January 6 panel hearing features Trump role in US Capitol riots

In the first of several hearings on the January 6 insurrection that sought to violently overturn the results of the 2020 election, committee members placed ultimate culpability for the day’s events decisively on the shoulders of former President Trump.

Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the panel, said that Trump “lit the flame of this attack”.

Witnesses offered testimony highlighting the experiences of law enforcement on the receiving end of the mob’s violence, as well as clarification from several former Trump officials that claims of widespread fraud were not credible. Republican lawmakers have characterized the hearings as a “witch hunt”.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • ‘January 6 and the lies that led to insurrection have put two and a half centuries of constitutional democracy at risk,’ says committee chair Bennie Thompson.
  • Liz Cheney, vice-chair of the panel and one of two Republicans on it, says Trump ‘summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack’.
  • William Barr, former US attorney general who resigned after the 2020 elections, dismisses allegations of election fraud.
  • Ivanka Trump says she ‘accepted’ Barr’s assessment that there was no fraud.
  • A Capitol police officer described how she and other officers struggled to contain rioters trying to breach the building.
  • Committee concluded the hearing with a video compilation of rioters who said they were there because of Donald Trump.

Below is a timeline of the hearing as it unfolded:


Hearings will make case for Trump’s culpability

“It does appear that each of these hearings analyses a portion of what the committee says is Trump’s culpability in all of this,” said Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro reporting from the US Capitol.

In the first of several hearings, committee members laid out a roadmap for the proceedings, placing blame for the events of January 6 squarely on former President Trump.


January 6 rioters say they were following Trump

Committee concludes the hearing with a video compilation of rioters who said they were there because of Donald Trump.

“What really made me want to come was the fact that I had supported Trump all that time, I did believe that the election was being stolen and Trump asked us to come,” Robert Schornack, sentenced to 36 months probation said in the video clip from a committee interview.

Others interviews echoed the same sentiment on the video – that they were there because Trump had asked them to come.

The video also showed a clip of Trump’s January 6 speech at the Ellipse near the White House saying: “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.”

Trump did not join the rally, something one rioter said on the video was “one of my disappointments”.


‘It was carnage; it was chaos,’ says Capitol police officer

Edwards, the Capitol police officer, described how she and other officers struggled to contain rioters trying to breach the building.

“It was carnage; it was chaos,” she said. “I can’t even describe what I saw. I never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle.”

Edwards said she witnessed her fellow officer Brian Sicknick, who would die later after the riots, with his “head in his hands” during the attack.

“He was ghostly pale, which I figured at that point that he had been sprayed, and I was concerned,” she told the committee. “My cop alarm bells went off because if you get sprayed with pepper spray, you’re going to turn red. He turned just about as pale as this sheet of paper.”


Trump ally invokes Afghanistan withdrawal as hearing proceeds

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump ally, has invoked the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal under President Biden in an apparent reaction to the January 6 riots hearing.

“Where’s the primetime hearing on President Biden’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal?” Jordan wrote on Twitter as witnesses described scenes of violence at the Capitol to the January 6 committee.


The committee plays video outlining Proud Boys role in riot

The committee has played a video featuring former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio ahead of the attack, and of the group subsequently attacking the Capitol on January 6.

“Two violent extremist groups have been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 attack,” Committee Chair Bennie Thompson said, naming the groups as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

Quested testified that Tarrio had met with Stewart Rose of the Oath Keepers.

On January 6, Quested said Proud Boys members started heading towards the Capitol as Trump was speaking near the White House.

“I was confused to a certain extent why we were walking away from the president’s speech because that’s what I felt we were there to cover,” Quested told the committee.

Former United States President Donald Trump is seen on video during the hearing of the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 9, 2022 [REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst]

Documentary maker highlights ‘anger’ at riots

Quested, the documentary maker testifying to the committee, has highlighted the anger amongst rioters, stressing that the attack was violent.

“I documented the crowd turn from protesters to rioters to insurrectionists,” Quested said. “I was surprised at the size of the group, the anger and the profanity. And for anyone who didn’t understand how violent that event was, I saw it; I documented it, and I experienced it.”


Witnesses begin testimony

Witnesses have started delivering their testimonies to the committee.

Caroline Edwards, a Capitol police officer who was injured during the riot, and documentary maker Nick Quested who captured footage of the riot, are the witnesses to address the committee.

testimony
US Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and documentary filmmaker Nick Quested are sworn in to testify before the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, June 9, 2022 [REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst]

Committee shows videos of attack

The committee has shown new videos of the attack that it said were never shown before.

