House Hearing on Capitol Attack Charges Rioters With Attempted ‘Coup’, Doesn’t Mention FBI Role
18:43 GMT 27.07.2021 (Updated: 19:04 GMT 27.07.2021)
Last month, conservative media alleged that FBI operatives helped to plot, coordinate and orchestrate 6 January’s deadly riots at the Capitol after a Department of Justice court filing against more than a dozen riot participants revealed the existence of twenty ‘unnamed co-conspirators’.
The House of Representatives’ Select Committee investigating the 6 January Capitol violence began its first hearing on Tuesday, with witnesses and lawmakers using the term “coup” repeatedly to describe the unrest.
Capitol Police officer Auilino Gonell, who received serious injuries during the mayhem, told lawmakers that nothing in his experience in the military or as a police officer prepared him “for what we confronted on January 6.”
“It was an attempted coup that was happening at the Capitol that day,” he testified. “If it was another country, the US would’ve sent help. People need to understand the magnitude of the event happening that day.”
Republican representative Adam Kinzinger, a never-Trump Republican who voted to impeach the president in January, thanked the police officers for their service and similarly characterised the riots as a coup attempt.
“You guys won, you guys held. Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We’re defined by how we come back from bad days, how we take accountability for that,” Kinzinger said.
“Some have concocted a counter narrative to discredit [the hearings] on the grounds that we didn’t launch a similar investigation into the urban riots and looting last summer. Mr. Chairman, I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an air national guardsman. I condemn those riots and the destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-governance was threatened like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime – even grave crimes, and a coup,” Kinzinger said.
© Shannon StapletonTear gas is released into a crowd of protesters, with one wielding a Confederate battle flag that reads "Come and Take It," during clashes with Capitol police
Tear gas is released into a crowd of protesters, with one wielding a Confederate battle flag that reads "Come and Take It," during clashes with Capitol police
© Shannon Stapleton
Liz Cheney, another leading never-Trump Republican appointed to the committee, asked officers how they felt about Trump’s statement that his supporters 6 January were “a loving crowd” and that “there was a lot of love in the crowd.”
“It’s upsetting. It’s a pathetic excuse for his behaviour, for something that he himself helped to create – this monstrosity. I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day,” Gonell said.
However, Cheney’s line of questioning appears deceitful, as the audio of Trump’s comments about the “loving crowd” was a reference to the tens of thousands of supporters who gathered with him near the White House on 6 January. The Capitol insurrection, which began as the president was still talking, took place about 2 miles (3.2 km) away. When he did comment on the violence unfolding at the Capitol that day, Trump tweeted at his supporters to “stay peaceful” and “go home.” His social media accounts were later permabanned for “inciting violence.”
© REUTERS / JIM BOURGU.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo
© REUTERS / JIM BOURG
‘Coordinated Attack on Democracy’
At Tuesday’s hearing, committee chair Bennie Thompson said the information provided by the officers was “evidence of a coordinated planned attack,” adding that “the men and women who stormed the Capitol wanted to derail the peaceful transfer of power in this country” and to “disrupt democracy.”
Cheney echoed these sentiments, saying that the American people “deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for January 6. We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened, every minute of that day in the White House.”
Tuesday’s hearings come in the wake of Republicans lawmakers’ rejection of a bill to create a formal, bipartisan 9/11 Commission-style investigation into the Capitol unrest.
Trump dismissed the hearings before they began, asking whether Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who blocked two of GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the committee, would be "investigating herself," and asking why security at the Capitol complex was so lax ahead of the riots.
“Will Nancy release the thousands of hours of tapes so we can see the extent to which ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter played a role, while also revealing 'who killed Ashli Babbitt?'” Trump asked, referring to one of his supporters who died in the 6 January violence. Trump dismissed the “fake and highly partisan” committee as a waste of time, effort and money.
Pelosi vetoed McCarthy picks representatives Jim Jordan and Jim Banks. Neither men certified the results of the 2020 election, and Pelosi suggested that their questioning might “jeopardise the integrity of the investigation.”
No Mention of Possible FBI Role
At the time of this writing, lawmakers and testifying officers have yet to bring up the Department of Justice court filing of 26 May, which appeared to show heavy involvement by as-yet unidentified operatives in the organisation, coordination and orchestration of the unrest at the Capitol. The filing contained nearly two dozen unidentified individuals listed simply as persons One through Twenty, who assisted the dozen+ people charged in the case for their respective roles in the violence.
The DoJ filing was first reported on by Revolver.News, but became national news after Fox News host Tucker Carlson reported on it on his nightly show. Calrson’s investigation into the case was soon overshadowed by revelations that his email communications were being intercepted by the National Security Agency, with plans to leak them to the media.
© Photo : Screenshot / Department of Justice"Person Twenty" mentioned in DoJ indictment.
"Person Twenty" mentioned in DoJ indictment.
© Photo : Screenshot / Department of Justice
Over 550 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection, with charges ranging from assault on law enforcement to trespassing on government property and property damage.
The riots took place on the day that Congress met to officially certify Joe Biden’s victory in the November election after weeks of uncertainty stemming from claims by Trump that the Democrats were trying to cheat him out of a second term using rigged voting machines and mail-in vote dumps. Trump’s opponents dismissed theses claims, and state courts refused to hear lawsuits filed by his campaign.
Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in the 6 January violence, and Democratic lawmakers have used the incident to try to permanently ban Trump from politics by impeaching him a second time. The impeachment trial failed in the Senate in February, when Trump was already out of office.