Under the supervision of Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the first hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack took place today. Testimony was provided by Officers Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. These officers provided eyewitness accounts of their defense of the Capitol.
A significant part of the testimony offered today was meant to elicit an emotional response from viewers. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) began to choke up at various points in their respective questioning and opening statements. Queries about the officers’ states of mind, reactions from their family members, and recollections of dangerous moments were asked. Schiff’s penultimate question to Officer Dunn was “Is this America?”
In responses, Dunn and his fellow officers sometimes referred to former President Donald Trump as a “hitman” who sent his supporters out to attack the Capitol. Dunn also testified that when he told the mob that he had voted for President Joe Biden, they shouted racial epithets at him. After that, other legislators asked about the kinds of slurs heard and Dunn’s reaction to them. His testimony seemed to encourage the other officers to condemn the rhetoric of Trump and other Republican legislators in the weeks following Jan. 6.
Some questions from the committee sought to dispel existing narratives about the riot. Claims of the rioters being unarmed were contested by the officers, who noted that protesters were carrying baseball bats, flagpoles, hockey sticks, stolen riot shields, bear spray, wasp spray, and various other blunt-force tools. Notably, no questions were asked about who was in charge of calling in additional security.
Despite the controversial presence of Republicans Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL) at the hearing, most of their allotted time was dedicated to condemnations of the GOP for its opposition to the make-up of the committee. In particular, Cheney made clear her intention to determine the culpability of the White House in the events.
Criticism of Legislators
A significant amount of the testimony from the officers was dedicated to a verbal lashing of legislators who had signaled opposition to the House Select Committee in prior votes. Fanone directly called out those who he said undermined the events of the day, asserting that his body camera had recorded almost everything he had experienced. He claimed that he was ripped from the line of officers, and rioters attempted to seize his firearm and tased him to keep him on the ground for a short period. In what might have been the climax of the hearing, Fanone echoed the remarks of Thompson’s opening statement as he slammed his fist on the desk:
“I felt like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room, but too many are now telling me that it didn’t exist, or that it actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”
Hodges’ testimony was much harsher than that of Dunn and Gonell. Hodges outright declared that the members of the mob were domestic terrorists according to existing federal law. He emphatically called out language from Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA), who argued that the actions of some protesters were similar to that of a typical tourist visit. Hodges also criticized the “big lie,” a term used to describe Trump’s questioning of the 2020 election results that Democrats have held up as the primary cause of the events.
As the proceedings drew to a close, Thompson made clear that the hearing would be the first of many. He also added that the committee might begin to issue subpoenas shortly, though it remains unclear who would be called to testify. Ongoing work by the Justice Department may hold considerable influence over who the committee may call.
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