As hearings open on US Capitol attack, Republican says Trump ‘lit the fire’


WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) – The chair of the congressional committee investigating the deadly 2021 Capitol attack by Donald Trump supporters on Thursday opened hearings into the causes of the violence by accusing the former president of being at the center of a conspiracy. They thwarted democracy.

After nearly a year of investigation, the US House of Representatives Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack has offered video-taped testimony from top Trump White House and campaign officials.

“January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one writer said shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government,” Democratic Representative Benny Thompson, chair of the committee, said in his opening statement. The violence was not accidental. This was Trump’s last stand.”

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One Republican on the committee, Vice Chair Liz Cheney, opened by blaming Trump for the violence that followed his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“Those who invaded the Capitol and fought law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump told them: the elections were stolen and he was the legitimate president,” Cheney said. “President Trump summoned the mob, gathered the mob and lit the torch of this attack.”

Since leaving office last year, Trump has continued to claim that his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud, an assertion that has been rejected by several courts, state election officials and members of his administration.

In fact, the first video testimony shown during the hearing was an interview with William Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general, saying he had told Trump he didn’t believe the election was stolen, calling the allegations “nonsense.”

“We cannot live in a world where the current administration remains in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there is election fraud,” said Barr, who resigned before Trump left office.

Trump’s confidants who spoke to the committee included his son Donald Jr., daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner, former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, former attorney general William Barr, and former Vice President Mike Pence’s top aides.

Trump, who has been openly courting another White House candidacy in 2024, called the committee in a statement Thursday “political thugs.”

The hearing will also feature two witnesses in person, US Capitol Police Officer Carolyn Edwards, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the attack, and Nick Quested, the filmmaker who captured the footage for the far-right Proud Boys, accused of plotting the deadly attack. Read more

Other Capitol Police officers who fought with rioters on January 6 were present at the hearing including Officer Harry Dunn, who was wearing a T-shirt with the word “Mutiny” on it and Officer Michael Fannon, who was beaten and electrocuted. during the attack. Some House Democrats who were not members of the committee also attended.

Six hearings are expected this month as the Democratic-led committee attempts to reverse Republican efforts to downplay or deny the violence of the attack, with five months left until the November 8 midterm elections that will determine which party controls both parties. The House of Representatives and the Senate for the following two years. Read more

Pro-Trump gangs sought to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, attacking police and causing millions of dollars in damage. Four people were killed on the day of the attack, one of them was shot dead by police and the others were of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured and one died the next day. Four officers later committed suicide.

The commission wants to make the case not only that the attack was planned in cooperation with members of Trump’s inner circle, but that there is an ongoing threat to American democracy.

Biden called Thursday’s attack a “blatant and clear violation of the constitution,” telling reporters, “I believe these men and women broke the law and tried to change the outcome of the election.”

Partisan lens

A Reuters/Ipsos poll, released Thursday, highlighted the partisan lens through which many Americans view the attack. It found that 55% of Republicans believed the false claim that left-wing protesters led the attack and 58% believed that most protesters were law-abiding.

A source familiar with the matter said that two Georgia Republican election officials whom Trump has tried to pressure to “find” votes that would negate his election defeat will testify before hearings later this month. Read more

Some Republicans in Congress criticized Trump in the early days after the attack, but since then almost all of them have changed their tune.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday called the committee a “smoke screen” for Democrats to push for sweeping changes to voting laws. “It’s the most political and least legitimate committee in American history,” McCarthy said.

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(Reporting by Patricia Gingerley and Richard Kwan) Additional reporting by Linda Su, Trevor Honeycutt, Kanishka Singh and Jason Lange. Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone, Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell

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