The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol hosted the first in a series of hearings Thursday, laying out its initial findings gathered over an 11-month investigation. The committee promised new information, though it doled out few bombshells in its first showcase.
The two-hour hearing included comments from former Trump staffers saying he was aware there was no evidence to back up his claims of voter fraud. There was also testimony from a British documentary filmmaker and a Capitol police officer who was injured during last-ditch efforts to fend off the mob that ultimately stormed the building.
“President [Donald] Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).
‘He was going to lose’
In a preview of Monday’s hearing, Cheney showed portions of pre-recorded interviews that the committee conducted of Jason Miller, Trump’s former senior campaign spokesperson; Alex Cannon, Trump’s former campaign lawyer; and William Barr, the sitting attorney general at the time.
In one clip, Miller described a call between the Trump campaign’s internal data expert and Trump shortly after the 2020 election.
“I was in the Oval Office and, at some point (in) the conversation, the lead data person was brought on and he delivered to the president — in petty blunt terms — that he was going to lose,” Miller said in the recorded testimony.
Miller took to Twitter on Thursday evening, saying his interview was cut off and provided a thread of the rest of the back and forth. Trump, he said, believed some of the dozens of legal challenges his team made across the country could succeed.
The committee also showed a brief clip of an interview with Ivanka Trump responding to a statement by former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, who said there was no evidence of fraud capable of overturning the election.
Ivanka Trump was one of the White House officials with the greatest access to Donald Trump at the time, potentially leaving her with knowledge of the activities in the White House surrounding the Capitol riot, according to a report by The Hill.
“How did that affect your perspective about the election when Attorney General Barr made that statement?” on interviewer asked.
“It affected my perspective,” Ivanka Trump said. “I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying.”
Alex Cannon, a top Trump campaign attorney at the time, also discussed what he told White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
“I remember a call with Mr. Meadows, who was asking me what I was finding and if I was finding anything, and I remember sharing with him that we weren’t finding anything that would be sufficient to change anything in the key states,” Cannon said.
Barr made similar statements in a pre-recorded interview shown Thursday.
“I repeatedly told the president, in no uncertain terms, I did not see evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome the election. And frankly, (a) year and a half later I haven’t seen anything to change my mind on that.”
‘Hours of hand-to-hand combat’
Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards recalled the violent encounter between rioters and police as civilians broke through a line of bike racks separating them from one of the building’s entrances.
“There were officers on the ground,” Edwards said during her testimony Thursday. “They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos.”
Edwards described the scene as “hours of hand-to-hand combat” that no law enforcement officer has “ever trained for.”
Video played during the hearing showed rioters push past the bike racks, in turn causing Edwards to fall backward on a set of cement steps. By then, she had blacked out, she said. But when she came to, Edwards again tried to fend off the crowd that was charging toward the Capitol. That’s when the officer said she saw her colleague, officer Brian Sicknick, “ghostly pale” with his head in his hands.
“I looked back to see what had hit him, what had happened and that’s when I got sprayed in the eyes,” Edwards said.
She was then sprayed with tear gas as she tried to seek medical attention, she said
“I just remember that moment of stepping behind the line (of police) and seeing the absolute war zone that the west front had become,” Edwards said.
Sicknick died of multiple strokes after being sprayed with a chemical during the riot.
The scene at the Capitol
The House committee showed a montage Thursday of videos and images captured during the Capitol. They also questioned British filmmaker Nick Quested who filmed the rally and captured the movement of the far-right militia groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.
Quested had attended several rallies for a documentary he was in the process of filming and Thursday provided an eyewitness account of the leadup to the breach of the police line.
“The atmosphere was much darker on this day than it had been on the other days,” Quested said.
Capitol riot footage from Quested and others that day showed a barrage of rioters flooding the property, fighting with officers and entering the building through broken windows.
Rioters, some donning Trump merchandise, carried American flags, shields and megaphones as they made their way through the building.
“Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy and ultimately Donald Trump, the president of the United States, spurred a mob of domestic enemies …” committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said.
‘Trump asked us to come’
As the hearing came to a close, the committee showed interviews with several people who attended the insurrection.
“What really made me want to come was the fact that I had supported Trump all that time,” Robert Schornack, who was sentenced to 36 months probation, said in video testimony. “I did believe that the election was being stolen and Trump asked us to come.”
Eric Barber, who was charged with theft and unlawful demonstration in the Capitol, echoed the belief that Trump had called on those who attended the insurrection.
“He personally asked for us to come to DC that day,” Barber said. “I thought for everything that he’s done for us, if this is the only thing he asks of me, I’ll do it.”
Another attendee whose name wasn’t included in the video montage said he was upset that Trump wasn’t also at the Capitol.
“That’s one of my disappointments,” the man said. “He said he was going to go with us. That he was going to be there.”
The second hearing is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. Monday. It will focus on what Thompson called “the lies that convinced those men and others to storm the Capitol.”
“We’re going to take a look at the first part of Trump’s attack on the rule of law, when he hit the fuse that ultimately resulted in the violence of Jan. 6,” Thompson said.