WASHINGTON — The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol began the first of a series of public hearings Thursday night presenting the results of more than a year of investigation to the American people.
The hearing served as an opening argument for the committee — laying down an outline of what the public would see in the weeks to come. Committee members promised to show previously unseen material and testimony from witnesses about the “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.”
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee who also served as one of the House managers during the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump, promised the public would see footage and records documenting the “dangerous extremist assault on our constitutional order.” More than that, Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) promised to show evidence of communications between the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and people in close proximity to former President Donald Trump, as well as documents showing members of Congress sought out pardons from the president in the days after the Capitol riot.
In addition to video depositions and footage from the day, two witnesses testified Thursday night: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was the first officer to be injured by rioters on Jan. 6, and British documentarian Nick Quested, who was following the Proud Boys after the November 2020 election and documented the assault on the Capitol in real time.
WATCH: Day 1 of the Jan. 6 hearings, full video
Below, find our live blog of the night's hearing.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said the oath members of Congress and other federal employees take to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, has its roots in the civil war.
“That oath was put to the test on Jan. 6, 2021,” Thompson said.
The first image of the hearing was a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War. Lincoln wrote it was possible his administration would lose re-election. In the letter, Lincoln wrote that it was his duty to honor the will of the people, even if that will was for him to leave office.
Thompson then introduced a video deposition of former Attorney General Bill Barr, who said he told Trump his plan to overturn the election was “bulls***.” In the deposition, Barr said “you can’t live in a world” where an administration can simply decide to stay in power because it doesn’t agree with the result of an election, and said Trump’s plans to do so were directly related to him leaving the administration.
“The Constitution doesn’t just protect Democrats or Republicans,” Thompson said after the video finished. “It protects all of us. It protects the will of the people. And this scheme was an attempt to overturn the will of the people.”
Ranking member Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) used her opening remarks to lay out the testimony the public will hear tonight and in future hearings.
“As you will see in the hearings to come, President Trump believed his supporters at the Capitol were, and I quote, ‘Doing what they should be doing,’” Cheney said. “That’s what he told his staff as they begged him to call the attack off.”
Cheney said in future hearings, the public will hear testimony from staff who were around Trump on Jan. 6. They will testify that Trump was “angry” at staff who attempted to get him to disavow the assault and, at one point, Cheney said, said of his supporters who were chanting for Mike Pence to be hanged, “Maybe they have the right idea.”
“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said. Specifically, Cheney said, the public will see how a group of Proud Boys led a mob into the Capitol.
Cheney also played portions of video depositions from a number of witnesses close to Trump, including campaign spokesman and senior adviser Jason Miller and Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka.
In his deposition, Miller said Trump received the news in clear terms the he was going to lose the election. In another, Alex Cannon, who served as one of Trump's lawyers, said he shared with chief of staff Mark Meadows that "we weren't finding anything that would change the results in key states."
Ivanka, who served as a senior adviser to her father throughout his term in office, said she believed Barr when he told Trump there was no evidence of fraud.
"I repeatedly told the president in no uncertain terms that I saw no evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election," Barr said, later adding he also saw "zero basis" for the allegations against Dominion Voting Systems. "I told them it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that and it was doing a grave, grave disservice to their country."
Cheney urged her Republican colleagues to reflect on the "miracle" of the peaceful transfer of power, as former President Ronald Reagan called it, and to consider what their legacy will be.
“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. "But your dishonor will remain.”
The two witnesses for the evening, USCP Officer Caroline Edwards and documentary filmmaker Nick Quested take the stand.
Quested testified that he was following the Proud Boys as part of a documentary he was working on when former chairman Enrique Tarrio was released from the D.C. Jail on Jan. 5 after being arrested on weapons charges.
Quested said he followed Tarrio to the Phoenix Hotel, where Tarrio met with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and his attorney, Kellye SoRelle. Quested said he couldn't hear what they discussed, although the Justice Department alleges the Capitol came up.
On Jan. 6, Quested was in D.C. with a group of "probably close to 100" Proud Boys when they began marching to the U.S. Capitol Building. He testified he thought that was odd, because they headed that way long before Trump even started speaking. And, he said, their mood was different than what he'd seen on previous days.
"The atmosphere was much darker this day than it had been in other days," Quested said. "And there was also this contingent of Proud Boys I hadn't met before who had these orange hats and armbands."
Thompson told Quested he witnessed the beginning of a planned assault.
"A central question is whether the [attack] was coordinated and planned," Thompson said. "What you witnessed is what a coordinated and planned attack would look like."
Edwards, who was knocked unconscious during the initial surge and suffered a TBI, said the crowd that massed in front of her position was being led by Proud Boy Joe Biggs. Edwards said at first Biggs was using a megaphone to talk about Congress, but when a second group of Proud Boys wearing orange hats and tape showed up, "things started turning."
"Once they joined that group, Joseph Biggs' rhetoric started turning toward Capitol police," Edwards said. "He said stuff like, 'You didn't miss a paycheck during the pandemic.' Our pay scale was mentioned. He started turning the table on us.
"I've worked, conservatively, probably hundreds of events and I know when I'm being turned into a villain," Edwards said. "That's when I turned to my sergeant and said probably the understatement of the century. I said, 'Sarge, we're probably going to need more units."
Edwards said she was eventually knocked down when a rioter, Ryan Samel — who is now charged with her assault — shoved a bike rack against her. Edwards was knocked unconscious when her head hit a cement step. Once she regained consciousness, Edwards moved to join the effort to decontaminate other officers. While there, she saw D.C. Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who concerned her because he had turned "pale," she said. Sicknick died a day later after suffering multiple strokes.
Edwards said eventually the scene at the Capitol spiraled out of control beyond anything she could have imagined.
"I can remember my breath catching in my throat," Edwards said. "What I saw was something like a war scene. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground... I was slipping in people's blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos."
Thompson closed the hearing by thanking Edwards for her and other officers' service on Jan. 6, saying if she and other officers hadn't held the line against violent insurrectionists "we can only imagine what would have happened."
The committee's next hearing was scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. At least five other hearings are planned, with the possibility of more still open.
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