The footage showed angry Trump supporters marching on the Capitol and breaching the barricades surrounding the building as law enforcement officers struggled to contain them.

Many of the rioters wore tactical gear and waved Trump flags.

The panel took a 10-minute break after the videos concluded.


Liz Cheney spells out the committee’s case

Cheney’s statement, which lasted 30 minutes, outlined some of what the committee will present in this and future hearings, including Trump’s actions in the run-up to the January 6 riot and how those in his administration told Trump his allegations of election fraud were false.

“As you will see in great detail in our hearings, President Trump ignored the rulings of our nation’s courts, ignored his own campaign leadership, his White House staff; many Republicans state officials ignored the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security,” Cheney said.

There will also be witnesses “on how the day played out inside the White House”.


Trump tweet backing protest ‘pivotal moment’ for riots

Cheney has said a tweet by Trump promoting a January 6 rally against the election results was a “pivotal moment” leading to the riot.

“Big protest in DC on January 6th,” Trump tweeted in December. “Be there, will be wild!”

Cheney said: “This tweet initiated a chain of events. The tweet led to the planning for what occurred on January 6, including by the Proud Boys who ultimately led the invasion of the Capitol and the violence on that day.”


Trump failed to stop violence, Liz Cheney says

Cheney has stressed that Trump failed to call on his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol when the riots were taking place.

“While the violence was underway, President Trump failed to take immediate action to stop the violence and instruct his supporters to leave the Capitol,” she said.

 


Ivanka Trump ‘accepted’ Barr’s view that there was no election fraud

Trump’s daughter and former White House adviser Ivanka Trump has said she accepted ex-Attorney General Barr’s assessment that there was no election fraud.

“It affected my perspective,” she says of Barr’s testimony in a video played at the hearing. “I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he said.”

Ivanka Trump testified to the committee behind closed doors in April.

Ivanka
In this image from a video released by the House Select Committee, an exhibit shows Ivanka Trump during a video deposition to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, at the hearing Thursday, June 9 [House Select Committee via AP]

Bennie Thompson: investigation is not a ‘political attack’

Thompson dismissed allegations that the commission is an attack on former President Donald Trump by those “who don’t like him”.

“My colleagues and I all wanted an outside independent commission to investigate January 6” along the lines of the one after the 9/11 attacks, Thompson said. “But after first agreeing to the idea, Donald Trump’s allies in Congress put a stop to it. Apparently, they don’t want January 6 investigated at all.”

Thompson alleged those same people “tried to whitewash what happened on January 6, to rewrite history”.


Trump ‘summoned the mob’ and lit the flame of attack: Cheney

Liz Cheney, vice-chair of the panel and one of two Republicans on it, has highlighted Trump’s role in the riots, saying that he “summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack”.

“On the morning of January 6, President Donald Trump’s intention 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,” she said.


Trump-appointed ex-attorney general dismisses election fraud allegations

William Barr, former US attorney general who resigned after the 2020 elections, dismissed allegations of election fraud, saying that he did not want to be part of that campaign.

“I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bull***t,” Barr says in a video from a testimony played at the hearing.


Riots put US ‘democracy at risk’: Bennie Thompson

The chair of the January 6 committee, Bennie Thompson, has said the riots endangered the US governing system.

“January 6 and the lies that led to insurrection have put two and a half centuries of constitutional democracy at risk,” Thompson said in his opening testimony.

He added that the “conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over”.

“There are those in this audience who thirst for power but have no love or respect for what makes America great: devotion to the Constitution, allegiance to the rule of law, our shared journey to build a more perfect union,” Thompson said.


Trump attempted to stop the transfer of power: Panel chair

Committee chair Bennie Thompson has accused Trump of attempting to stop the transfer of power. He also called the January 6 rioters “domestic enemies of the Constitution”.

“It was domestic enemies of the Constitution, who stormed the Capitol and occupied the Capitol, who sought to thwart the will of the people to stop the transfer of power,” he said. “And they did so at the encouragement of the president of the United States – the president of the United States, trying to stop the transfer of power.”

Bennie Thompson
Chairman US Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) participates in the opening public hearing of the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 9, 2022 [REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst]

Riots were ‘flagrant violation’ of US Constitution, Biden says

Biden has said the January 6 riots aimed to overturn the 2020 election results.

“It was a clear, flagrant violation of the Constitution,” Biden said at a news conference alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I think these guys and women broke the law, tried to turn around the result of an election. And there’s a lot of questions — who’s responsible, who’s involved. I’m not going to make a judgment on that, but I just want to know that, want you to know that, we’re going to probably be — a lot of Americans are going to be seeing for the first time some of the detail that occurred.”


