Unprecedented footage, the testimony of a Capitol police officer injured by protesters and that of a British documentary filmmaker who had access to the Proud Boys, all broadcast live on television for two hours, in prime time: Thursday In the evening, the elected members of the special commission of the House of Representatives, which is investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, deployed great means to reveal their first conclusions. Their goal is to demonstrate the existence of an organized campaign to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and keep Donald Trump in power.
“Democracy still in danger”
Both the chairman of the committee, Democrat Bennie Thompson, and the vice-chairwoman, Republican Liz Cheney, overwhelmed Donald Trump. Bennie Thompson referred to a “coup attempt”, saying that the former president, “at the heart of the plot”, had “encouraged” the protesters, and warned: “Our democracy is still in danger. The conspiracy to oppose the will of the people is not over. “
Liz Cheney didn’t chew her words either. She addressed Republicans who support Donald Trump in his obsession with challenging his defeat: “One day, Donald Trump will no longer be there. But your disgrace will remain. ” “As an American, we all have a duty to ensure that this does not happen again,” she said. In part, President Joe Biden was able to follow the hearings remotely. He did not hesitate to call the attack a “survival test for American democracy.”
“They were bleeding, vomiting.”
One of the highlights of the hearing on Thursday night was the testimony of Caroline Edwards, who was injured twice by rioters as she tried to push them away. She even lost consciousness at one point. Very moved by being called a traitor that day, Caroline Edwards alluded to her colleague Brian Sicknick in particular that she saw “the white face as a sheet of paper.” Brian Sicknick died the day after the assault, after two strokes.
When Bennie Thompson asks the Capitol officer what the most striking images were that day, she embarks on an apocalyptic description. “There were officers on the ground, they were bleeding, vomiting… It was carnage, chaos… I can’t even describe what I saw, I never thought, as a police officer, to find myself one day in the middle of a battle. I’m not trained to fight, ”she commented, her face serious.
British documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who was filming the Proud Boys, an extremist paramilitary group that day, also testified, but more briefly. In particular, he had a privileged access to their leader Enrique Tarrio and was in the first boxes to observe the role of the group in the assault.
Before the midterm elections
These first public hearings shunned by conservative television channels are a major turning point in the Capitol investigation. Five more similar hearings will be held by June 23. For the commission’s elected officials – seven Democrats and two anti-Trump Republicans – time is running out. They want to complete their investigation before the midterm elections in November (Midterms). Because Republicans have already warned: if they find a majority in Congress, the poll will be buried.
Inflation and, above all, rising gas prices are now of much greater concern to Americans than the attack on the Capitol, an additional challenge for Democrats, for whom imposing their narrative and, above all, convincing the public, evidence of the support, is crucial. Among other things, they shared testimonies from protesters, who regretted taking part in the violence and said they had been stimulated and encouraged by Trump.
Donald Trump, who continues to talk about “massive fraud” and “stolen ballots,” denounces a “witch hunt.” For the majority of Republicans, the commission is biased and illegitimate. However, it was the Republican elected officials of Congress who precisely refused to establish a bipartisan independent commission worthy of the name.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two investigative journalists behind the revelations about the Watergate scandal, spoke on CNN just before the auditions began. Bob Woodward said he was particularly impressed by Donald Trump’s pressure on Vice President Mike Pence not to certify Joe Biden’s victory.
Prior to the first broadcasts, the commission had already heard nearly 1,000 witnesses, consulted more than 140,000 documents, including text messages, e-mails and video clips. And sent a hundred subpoenas to testify. Donald Trump and his entourage have been repeatedly obstructing attempts to slow down his work.
The former president, cleared of the charge of “incitement to insurrection” during a trial in dismissal, even went. But it was rejected. He opposed the release of documents from the White House on January 6, 2021, kept in the National Archives, to the commission’s elected officials. Several members of his entourage also refused to testify. This is especially true of Steve Bannon, his ex-right arm.
More than 800 people arrested
Several excerpts were heard on Thursday, including that of William Barr, a former justice minister. The latter claims to have made it clear to Donald Trump that he did not think the election had been stolen from him and that he would not oppose Joe Biden’s certification of victory. This led him to resign. An excerpt from Ivanka Trump’s hearing was also released. Donald Trump’s daughter says she clearly believed William Barr when he stated that no evidence of election fraud had been established.
Never-before-seen videos show new scenes of angry crowds attacking the US Congress seat, with clear calls to “hang” Mike Pence. It also shows a Trump supporter reading Donald Trump’s tweets with a megaphone.
In parallel with the work of the commission, the FBI arrested more than 800 people, including members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, former police officers, veterans of the army, the son of a New York judge and a five-time Olympic swimming medalist. Nearly 300 individuals who took part in the Capitol attack pleaded guilty, often to minor offenses. But Robert Scott Palmer, the man who assaulted police with a fire extinguisher and boards, for example, was sentenced to five years in prison. The “shaman of QAnon”, Jake Angeli, was sentenced to 41 months.
The commission now hopes that its investigation will push Justice Minister Merrick Garland to prosecute political leaders. Donald Trump could have chosen to be low profile. But on the contrary, he decided on Thursday to once again describe what happened on January 6, 2021 as “the biggest move in history to make America great.”
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