Heidi Siegmund Cuda reports on the first day of the Congressional committee investigating the insurgency in the capital and allegations of an ‘attempted coup’ by the former president
âIt is national enemies of the Constitution who have stormed the Capitol and occupied the Capitol,â committee chairman and Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson told the Jan. 6 committee on the day it opened. “Under the encouragement of the President of the United States trying to stop the transfer of power, a precedent that had stood for 221 years.”
On January 6, 2021, the world watched in disbelief as crowds wearing guns, ties and symbols of white supremacy marched through the United States Capitol, as senators gathered inside to confirm the President Biden’s election victory. Agitated by a speech by President Donald Trump, the mostly male, mostly white crowd swarmed the Democracy Center, in what was quickly condemned as an attempted insurrection. Four people lost their lives.
The events sparked soul-searching in some, doubled down in others, as politicians and the public tried to figure out what happened that day.
Now, a House Select Committee investigating the events has squarely blamed Trump for instigating and abetting mob rule.
This point is important for a country still traumatized by the damage done to the union by the Trump era.
Committee members did not mince words.
“Trump was at the center of this conspiracy,” Thompson said. “The President of the United States has incited a host of domestic enemies of the Constitution to come down from the Capitol and overthrow American democracy.”
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Trump’s Last Stand
Describing it as “Trump’s last stand,” Thompson asserted what many law-abiding Democrats and Americans had long suspected.
“January 6 was the culmination of a coup attempt,” he said. “It represented … a most desperate attempt to stop the transfer of power.”
The condemnation didn’t just come from the Democrats. Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney is a Republican who hasn’t been shy about holding Trump to account. Trump had, she explained, a “sophisticated seven-part plan” to call off the election. Speaking directly to her colleagues who had defended the disgraced president, she said: “A day will come when Donald Trump will be gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Cheney pointed to a key meeting that took place on December 18, 2020 that included disgraced General Mike Flynn, attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, and others. Participants in the meeting, she explained, “discussed a number of dramatic milestones, including the seizing of voting machines by the military and the potential resumption of elections.”
Describing the day itself, an audio recording of General Mark Milley, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, told the committee that Vice President Mike Pence responded to the violence by ordering the Secretary of Defense through acting Christopher Miller to “get the army down there, get it keep it there, end this situation”.
But Pence’s authority was undermined by his former boss. Milley shared a conversation with Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He shared how Meadows told him that “we have to kill the narrative that the vice president makes all the decisions.” Milley said it was a “red flag for him personally”.
At the center of the day’s violence were far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, who injured police officer Caroline Edwards. She told the committee that she was “sliding in people’s blood” and was hit by a bike rack. She was among more than 140 police officers injured.
Other violence and threats of violence included men trashing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and chants to “hang Mike Pence.”
Assessing the aftermath of the riot, Liz Cheney said White House staff “knew President Donald Trump was too dangerous to be left alone.”
“That Trump said ‘he deserves it’ in response to the crowd chanting ‘hang Mike Pence,'” journalist Paul Niland said Signing time in disbelief. âWhat?? When have we ever heard of a US president supporting calls to execute a sitting vice president?â
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Sian Norris and Heidi Siegmund Cuda
A fragile democracy
Thursday’s hearing was the first in a series this month that will highlight the findings of the committee’s investigation, which included interviews with more than 1,000 people about how Trump and his team attempted to cancel the results of the 2020 elections.
While the hearings offer compelling evidence of Trump’s role in the coup attempt, the crisis of American democracy goes beyond one day in the winter of 2021. For this reason, the response to the hearings has been emotional and cautious. Confronting the seriousness of the threat on January 6 is a step in the right direction, but American democracy is not yet out of the woods.
âThe bet to overthrow pluralist democracies did not begin or end on January 6,â said disinformation scholar David Troy. Signing time. “It’s still ongoing.”
Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, who offered expert testimony to the committee, warned against right-wing media attempts to downplay the impact of the hearings, noting how the pro-Trump outlet FoxNews was again broadcasting images of migrant caravans rather than the committee’s findings of their former star rating.
“Nothing is more threatening to criminals than an investigation,” she said.
“From a governance perspective, it’s very good that the committee is exposing the details of the plot to overthrow the government,” Troy said. Signing time. âThis is what constitutional democracies should do, and we must do it to clearly demonstrate that we still aspire to be. From a propaganda perspective, it is unclear what effects, if any, these hearings may have on people who do not believe anything bad happened that day.â
Anne Nelson, author of Phantom NetworkTold Signing time that âhearings are critically importantâ but âeven more important is to find out what the instigators of the insurgency have done since â to prepare for their next attempt â and to take action to defend our democracyâ .
Journalist and author of How to stop fascism Paul Mason agrees, saying Signing time: “It was a confident American democracy at work: naming the crime, naming the culprits and with meticulous documentation”.
But he noted that “American democracy is under siege, more fragile than it admits, and in the next step – which must surely involve federal prosecutions – advocates of justice must not hesitate to impose sanctions on convicted persons”.
Mason argued that “any Republican politician still standing up for Trump has mentally crossed the threshold of the next insurrection.”
“The world is watching,” said Bennie Thompson. âOur democracy remains in dangerâ.
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