UPDATE: The chairman of the Jan. 6 commission opened his prime-time hearing by blaming former President Donald Trump for the attack and suggesting it was a pre-planned attempt to overthrow democracy.
“Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the committee, in his opening remarks.
He said it was “the culmination of a coup attempt, a brazen attempt”.
Thompson looked directly at the camera, as he introduced himself to viewers and, recalling his past from his home country, noting that he grew up in an environment where people tried to justify the actions of the KKK. He compared the voices trying to “justify the actions of the insurgents on January 6, 2021.
Thompson’s opening also included a clip of video testimony from former Attorney General William Barr, who told the committee that he told Trump his claim that the election was stolen was “bullshit.” In another clip, shared by the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Barr said he told the president he had seen “no evidence of fraud.” In another clip, Ivanka Trump said she “agreed” with what Barr was saying. In the courtroom, the clips played on a large screen above the committee members.
Cheney said Trump “oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to nullify the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”
She also said that Trump, responding to calls from Jan. 6 rioters to “hang” Mike Pence, said privately: “Maybe our supporters have the idea for the riot. Mike Pence deserves it.
Cheney also placed Trump’s actions in historical context, noting that Trump was the first president in history to attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.
PREVIOUSLY: The Jan. 6 commission chairman, getting his first prime time, plans to start the hearing by warning that “our democracy remains in jeopardy.”
“We can’t sweep what happened under the rug,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said. “The American people deserve answers.”
Addressing his remarks to the public, Thompson said the hearing, the first of six scheduled over the next few weeks, “will remind you of the reality of what happened that day. But our work must do more than just look back. Because our democracy remains in danger. The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over.
Thursday’s event could be less important for potential bombshells and more as a way to get the public’s attention back, with the benefit of a high-profile timeslot and broadcast network coverage. and cable news, with the exception of Fox News Channel, which hijacked live coverage of their business network. Unlike other committee hearings, which have typically deferred lawmaker seniority, this hearing was expected to be a greater mix of video segments and witness testimony, with former ABC News chairman James Goldston pledging to help with the presentation.
About 100 members of the media were accredited to cover the hearing in person in the Cannon Caucus Room, a majestic, chandeliered venue that, according to House history, was the site of hearings into the anti-American activities of the Bedroom. Some House members not on the committee were rounded up as spectators, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D_WA) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN).
The January 6 panel has already held a hearing and public affairs meetings, but as public interest may wane, there is some pressure on the panel to present a narrative of its findings, in the hope that some of the blame will fall on former President Donald Trump.
Trump allies have dismissed the committee itself as a partisan exercise, even though it contains two Republicans, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who have broken with the orthodoxy of their party, which has been denying the importance of January 6 – or embracing conspiracy theories about its cause. The former speaker was aided by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who lambasted the hearing earlier Thursday, and Fox News’ three primetime hosts Tucker Carlson , Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, whose broadcasts will not be previewed despite a major news item. They were expected to attack and even mock the committee, as they have done in the past, but Hannity and Ingraham found themselves in the panel’s investigation. Cheney read texts last year that Fox personalities sent to then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as the attack unfolded on Jan. 6, urging him to try to convince Trump to try to put an end to it.
Fox News’ decision to forgo its main network coverage has drawn heavy criticism from lawmakers and media critics. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke in the Senate earlier Thursday and called Fox News’ decision “cowardly” and one that should “put an end to any debate about the fact that they are not a real press organization”.
“Fox News is a hard-right propaganda machine and it’s obvious they’re afraid their viewers will learn the truth about January 6th,” he said, saying they had “isolated their viewers in an alternate reality of conspiracy theories”. .”