Politics

January 6 committee to allege Trump was at centre of US Capitol attack


The committee investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol will argue that former president Donald Trump was at the centre of a “co-ordinated, multi-step effort” to overturn the 2020 election result, in a rare televised hearing on Thursday intended to refocus public attention on the riots.

In a 90-minute primetime broadcast, members of Congress will sum up their initial findings on how the events of January 6 2021 unfolded, setting out why they think it was an organised conspiracy rather than a protest that spiralled out of control.

The event, which officials hope will have echoes of the explosive Watergate hearings of the 1970s, follows a year-long investigation in which the bipartisan committee interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and gathered more than 140,000 documents, aides said on Wednesday.

“We will be revealing new details showing that the violence of January 6 was the result of a co-ordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden — and indeed that President Donald Trump was at the centre of that effort,” an aide to the committee said.

“Tomorrow . . . will bring the American people back to the reality of that violence and remind them just how horrific it was,” the person added.

Thursday’s broadcast will offer a rare window into the events of January 6, in which a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of Biden’s election victory. Five people died during or soon after the violence, including a protester who was shot by police and a police officer who clashed with Trump supporters.

The hearing will give the majority-Democratic committee a chance to revive the issue of the insurrection in voters’ minds ahead of November’s midterm elections, while also possibly having an effect on 2024’s presidential election, with Trump continuing to signal that he might run.

Most of the group’s work has been done in secret, though many of the findings have been reported during the process, and there have been some prosecutions.

Last week, Peter Navarro, Trump’s former trade adviser, was charged with contempt of Congress after failing to comply with a subpoena from the committee. His indictment followed a similar charge against Steve Bannon, another former Trump adviser, whose trial is due to start next month.

Thursday’s session will feature in-person evidence from two people, according to committee staff. One is Caroline Edwards, a Capitol police officer who was injured during the riots. The second is Nick Quested, who is making a documentary about the far-right group the Proud Boys and was filming as violence broke out.

Much of the committee’s work has focused on the roles played by the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, another far-right group, in carrying out the violence.

The leaders of both groups have been charged with sedition in recent months, and those close to the committee say members have been trying to find out if they were given any assistance by people close to Trump.

Video testimony by Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter, and her husband Jared Kushner, will also be shown, according to people briefed on the proceedings. The committee has brought in James Goldston, the former president of ABC News, to help it craft the hearings, of which more are expected.

“Their job will be to tell us a good story which we did not know already,” said Norman Eisen, a former US ambassador who advised the Congressional committee that conducted Trump’s first impeachment.

Some have compared this moment with the public hearings into the Watergate scandal, which uncovered new information and explained the story to the American public, who watched in their millions.

This time, however, the viewership is likely to be lower, not least because Fox News, the rightwing channel that boasts more viewers than any other, is not covering the hearings.

Norman Ornstein, a political scientist who has studied political extremism in the US, said: “The audience for these hearings is not the 60 per cent of Republicans who believe Trump won, it is the 30-40 per cent who don’t.

“There are also an awful lot of swing voters who may learn a lot here which will jolt them and frighten them.”



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