Vivid evidence around Capitol attack laid out by committee, but Republicans dismiss first primetime hearing as political theatre
The jagged divide in American politics was on full display on Friday, in the wake of the first primetime hearing staged by the House January 6 committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol.
Democrats responded to the dramatic presentation of new evidence and stark testimony about the deadly insurrection in Washington with promises of more to come, especially around the role of Donald Trump
Jamie Raskin, a Democratic committee member from Maryland, told MSNBC: “What you’ve seen so far, as shocking as it is, is just a fraction of the evidence that we have assembled.”
But Republicans dismissed the hearing, the first in a series planned by the panel of seven Democrats and two Republican Trump critics, as political theatre meant to distract from challenges faced by the Biden administration.
Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, tweeted: “I call on Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to hold a primetime hearing on the out-of-control inflation their policies have created.”
A bipartisan Senate committee linked seven deaths to the attack on the Capitol on 6 January 2021, the bloody conclusion of a concerted effort by Trump and close aides to overturn the election.
Among visceral evidence presented on Thursday night, a Capitol police officer, Caroline Edwards, described “carnage” and “chaos” as the mob stormed Congress.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said. “There were officers on the ground, they were bleeding. They were throwing up … I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood.”
The hearing also included footage of McCarthy’s staff fleeing his office as rioters drew near.
On Friday, Trump commented on footage in which his daughter, Ivanka Trump, said she had not backed the lie that Joe Biden
’s win was the result of electoral fraud.
“Ivanka Trump was not involved in looking at, or studying, election results,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, the platform he set up after being banned from Twitter. “She had long since checked out and was, in my opinion, only trying to be respectful to Bill Barr and his position as attorney general (he sucked!).”
Footage showed Barr, previously a loyal lieutenant, saying he told Trump fraud claims were “bullshit”.
Doubt was cast on Ivanka Trump’s claim not to have indulged her father. The New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted: “Her former colleagues remember her pushing the need to ‘fight’ on election night just before Trump went on stage to claim he did win the election.”
In another stunning moment during the hearing, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the Republican deputy committee chair, recounted new details of Trump’s reaction when the mob threatened his vice-president.
Mike Pence had refused to go along with Trump’s scheme to block certification of Biden’s electoral college win.
Cheney said: “Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence’, the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence ‘deserves it’.”
Trump said: “I NEVER said, or even thought of saying, ‘Hang Mike Pence.’ This is either a made up story by somebody looking to become a star, or FAKE NEWS!”
At a rally near the White House on January 6, Trump told supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” to overturn the election. On Friday, he denied causing the “so-called ‘Rush on the Capitol’”, claimed to be the victim of a “political witch hunt” and repeated his electoral fraud lie.
Trump was impeached for inciting the insurrection but acquitted when only seven Senate Republicans voted for his guilt. In light of the Thursday hearing, amid growing calls for criminal charges against Trump by the Department of Justice, the conservative anti-Trump writer Tim Miller said: “I’m never going to forgive the 43 miserable cowards in the Senate who didn’t convict this asshole. Enraging.”
Trump’s acquittal left him clear to run for the presidency again. He has strongly hinted he will. Polling shows the Republican party favored to retake Congress this year. Republican leaders are betting on the January 6 hearings failing to impact jaded voters.
Speaking to MSNBC, Raskin said that though it had been “kind of traumatising to be thrust back into” the attack on the Capitol, he thought the hearings could help “the country comes to its senses”.
“Can you imagine any president who would watch what we put on the hearing tonight and react with anything other than an absolute horror and shock?
“And yet we’ve got a former president who not only bases his whole political ideology around a lie, a lie that he actually is the president now, that he won the election and it’s been stolen from him, but continues to propagandise his followers with lies, and so they are in absolute denial of all of the facts.
“The reality is what we just made available for the entire American public to see.”