Republican leaders rally against committee

Republican congressional leaders have rallied against the January 6 congressional committee, painting it as political and illegitimate.

“Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s Select Committee on January 6th is unlike any other committee in American history. In fact, it is the most political and least legitimate committee in American history,” House Minority Leader Kevin MacCarthy said at a news conference.

He accused the panel of using congressional subpoenas to violate due process and “infringe on the political speech of private citizens”.

MacCarthy said the violence was “wrong”.

But he added: “From the beginning, the Select Committee refused to investigate the real circumstances that led to the riot. Including the lack of security around the Capitol.”

MacCarthy, who in the days following the riots said Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack, repeatedly refused to say whether the 2020 election was legitimate when asked at the news conference.


Accountability needed to avoid ‘slide towards authoritarianism’

Republicans have slammed the committee’s investigation as a partisan witch hunt, but Debra Perlin, policy director at the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) rejected that argument.

She pointed out that two Republicans sit on the panel – Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – and stressed that its probe is critical for the future of US democratic institutions.

“It shows that we recognise that these sorts of actions can lead a country to slide towards authoritarianism and we need to be serious about accountability – for Trump, for his allies – if we don’t want that slide to happen,” Perlin told Al Jazeera.


Top Trump ally to lead response to hearing

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, a close Trump ally, has said she will lead the GOP response to the January 6 panel hearings.

“You will see us all over the airwaves, we will be setting the record straight,” Stefanik, who replaced Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the January 6 panel, as conference chair last year, told Breitbart News earlier this week.

“We will be telling the truth to the American people sharing the facts and also really pointing out how unprecedented and unconstitutional and illegitimate this committee is,” she said.


Panel’s focus on ‘middle ground’ in US public opinion: Professor

Paul Brace, the Rice University professor, said the committee will be hoping to use its hearings to attract “the flexible electorate” that does not hold already-cemented views on the events of January 6.

The question, he said, is: “Will the January 6 committee have the kind of tidbits that trigger significant curiosity and persistent interest among a relatively broad array?”

“You’re not going to get the staunch Republican Trump supporters – they think it’s a witch hunt – [and] you don’t need the Democrats because they already believe he’s guilty. You need that middle group,” he told Al Jazeera.


Michigan governor candidate arrested for alleged Capitol riot role

The FBI has arrested Ryan Kelley, a Republican candidate for Michigan governor, for misdemeanour charges in connection to the US Capitol riot.

An FBI agent’s sworn statement said Kelley, 40, was captured on video standing in a crowd of people who were “assaulting and pushing past law enforcement officers” at the Capitol.

Kelley is one of five people seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a November election. He serves as an appointed planning commissioner in Allendale, Michigan.

In a recent opinion poll cited by local media in Michigan, Kelley emerged as the leading Republican candidate, though the race remains fluid with 49 percent of Republican voters still undecided.


Who are the far-right Proud Boys?

The alleged involvement of members of the far-right Proud Boys group in the events of January 6 is expected to be a focus of the committee’s hearing.

The Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western chauvinists” and dispute claims they are a hate group, but the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks extremism in the US, says their “actions belie their disavowals of bigotry”.

“Rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric,” the SPLC says on its website.

Several members of the group, including its former leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, face criminal charges linked to the Capitol riot, including seditious conspiracy charges filed against Tarrio and four Proud Boys this week.

Read more about the group here.


Documentary filmmaker, Capitol officer to testify: Reports

The New York Times and The Associated Press news agency have reported that a British documentary filmmaker, Nick Quested, who was filming members of the far-right Proud Boys group during the riot, will testify.

A Capitol police officer who was injured on January 6 is also expected to deliver live testimony.


Three elements likely to be focus of hearings: Professor

Paul Brace, a political science professor at Rice University in Texas, said he expects the hearing to involve “a certain amount of stagecraft” to grab the attention of the US public.

The committee is seeking to lay out its findings on three key points, Brace told Al Jazeera.

“One is what’s going on in the White House [on January 6], two is what went on, on the ground, and then third will be, are they connected?” Brace said.


Read Trump’s January 6, 2021 speech

Former President Donald Trump delivered an incendiary speech to his supporters in Washington, DC, shortly before a mob stormed and ransacked the Capitol building.

In that speech, Trump urged members of the crowd to “fight like hell” and repeated false claims that the 2020 presidential election he lost to Joe Biden was “rigged”.

Read the full speech here.


Welcome to Al Jazeera’s live coverage of a United States congressional committee’s public hearing in its probe into the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

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