In a prime-time hearing, the House Select Committee began laying out the findings of its ongoing investigation on Thursday, placing former President Donald Trump at the center of what it called the “climax of an attempted coup” and “a multi-stage plot to overthrow the presidential election.”
In a packed room at the Cannon House office building, the panel spent nearly two hours uncovering new details about what members learned behind closed doors during their 11-month investigation – bringing together more than 140 000 documents and 1000 interviews with witnesses. set of details on and before the attack on the Capitol on January 6.
The hearing, the first of several this month, included never-before-seen footage of the attack and distress calls from law enforcement that left some in the room in tears.
Taped depositions with Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, her son-in-law Jared Kushner and other members of Trump’s inner circle were also released before the committee heard live testimony from two people on the ground that day. Over there: Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and documentarian Nick Quested.
In the audience were members of law enforcement who fought off the rioters as well as widows of officers who died in the aftermath.
“Tonight and over the next few weeks, we are going to remind you of the reality of what happened that day,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in his opening remarks. . “But our work must do more than just look back, because our democracy is in jeopardy. The plot to defraud the will of the people is not over.”
Here are some takeaways:
Committee puts Trump at center of ‘coup attempt’
In his opening statement, Thompson – looking directly at the camera and reading from a teleprompter – called Jan. 6 “the culmination of a coup attempt” and illustrative of “the president’s last stand.” Trump – his most desperate chance to stop the transfer”. power.”
“He lost in court, just like he lost at the polls. And in this country, that’s the end of the line,” he said. “But for Donald Trump, it was just the beginning of what has become a sprawling, multi-stage plot to overthrow the presidential election.”
Thompson explained how every president in American history has effected the peaceful transfer of power — right down to Trump — and explained how the committee would use testimony from Trump’s own allies to show he was directly encouraging his supporters to prevent legislators to certify election results.
“Trump was at the center of this conspiracy, and ultimately Donald Trump, the President of the United States, incited a host of domestic enemies of the Constitution to come down from Capitol Hill and overthrow American democracy,” Thompson said.
Vice President Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Trump “coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to nullify the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”
Cheney also made a case against other elected Republicans, speaking directly to them: “A day will come when Donald Trump will be gone. But your dishonor will remain.”
Key players offer first-hand insight into Trump’s thinking
Using recorded testimony from Trump officials, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, former Trump spokesman Jason Miller, campaign attorney Alex Cannon and some of Trump’s closest family members Trump, Cheney argued that Trump was “well aware” both of his losing the election and of the ongoing violence. on Capitol Hill while continuing to push forward with a plot to stay in power.
In a video clip of an interview with Barr, Trump’s attorney general said he “repeatedly told the president, in no uncertain terms, that I hadn’t seen evidence of fraud and – you know , that would have affected the outcome of the election.”
Ivanka Trump, in another clip, was asked about Barr’s statement that the Justice Department found no fraud sufficient to void the election.
“It affected my perspective,” she said of Barr’s assessment. “I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying.”
Cheney also showed a tape of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, telling the committee that he had rejected ‘multiple’ threats by White House attorney Pat Cipollone to resign in the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot. .
“I kind of took it for whining, to be honest with you,” Kushner said.
“Whining,” Cheney told the courtroom. “There’s a reason the people who serve in our government take an oath to the Constitution…And that oath has to mean something.”
Witness testimony claims Trump said Pence ‘deserved’ to be hanged
Laying out in more detail what the committee learned during its talks, Cheney said the American people will soon hear testimony from former White House staffers about Trump’s reaction to rioters threatening violence against the vice president. then-president Mike Pence.
“You’ll hear testimony that ‘the president really didn’t want to do anything to stop the riot or ask his supporters to leave,'” Cheney said in his opening statement. “You’ll hear President Trump screaming and being ‘really mad at the advisers who told him he needed to do something more’.”
“And, mindful of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea,'” she recounted. .”
Capitol Police officer recounts his disbelief as ‘war scene’ unfolds
Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after rioters knocked her to the ground, painted a dire picture of what happened that day, describing it as ” an absolute war zone” with “hours of hand-to-hand combat”. .”
“I just remember my breath getting stuck in my throat because I – what I saw was just a scene of war,” Edwards said. “It was something like I had seen in the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
“There were officers on the floor. You know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up. You know, they had, I mean, I saw friends with blood on their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. J ‘catch people as they fell.”
“It was carnage,” she continued. “It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer , I would find myself in the middle of a battle.”
Edwards was knocked unconscious in an altercation with rioters — a moment captured on video shown during the hearing — but returned to duty on the Capitol’s West Terrace. Later, she was also hit with pepper spray and tear gas.
Tease what’s to come
The House Select Committee will hold five more hearings this month. The next one is Monday at 10 a.m.
This hearing, Cheney said, will focus on how Trump and his team knew he had lost the election but continued to spread false fraud allegations and unsuccessfully argued the case in court.
At the third hearing, scheduled for June 15, the committee plans to argue that Trump planned to replace Barr so the Justice Department can follow up on his false campaign claims. Cheney said he even went so far as to offer Jeff Clark, an environmental lawyer at the DOJ, the role of acting attorney general.
The fourth hearing is expected to focus on Trump’s campaign to pressure Pence not to certify the 2020 election. Pence refused and repeatedly said he never had the authority to do so, despite the Trump’s assertion.
Trump’s efforts to stop counting electoral votes at the state level will be the focus of the fifth hearing.