Jan. 6 Hearings Reveal How Washington Has and Hasn’t Changed
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Yes, it’s been 74 weeks since a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. No, the time has not made it any easier to watch video from that day, to hear testimony from those caught in the chaos, or to be reminded just how completely most of former President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans remain committed to brushing off the facts from Jan. 6, 2021.
At its first major public hearing Thursday night, the bipartisan committee charged with investigating the events of Jan. 6—and, perhaps more importantly, the events leading up to it—unleashed a torrent of new evidence from body cameras, closed-circuit feeds, unaired documentary footage, depositions, and emails to lay the groundwork for their case in primetime. The crimes committed that day are among the most documented ever. However, the new presentation went beyond the evidence that lawmakers were able create in 2021 during Trump’s impending impeachment. He was accused of organizing a crowd of rioters and inviting them to march on Washington, where they were due to confirm his election loss. Washington understood some of the events but was unable to zoom in in detail. This is a shame for the city, which has yet to fully recover from the trauma.
Washington lived with the consequences of Washington’s actions for many years, even though it lasted only a few minutes.
Those who spend so much time in that building—lawmakers, their aides, Capitol staff including its police force, and journalists—have been returning to the crime scene for the last 520 days, where small reminders remain of how life on Capitol Hill forever changed. Security officials in the Capitol are pushing for a ban on lawmakers carrying weapons. Although this is not currently permitted, it remains much more prevalent than people would think. House members arriving for voting on the floor with heat packs are checked now by metal detectors. In recognition of how dangerous the situation has become, some legislators have tried to get family therapy.
The committee’s presentation on Thursday amounted to examining an open wound. Over 1,000 interviews were analyzed by lawmakers and investigators to produce a two-hour presentation. This included videos, animations, maps and radio calls. The Capitol was smashed for the first-time since 1814. They also reconstructed its aftermath and execution. This presented a serious threat to democracy from right-wing extremists, their radicalized neighbours, and a president desperate to hold on to power.
In the committee’s emerging narrative, Trump first motivated extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers to organize the spine of an attack. His supporters were then sent to follow him during the assault military-style on Capitol. For instance, the committee presented evidence that membership in the Proud Boys tripled after Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate. A Proud Boys documentarian, who was embedded in the program, testified that they scouted Capitol before going to eat tacos and waited for the crowd to move their direction. This provided the strength necessary to defeat the Capitol Police.
And once there, it was, one officer testified, a “war scene.”
“I was slipping in people’s blood,” Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards told the committee. “It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle.”
Edwards was one of the 140 injured officers in the attack. She once hit her head and blacked out. After returning to duty, she was blasted with a spray right before being tear-gassed.
“I’m trained to detain a couple of subjects and handle a crowd. But I’m not combat trained,” she said. “And that day, it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat.”
People on Hill barricaded their doors and watched live as the mob entered the Capitol and searched for particular lawmakers. It was an experience shared by everyone, no matter who they were.
Yet in the days and weeks after, it was clear that Trump’s hold on the Republican Party remained about as strong as ever. Impeachment of Trump by the Democratic House in 2021 was always possible. His acquittal at the Senate was also a matter of concern. To convict him, prosecutors required 17 Republican votes. They got seven. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Minority Leader) who hopes for a rise to Speaker, diverted from telling his colleagues Jan. 6 that they would tell Trump to quit and visit him Jan. 28, three weeks after the insurrection. In video from Jan. 6 shown Thursday night, McCarthy’s own staffers could be seen abandoning their desks and fleeing the office in terror.
Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney’s position as vice-chair of the panel made her a pariah in the eyes of many members of her party. She challenged her fellow protestors to see the truth about Thursday’s inquiry. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she said.
Trump, for his part showed no regrets about what happened on Thursday. “January 6th was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again,” he wrote in a statement.
According to polls, the Big Lie is now in full force. A December poll from CBS News found 56% of Republicans associated the events of Jan. 6 with “defending freedom” and 47% with “patriotism.” The political violence, it seems, has been normalized.
Potential cracks in the footing, however, may start to become public as the Jan. 6 inquisitors start showing what they’ve been collecting for the last 10 months.
According to lawmakers, Trump is a person who chases power at all costs. The new details about that death were shocking. In recorded video, Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, flatly calls Trump’s claims of electoral fraud “bullshit,” and suggests they were what prompted him to leave the administration early. Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and senior White House adviser, said in a separate taped interview that she “accepted” Barr’s diagnosis. Investigators also heard from several campaign staffers that they too had told the President and top aides there was no truth to the allegations that Trump was spreading about the rigged electoral system or the theft of results. Still, according to investigators, Trump told aides that “maybe our supporters have the right idea” when they were chanting death threats at Vice President Mike Pence, who wouldn’t join Trump’s illegal effort to countermand the results.
In the face of seemingly unified advice coming from his official circle, according to the House committee’s presentation, Trump opted to chase conspiracy theories. He continued his efforts, encouraging people to gather in Washington as he neared the end of his term.
In the space of one minute, McCarthy was asked five times by reporters whether Biden had been elected legitimately. Understanding Trump’s power, McCarthy would only say that Biden was currently the President. McCarthy also would not say that the events amounted to an insurrection, a nod to the martyr status that many of the more than 800 individuals charged with crimes enjoy in some circles, especially those crucial to Trump’s power. Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, however, appeared uninterested in the labellings during a separate Fox News appearance. “We still haven’t figured out what to call it,” he said of the events that took place on Jan. 6.
While some in the hearing room wept openly, the conservative echo chamber went into overdrive to deny the evening’s legitimacy. Fox News refused to live-broadcast the hearings, instead presenting a host of guests and hosts who mocked the event with open contempt. Many were quick to point fingers at Pelosi, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowlser and the Capitol Security Committee. Two committees compiled a bipartisan Senate Report that concluded this was not true. Others did it. blameOfficers themselves or an inexplicable FBI and Department of Justice, who are ruining lives of innocent citizens like the candidate for governor of Michigan. The FBI took him into custody on Thursday, for his alleged acts at the Capitol. Rep. Troy Nehls helped to barricade House against the insurrectionists. However, he was also a Republican nominee for the committee.
However, the newly released footage of police body cams shows a much more terrifying scene than just tourists milling around. This 12-minute move-by-move footage shows exactly how the rioters invaded the Capitol. They broke into spaces once thought safe, if not holy. “We can’t hold this there are too many f—ing people,” an unidentified and panicked officer says. “Look at it from this vantage point. We’re f—ed.”
In real-time, the officer realized that the Capitol was under mob control. That dynamic might not have been over by nightfall Jan. 6.
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