Capitol riot hearing: Donald Trump accused of orchestrating US riot in ‘attempted coup’

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The House panel investigating the riot on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 laid the blame on the former president

Former US President Donald Trump has been accused of orchestrating the riot in the Capitol, a congressional inquiry has heard.

The House panel investigating the incident on 6 January 2021, which saw Trump supporters storm Congress as lawmakers met to certify Joe Biden’s election victory, said the assault was not spontaneous but an “attempted coup”.

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The committee added that the attack was a direct result of the defeated president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

The crowd of pro-Trump rioters left more than 100 police officers injured, many beaten and bloodied, after charging into the Capitol last year, some armed with pipes, bats and bear spray. At least nine people died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot and killed by police.

Former US PresidentDonald Trump has been accused of orchestrating the riot in the Capitol on 6 January 2021 (Photo: Getty Images)Former US PresidentDonald Trump has been accused of orchestrating the riot in the Capitol on 6 January 2021 (Photo: Getty Images)
Former US PresidentDonald Trump has been accused of orchestrating the riot in the Capitol on 6 January 2021 (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

What was said at the hearing?

After almost a year of investigation, the US House of Representatives select committee showed footage of a never-before-seen 12-minute video of the deadly violence and testimony from Trump’s most inner circle.

The committee said the former president’s repeated lies about election fraud and his public effort to stop Joe Biden’s victory led to the attack and imperilled American democracy.

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Congressman Bennie Thompson, chairman of the panel, said during the hearing: “Democracy remains in danger.

“January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident.”

The panel also played a previously unseen video clip of former attorney general Bill Barr  quip who testified that he told Mr Trump the claims of a rigged election were “bull****”.

In another, the former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, testified to the committee that she respected Mr Barr’s view that there was no election fraud.

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Others showed leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers and Proud Boys preparing to storm the Capitol to stand up for Mr Trump.

Documentary maker Nick Quested, who filmed the Proud Boys storming the Capitol, along with a pivotal meeting between the group’s then-chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and the Oath Keepers the night before in a nearby parking garage, was among those testifying.

Court documents show members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were discussing a need to fight to keep Trump in office as early as November. Leaders of both groups and some members have since been indicted on rare sedition charges over the military-style attack.

Testifying in person was one of the police officers, Caroline Edwards, who suffered serious injuries after battling the mob that stormed into the Capitol.

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‘Trump summoned a mob’

Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the committee, said Trump had "lit the flame of this attack", telling the panel: “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.

"President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.

“When a president fails to take the steps necessary to preserve our union — or worse, causes a constitutional crisis — we’re in a moment of maximum danger for our republic.”

Ms Chesney read an account that said when Trump was told the Capitol mob was chanting for vice president Mike Pence to be hanged, he responded that maybe they were right and that he “deserves it”, prompting an audible gasp in the hearing room.

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Trump was angry that Pence, presiding in the House chamber, refused his order to reject the certification of Biden’s victory.

Police officers who had fought off the mob consoled one another as they sat in the committee room reliving the violence they had faced last year, and officer Harry Dunn began to cry as bodycam footage showed rioters bludgeoning his colleagues with flagpoles and baseball bats.

President Biden, in Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas, said many viewers were “going to be seeing for the first time a lot of the detail that occurred”.

Trump, unapologetic, dismissed the investigation anew and declared on social media that 6 January “represented the greatest movement in the history of our country”.

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Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted: “All. Old. News.”

The Select Committee showed videos of the rioters on 6 January (Photo: Getty Images)The Select Committee showed videos of the rioters on 6 January (Photo: Getty Images)
The Select Committee showed videos of the rioters on 6 January (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

What happens next?

In the weeks ahead, the panel is expected to detail Trump’s public campaign to “Stop the Steal” and the private pressure he put on the Justice Department to reverse his election loss, despite dozens of failed court cases and his own attorney general saying there was no fraud on a scale that could have tipped the results in his favour.

The hearings are expected to hear testimony from more Americans regarding what they said and did as Trump and his allies tried to reverse the election outcome.

The public will also learn about the actions of Mark Meadows, the then president’s chief of staff, whose 2,000-plus text messages provided the committee with a snapshot of the real-time scramble to keep Trump in office.

The US Justice Department has arrested and charged more than 800 people for the violence on 6 January.

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