trump that the claims of a rigged election were “bull-“.
In another, the former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, testified before the committee that she respected Barr’s view that there was no electoral fraud. “I accepted what he said.”
Others showed leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers and Proud Boys preparing to storm the Capitol to stand up for Trump. Personal witness was one of the offices, Caroline Edwards, who suffered serious injuries while fighting the mob that entered the Capitol.
“President Trump gathered a violent mob,” said Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice chair of the panel who presided over much of the hearing. “If a president fails to take the necessary steps to preserve our union — or worse, trigger a constitutional crisis — we are in a moment of maximum danger to our republic.”
There was an audible gasp in the auditorium, as Cheney read a report saying that when Trump was told that the Capitol crowd was calling for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged, Trump replied that they might be right, that he ” it deserves’.
Trump was angry that House Speaker Pence refused his order to refuse certification of Biden’s victory.
Police officers who had fought the mob comforted each other as they sat in the commission room, reliving the violence they faced on Jan. 6. Officer Harry Dunn burst into tears when bodycam footage showed rioters clubbing his colleagues with flagpoles and baseball bats.
Biden, in Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas, said many viewers would “see a lot of the details that happened for the first time.”
Trump again dismissed the inquiry without any apology — even declaring on social media that January 6 “represented the greatest movement in our country’s history.”
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted: “All of them. Old. News.”
The outcome of the coming weeks of public hearings may not change hearts or minds in politically polarized America. But the commission’s investigation of 1,000 interviews is meant to be a public record for history. A final report is intended to provide an account of the most violent attack on the Capitol since the British burned it down in 1814, and to ensure that no such attack ever happens again.
More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, many were beaten and bloodied, as the mob of pro-Trump rioters, some armed with pipes, bats and bear spray, stormed into the Capitol. During and after the riots, at least nine people were killed, including a woman who was shot dead by police.
Emotions are still raw at the Capitol and security will be strict for the hearings. Law enforcement officers report a spike in violent threats against members of Congress.
Against this backdrop, the committee spoke to a divided America ahead of the fall midterm elections when voters decide which party controls Congress. Most TV channels broadcast the hearing live, but the Fox News Channel did not.
Among the audience were several lawmakers who were trapped together in the gallery of the House during the attack.
“We want to remind people that we were there, we saw what happened,” said Representative Dean Phillips, D-Minn. “We know how close we came to the first non-peaceful transfer of power in this country.”
The committee chair, civil rights leader Thompson, opened the hearing with a dash of American history. said that in those who denied the grim reality of Jan. 6, he heard his own experience growing up in a time and place “where people justified the action of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching.”
Republican Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, outlined what the committee learned about the events leading up to that brisk January day when Trump sent his supporters to Congress to fight “like hell” for his presidency while legislators have the typically routine task of certifying the results of the previous November.
Among those who testified was documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who filmed the Proud Boys storming the Capitol — along with a pivotal meeting between the group’s then chairman, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, and another extremist group, the Oath Keepers, the night before. in the nearby parking garage .
Court documents show that members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers discussed as early as November that Trump would need to be fought to keep in office. Leaders of both groups and some members have since been charged with rare incitement to the military-style attack.
In the coming weeks, the panel is expected to provide details on Trump’s public campaign to “Stop the Steal” and the personal pressure he exerted on the Justice Department to reverse his election loss — despite dozens of failed lawsuits and his own attorney general. confirming that there was no fraud on a scale that could have tipped the results in its favour.
The panel faced obstacles from the start. Republicans blocked the creation of an independent body that could have investigated the January 6 attack as the September 11 Commission investigated the 2001 terror attack.
Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led Congress’ creation of the 1/6 panel over objections from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. She rejected Republican-appointed lawmakers who had voted against the certification of the election results on Jan. 6, eventually naming seven Democrats and two Republicans.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who has become entangled in the investigation and defied the committee’s subpoena for an interview, Trump reiterated on Thursday. He called the panel a “scam” and labeled the investigation a political “smokescreen” on Democrats’ priorities.
The hearings are expected to introduce Americans to a cast of characters, some familiar, some elusive, and what they said and did as Trump and his allies tried to turn the election around.
The public will learn about the actions of Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, whose more than 2,000 text messages gave the committee a snapshot of the real-time battle to keep Trump in office. From John Eastman, the conservative law professor who architected the botched plan to persuade Vice President Pence to cancel the certification on Jan. 6.
The Justice Department has arrested and charged more than 800 people for the day’s violence, the largest dragnet in its history.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Michael Balsamo and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.
For full coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings, visit https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege.