The previously unseen video footage, testimony, and documentary evidence presented during a primetime U.S. House hearing Thursday night made the case that the January 6 assault on the Capitol last year was part of an organized attempt—spearheaded by former President Donald Trump—to subvert the results of the 2020 election and install an illegitimate government.
Aired live by virtually every major news network except Fox News, the most-watched channel in the United States, the hearing opened with a statement from the chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, which has been wielding congressional authority to probe the 2021 insurrection and the role that Trump, his White House staff, his outside allies, and Republican lawmakers played in the violent attempt to prevent certification of President Joe Biden's election win.
"Donald Trump had his days in court to challenge the results," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in his remarks kicking off the hearing, the first in a series that's set to run through July. "He was within his rights to seek those judgments. In the United States, law-abiding citizens have those tools for pursuing justice. He lost in the courts just as he did at the ballot box. And in this country, that's the end of the line."
"But for Donald Trump, that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans—your votes, your voice in our democracy—and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended. Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy," Thompson continued. "January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup."
The hearing featured the familiar case that Trump's falsehood-riddled speech just ahead of the Capitol attack as well as his repeated lies about the election results in the preceding weeks helped spur the violence that took place on January 6, delaying—but ultimately not preventing—Congress from making Biden's victory official despite the objections of dozens of House and Senate Republicans.
"Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful president," said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice-chair of the House panel. "President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack."
During her remarks, Cheney said that Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., was among "multiple" Republican members of Congress who sought presidential pardons from Trump "for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election." Cheney hinted that additional evidence on the pardon requests will be revealed at future hearings.
Interspersed between Thompson and Cheney's statements were clips of testimony from Trump allies and officials directly involved with the former president's months-long campaign to cast doubt on and ultimately toss the 2020 results.
"I told the president it was bullshit," former Attorney General William Barr, who in late 2020 helped bolster Trump's baseless election fraud claims, tells committee investigators in one clip. "I didn't want to be a part of it."
While Trump himself—who has tried to obstruct the panel's investigation at every turn—has not been called to testify, Thursday's hearing highlighted video comments from his daughter Ivanka Trump, who told investigators that she accepted Barr's assessment of her father's claims.
"I respect Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he was saying," she said.
The hearing also included in-person testimony from British documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who was embedded with the far-right, Trump-aligned Proud Boys in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. Five members of the group—whose ranks grew significantly in 2020—were indicted on charges of seditious conspiracy earlier this week over their involvement in the Capitol assault.
"For anyone who didn't understand how violent that event was—I saw it, I documented it, and I experienced it," Quested told committee members.
Lisa Gilbert, the executive vice president of Public Citizen, said in a statement following the hearing that "the sober investigative facts and gripping video presented by the bipartisan committee simply speaks for itself."
"All reasonable Americans should be feeling disgust at what we learned tonight, as well as passionate interest in the facts and evidence that will be unveiled next," added Gilbert. "When these hearings conclude, we expect action. It is long past time for accountability and a reckoning for the perpetrators."
Stand Up America executive director Christina Harvey similarly argued that Thursday's hearing offered "further evidence of the undeniable conspiracy to overthrow the will of the American people."
"Tonight's hearing made clear that the attack on our country on January 6th, 2021 was not random," said Harvey, "it was designed and orchestrated by Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans to block the peaceful transfer of power and overthrow an election that even Trump's attorney general and his own family testified they knew that he had lost."