By Jacob Fischler, Tennessee Lookout
A widely anticipated hearing Thursday by the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol alleged two groups supporting then-President Donald Trump planned the riot to stop the transfer of presidential power–while Trump tacitly endorsed the insurrection and was indifferent to calls to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Over roughly two hours before a prime-time television audience, leaders of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol focused on the role of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Both are far-right groups with histories of violence and violent rhetoric that supported Trump.
The top two members on the panel, Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, also zeroed in on Trump and congressional Republicans, some of whom–including Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry–later asked for presidential pardons for their roles in the attack, Cheney said.
Representatives for Perry did not return an email seeking comment Thursday night.
Cheney, one of two Republicans on the nine-member committee, lost her position in House Republican leadership over her criticism of Trump.
“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone,” Cheney said in an opening statement. “Your dishonor will remain.”
Thompson in his opening remarks emphasized Trump was at the center of it all, after his attempts to overturn the election results in the courts failed.
“But for Donald Trump, that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election…aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans–your votes, your voice in our democracy–and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended,” said Thompson.
“Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy. And ultimately, Donald Trump–the president of the United States–spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.”
The hearing is the first in a series throughout June, as the committee lays out its evidence about the attack.
Thompson said part of the purpose of the hearing was to remind the American people what happened on Jan. 6.
In the past 17 months, Trump allies, including members of Congress, have sought to “rewrite history,” Thompson said, downplaying the seriousness of the attempted coup.
“Tonight and over the next few weeks, we’re going to remind you of the reality of what happened that day,” he said. “But our work must do much more than just look backwards. The cause of our democracy remains in danger.”
Earlier Tuesday, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy criticized the committee, calling it “the most political and least legitimate committee in American history.”
Throughout the hearing, Republican House members blasted the committee on social media and suggested its investigation was unimportant.
“The partisan January 6 committee is nothing more than an illegitimate show trial,” Arizona’s Andy Biggs tweeted.
“Tonight’s J6 committee hearing is the most blatant attempt to distract the American people from the disastrous and failed policies of the Democratic Party,” Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, tweeted.
The first testimony the panel presented was video footage of Bill Barr, the U.S. attorney general on Election Day 2020, who resigned the next month over a disagreement with Trump about the legitimacy of the election.
“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 bullshit,” Barr said in the taped testimony.
Barr continued, saying he told Trump “in no uncertain terms,” there was no evidence of fraud. Barr said there was “absolutely zero basis” for allegations that voting machines were used to steal the election.
Barr called those allegations “complete nonsense,” “crazy stuff” and said “it was doing a great, great disservice to the country.”
The panel also showed video of Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter, who said Barr’s views about the lack of fraud were convincing to her.
The panel’s next hearing is set for 10 a.m. on Mon., June 13.