Living in Society

First Night of Jan. 6, 2021 Hearings

Our television tuned to C-SPAN for first Jan. 6 Committee hearing.

C-SPAN filled the half hour before the Jan. 6 committee hearing with Republicans whining about how Democrats were the worst. House Minority Leader Mark Meadows reviewed how many days remain until the midterm election (153) and made it clear House Republicans will delay and obfuscate until then. Meadows didn’t say it specifically yet they predict regaining majorities in both legislative chambers. This will position Republicans to return to their radical agenda. God help us.

The benefit of the televised hearing was the committee created a narrative of what happened before and on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The piecemeal manner in which information had been published as it became known made it difficult for regular citizens to make sense of it. This hearing was a remedy for that. Some things are very clear.

Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. His advisors, including Attorney General Bill Barr testified they repeatedly told him he lost, beginning in November 2020. While under pressure to do so, Vice President Mike Pence did not delay the Constitutionally required electoral ballot count as Trump requested publicly and privately. Chants of “hang Pence” were heard on video footage presented by the committee. When the violence subsided, the count was made, indicating Donald Trump lost the election.

Trump supported the violence. “Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea,’” Liz Cheney (R-WYO) said. “Mike Pence ‘deserves’ it.’”

When repeatedly asked to call off the mob breaching the capitol, the president declined to do so for a number of hours. In evidence presented during the hearing, Trump encouraged the mob to assault the capitol and stop the vote counting.

“The violence was no accident,” Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said as he opened the hearing. “It represented Trump’s last, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power. 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.”

The events around storming the capitol building were violent. We heard testimony from Caroline Edwards, a Capitol police officer who was injured while defending a barricade. 140 security personnel were injured. There was video footage of violent conflict and use of force to gain entry to the capitol. The video erased any doubt this was a peaceful demonstration gone wrong as some have asserted.

There was a crude yet clear plan for what to do. The Proud Boys, an American far-right, Neo-fascist organization that promotes and engages in political violence in the United States, planned to assault the capitol building. The morning of Jan. 6, they assembled near it, not on the Ellipse, where Donald Trump was to give his speech. The Proud Boys played a leadership role in planning and executing the tactics of the day’s events. Thus far, five leaders of the group were federally indicted on seditious conspiracy charges. Many other members and affiliates have been indicted on lesser charges. There could be more.

The two-hour hearing drained my energy yet I stuck with it until the end. President Trump was so far off the reservation with his lies about the 2020 election and his efforts to subvert it I needed the hearing to regain some sense of reasonable discourse. We will never be the same after the Trump presidency. It is hard to find a silver lining in that thunderstorm.