With never-before-seen video, new audio and a mass of evidence, the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol will attempt to show the ‘heartbreaking story’ of deadly violence that erupted that day, along with a chilling backstory as defeated President Donald Trump tried to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory.
Thursday’s prime-time hearing will open with eyewitness testimony from the first police officer hit in the crowd riot and a documentary maker tracking down the extremist Proud Boys, who prepared to fight for Trump immediately after the election and led the storming of the Capitol.
It will also feature accounts from the committee of aides and family members of Trump, interviewed behind closed doors, about the deadly siege that Democrats and others say endangers American democracy.
“When you hear and understand the far-reaching conspiracy and effort to try to corrupt all the levers and agencies of government involved in this, you know, the hair on the back of your neck should stand on end,” said Elaine Luria, D. -Va., a member of the 1/6 committee, said in an interview.
“Bringing it all together in one place and a cohesive narrative, I think, will help the American people better understand what happened on January 6 – and the threats it could potentially pose in the future.”
The 1/6 panel’s year-long investigation will begin to show how America’s tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power nearly collapsed. It will reenact how Trump refused to concede the 2020 election, spread false claims of voter fraud, and orchestrated an unprecedented public and private campaign to reverse Biden’s victory.
The outcome of the next few weeks of public hearings may not change hearts or minds in a politically polarized America. But the committee’s investigation with 1,000 interviews is intended to be a public record for history. A final report aims to document the most violent attack on the Capitol since the British set it on fire in 1814, and to ensure that such an attack never happens again.
Unabashedly, Trump dismisses the investigation as illegitimate – and even declared on social media on Thursday that January 6 “represented the greatest movement in the history of our country”.
The riot left more than 100 police officers injured, many beaten and bloodied, as the crowd of pro-Trump rioters, some armed with pipes, bats and pepper spray, charged into the Capitol. At least nine people inside died during and after the riots, including a woman who was shot dead by police.
Emotions are still running high at the Capitol and security will be tightened for the hearings. Law enforcement officials are reporting an upsurge in violent threats against members of Congress.
In this context, the committee will speak of a divided America, ahead of the midterm elections in the fall, when voters will decide which party controls Congress. Most TV stations will broadcast the hearings live, but not Fox News Channel.
The chairman of the committee, civil rights leader Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice President Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, will set the tone with opening remarks.
The two congressional leaders will describe what the committee learned about the events leading up to that spirited January day when Trump sent his supporters to Congress to ‘fight like hell’ for his presidency as lawmakers got to work. generally routine to certify the results of the previous November. .
“People are going to have to follow two intersecting streams of events – one will be the attempt to overturn the presidential election, that’s a heartbreaking story in itself,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. , member of the committee. in an interview.
“The other will be the sequence of events leading up to a violent mob attack on the Capitol to stop the Electoral College vote count and block the peaceful balance of power,” he said.
The first step will be to rip out accounts of police engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the crowd, with testimony from United States Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards who was seriously injured in the attack.
Also appearing on Thursday will be documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who filmed the Proud Boys storming the Capitol — and a crucial leadership meeting with another extremist group, the Oath Keepers, the night before in a nearby parking lot.
Leaders of both groups, as well as some members, have since been charged with rare sedition charges for the military-style attack.
In addition to eyewitness testimony, the panel will unveil multimedia presentations, including never-before-seen video and audio, and a “mountain of evidence”, said a committee aide who insisted on anonymity to preview the hearing . There will be taped accounts from top Trump White House, administration and campaign aides, as well as members of Trump’s family, the aide said.
Information from Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who urged her father to call off the rioters, will likely be shared during her private appearance before the committee.
In the coming weeks, the panel is expected to detail Trump’s public campaign for ‘Stop the Steal’ and the private pressure he exerted on the Justice Department to reverse his election defeat – despite dozens of unsuccessful court cases. and his own attorney general attesting that there was no fraud of a magnitude that could have tipped the results in his favor.
The panel faced obstacles from its inception. Republicans blocked the formation of an independent body that could have investigated the Jan. 6 attack the same way the 9/11 Commission probed the 2001 terror attack.
Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ushered in the creation of the 1/6 panel through Congress over the objections of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. She rejected Republican-appointed lawmakers who voted Jan. 6 against certifying the election results, ultimately nominating seven Democrats and two Republicans.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was caught up in the investigation and defied the committee’s subpoena for an interview, echoed Trump on Thursday. He called the panel a “scam” and called the investigation a political “smokescreen” for Democratic priorities.
By many measures, the attack was triggered shortly after Election Day, when Trump falsely claimed the vote was rigged and refused to concede once Biden was declared the winner.
The hearings are expected to introduce Americans to a cast of characters, some well-known, others elusive, and what they said and did as Trump and his allies tried to reverse the election outcome.
The public will learn of the actions of Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, whose more than 2,000 text messages provided the committee with real-time insight into the scramble to keep Trump in power. From John Eastman, the conservative law professor who was the architect of the failed scheme to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to suspend certification on January 6. Justice Department officials who have threatened to resign rather than accept Trump’s proposals.
Various GOP lawmakers and even candidates currently in the running, including the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, have also been caught up in the investigation.
The Justice Department arrested and charged more than 800 people for the violence that day, the largest net in its history.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.
For full coverage of the January 6 hearings, visit https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege.