The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection held its first public hearing Thursday night, televised in primetime by all major networks except Fox News. We spend the hour featuring excerpts from the hearing, starting with Committee Chair Bennie Thompson’s opening statement, in which he argued January 6 was the “culmination of an attempted coup” by Donald Trump, comparing the insurrection to the ransacking of Washington, D.C., by British forces more than two centuries ago.
AMY GOODMAN: The House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection has accused Donald Trump of staging an attempted coup to overthrow the will of the American people by trying to overturn the 2020 election. In its first hearing, this one in primetime, the House committee revealed Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka, thought there was no basis for Trump’s claims of election fraud. The committee also revealed multiple Republican lawmakers who backed Trump’s attempted coup, including Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, sought presidential pardons after the January 6th insurrection.
New details also emerged about how two far-right groups — the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — led the insurrection at the Capitol, heeding a call from Trump for “wild” protests on January 6.
Today we spend the hour airing excerpts from this historic hearing. This is how the hearing began.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON: I’m Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6, 2021 committee. I was born, raised and still live in Bolton, Mississippi, a town with a population of 521, which is midway between Jackson and Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Mississippi River. I’m from a part of the country where people justify the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of the insurrectionists on January 6th, 2021.
AMY GOODMAN: January 6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson is the only African American in Mississippi’s congressional delegation. His district includes most of Jackson, and it’s the only majority-Black district in the state. He went on to talk in detail about what he described as Trump’s attempted coup.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON: Donald Trump lost the presidential election in 2020. The American people voted him out of office. It was not because of a rigged system. It was not because of voter fraud. Don’t believe me? Hear what his former attorney general had to say about it. I’ll warn those who — watching that this contains strong language.
WILLIAM BARR: Now, just what I — I’ve been — I’ve had — I had three discussions with the president that I can recall. One was on November 23rd, one was on December 1st, and one was on December 14th. And I’ve been through sort of the give-and-take of those discussions. And in that context, I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bull [bleep], and, you know, I didn’t want to be a part of it. And that’s one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did. I observed — I think it was on December 1st — that, you know, how can we — he can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that the election — that there was fraud in the election.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON: Bill Barr, on Election Day 2020, he was the attorney general of the United States, the top law enforcement official in the country, telling the president exactly what he thought about claims of a stolen election.
Donald Trump had his days in court to challenge the results. 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. And ultimately, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.
Any legal jargon you hear about “seditious conspiracy,” “obstruction of an official proceeding,” “conspiracy to defraud the United States” boils down to this: January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6th, to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident. It represents Senate — Trump’s last stand, most desperate chance, to halt the transfer of power.
AMY GOODMAN: January 6th House Committee Chair Bennie Thompson at last night’s hearing. When we come back, we’ll hear from Vice Chair Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee.