The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol held its first primetime hearing Thursday — the first of a series of hearings stemming from its 11-month probe of the events surrounding the riot, including the actions of then-President Donald Trump and his allies. The hearing attempted to draw a direct line between Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the deadly insurrection.
“January 6th and the lies that led to insurrection have put two-and-a-half centuries of constitutional democracy at risk,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the select committee chairman, said in his opening remarks. “But our work must do much more than just look backwards. Because our democracy remains in danger.”
Liz Cheney, the top Republican on the House Jan. 6 committee, said testimony from former Trump aides will show the former president was not concerned about threats on Vice President Mike Pence’s life as rioters stormed the Capitol.
And Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who was injured while defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, offered a chilling account of the violence she witnessed that day.
"In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual, or a political party. We take our oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something. Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain."
— Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the select committee's vice chair, during her opening remarks
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Hearing ends with with rioters' own words
Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., concluded Thursday's primetime hearing with a preview of the next hearing, scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. ET.
Thompson introduced previously unreleased footage of arrested rioters telling investigators that they believed they had been directed to the Capitol by then-President Donald Trump.
Thompson said that the panel will "examine the lies" that convinced those men and women to storm the Capitol and "try and stop the transfer of power."
"We're going to take a close look at the first part of Trump's attack on the rule of law," Thompson said.
Capitol Police officer: 'I was slipping in people’s blood'
In her testimony, Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards told the committee she was knocked unconscious during the riot but continued to try to "hold the line" against the rioters when she was teargassed.
Edwards said she saw Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he confronted rioters, looking "ghostly pale."
She also described what looked like a “war scene.”
“There were officers on the ground, they were bleeding, they were throwing up," Edwards said. "I was slipping in people’s blood."
"It was carnage. It was chaos," she continued. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer I would find myself in the middle of a battle."
First witnesses are sworn in
The first two witnesses called by the select committee during Thursday's primetime hearing were Caroline Edwards, a Capitol Police officer who was injured on Jan. 6; and Nick Quested, a documentary filmmaker who filmed Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes meeting in a parking garage on Jan. 5, the day before the riot.
Panel presents video timeline
Following opening statements, the House select committee played a harrowing montage of video clips, assembled in timeline form, of the events on Jan. 6, including former President Donald Trump's speech at the rally that preceded the riot as well as members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys storming the Capitol.
(Cover thumbnail: Alex Brandon-Pool/Getty Images)