Capitol riot hearings: Five key takeaways you need to know about ‘attempted coup’

Donald Trump questioned by Nigel Farage on Capitol Riots

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Nearly 18 months ago, supporters of former US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington DC in a bid to forestall the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The congressional committee have been investigating the attack, which the New York Times described as “one of the worst days of injuries for law enforcement in the United States” in recent history, over the course of the year, with the first public hearing taking place yesterday.

The siege, which took shape on January 6, 2021, was timed perfectly to coincide with the certification of the Electoral College votes.

The Democratic-led inquiry into the riots aims to prove Mr Trump was largely at the helm of the siege, and that he conspired to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to Mr Biden.

Here are the five key takeaways from the Congressional hearing you should know.

Building a case against Donald Trump

The committee highlighted the prominence of Mr Trump’s role in the attack, presenting findings that the violent mob was not a spontaneous gathering.

Liz Cheney, vice chair of the panel and one of two Republicans on it, said Mr Trump “summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack”.

“On the morning of January 6, President Donald Trump’s intention was to remain president of the United States despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his constitutional obligation to relinquish power.”

The panel highlighted the many public statements made by Mr Trump claiming the election was “illegitimate”, as well as his attempts to overturn the result.

Presenting an overview of the hearing, House select committee chair Bennie Thompson said: “Any legal jargon you hear about ‘seditious conspiracy’, ‘obstruction of an official proceeding’, ‘conspiracy to defraud the United States’ boils down to this.”

“January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup. A brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, to overthrow the Government.

“Violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.”

The spread of false information

To build the case that Mr Trump subverted the peaceful and proper transfer of power, the committee had to prove he was deliberately spreading false and misleading information to influence the public.

Instead of simply displaying the statements made by the former president, Ms Cheney recounted and played video footage of Mr Trump’s own advisors confirming there to be no election fraud.

Former US attorney general William Barr – who resigned after the 2020 elections – dismissed allegations of election fraud in the video testimony played at the hearing, saying he did not want to be part of that campaign.

Mr Barr was heard to say: “I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff”.

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Harrowing video footage

Powerful video footage was effectively peppered throughout the hearing, leaving the audience in a state of stunned silence by the time the hearing concluded.

Amongst damning testimonies from advisors interspersed with Mr Trump’s speech excerpts and Tweets, the hearing saw harrowing and violent footage of the event in action.

Caroline Edwards, a Capitol officer on the first line of defence against the mob recounted the terror of the siege.

She compared the events to a war zone, before saying how she was slipping on blood during her attempts to fend off the attack.

She said: “It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw.”
The officer sustained burns from a chemical spray and a concussion after a bike rack was heaved on top of her.

Committee said the attack was premeditated

Throughout the hearing, Lawmakers stressed the notion that the Capitol storm was premeditated and not an impromptu riot after a Trump rally nearby.

Ms Cheney said: “Intelligence available before January 6 identified plans to invade the Capitol, occupy the Capitol, and take other steps to halt Congress’ count of electoral votes that day.

Film-maker Nick Quested, one of two witnesses at the hearing, suggested in his testimony that the far-right neo-fascist group Proud Boys had planned to attack.

Mr Quested testified that he was confused to see “a couple of hundred” Proud Boys walking away from Trump’s speech and toward the Capitol.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner testify

Amongst the great mass of interviews conducted for the investigation, particular interest has been paid to those of Mr Trump’s family and in-laws.

The public got a brief look into what they had to say during Thursday night’s hearing, with testaments from Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Ms Trump, a former white house advisor, said she accepted Mr Barr’s assessment that there was no election fraud.

Mr Kushner dismissed the threats of members of Mr Trump’s legal team resigning in protest against what they viewed as illegal election challenges as “whining”.

Mr Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, was entirely absent.

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