WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) – Congressional hearings on the 2021 attack by Donald Trump’s supporters on the US Capitol opened on Thursday with a prime-time television presentation as the committee’s chairman accused the former president of being at the center of a Conspiracy to stand thwart democracy.
After nearly a year of investigation, the US House of Representatives’ special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack was preparing to show videotaped testimony from senior White House officials and Trump campaign officials, committee aides said.
“The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over,” said Democratic US Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chair, in excerpts of his opening remarks. “There are people in this country who thirst for power but have no love or respect for what makes America great: devotion to the Constitution, loyalty to the rule of law, our journey together to build a more perfect union.”
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Thompson opened the hearing by reminding those in attendance and a national television audience of the oath of office taken by members of Congress. Thompson said lawmakers “swear an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies at home and abroad. This oath was put to the test by domestic enemies on January 6, 2021, with the encouragement of the President of the United States.”
“Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. The American people voted him out of office. It wasn’t because of a rigged system. It wasn’t for voter fraud,” Thompson added.
Thompson said Trump was “at the center of the conspiracy” evidenced by the attack on the Capitol.
Since leaving office last year, Trump has maintained his false claims that his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud, a claim supported by multiple courts, state election officials and members of his own government was rejected.
Close Trump associates who have spoken to the committee include his son Donald Jr., daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Attorney General William Barr and senior associates of former Vice President Mike Pence .
Trump, who publicly flirted with another White House run in 2024, called the committee “political thugs” in a statement Thursday.
The hearing will be attended by two personal witnesses, US Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the attack, and Nick Quested, a filmmaker who made footage of the far-right Proud Boys group accused of causing the Kill having planned attack. Continue reading
Other Capitol Police officers who had fought with rioters Jan. 6 were present in the hearing audience, including Officer Harry Dunn, who wore a T-shirt that read “riot,” and Officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten and with a Stun Gun was killed during the attack. Some House Democrats who are not members of the panel also attended.
A total of six hearings are expected this month as the Democrat-led committee seeks to reverse Republican efforts to downplay or deny the violence of the attack, with five months until the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when determined which party will control both the House of Representatives and Senate for the next two years. Continue reading
There are two Republicans on the committee: Rep. Liz Cheney, her vice chair, and Adam Kinzinger.
The pro-Trump mob tried to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, attacking police and causing millions of dollars in damage. Four people died on the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.
The committee wants to argue not only that the attack was planned in conjunction with members of Trump’s inner circle, but that US democracy remains under threat.
Biden described Thursday’s attack as “a clear, flagrant violation of the Constitution,” telling reporters, “I think these men and women broke the law and tried to reverse the outcome of an election.”
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday underscored the partisan lens through which many Americans view the attack. It found that about 55% of Republicans believed the false claim that left-wing protesters led the attack, and 58% believed most protesters were law-abiding.
A Republican candidate for Michigan governor was arrested Thursday on misdemeanor charges related to his participation in the rioting. Continue reading
Two Georgia Republican election officials who Trump wanted to pressure to “find” votes that would reverse his election defeat will testify at the hearings later this month, a source familiar with the matter said. Continue reading
Some Republicans in Congress criticized Trump in the first few days after the attack, but almost all have since changed their tone.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday called the committee a “veil” on Democrats to push for dramatic changes in electoral laws. “It’s the most political and least legitimate committee in American history,” McCarthy said.
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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting from Linda So, Trevor Hunnicutt, Kanishka Singh and Jason Lange; Edited by Will Dunham, Scott Malone, Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell
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