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'Trump at Centre of this Conspiracy' Says Chairman of Panel Probing US Capitol Riot

The committee, calling the riot an "attempted coup", also argued that it was triggered by Trump's repeated allegations of voter fraud following the 2020 Presidential election.

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The US House committee dedicated to investigating the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol building laid the blame firmly on former President Donald Trump, with the panel labelling the siege an “attempted coup.”

The committee argued that the attack was a result of Trump’s repeated and unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

What happened during the hearing?

“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Republican Representative Liz Cheney said. Cheney called Trump’s bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory a “sophisticated seven-point plan.”

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, accused Trump of being “at the centre of this conspiracy.”

“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,” he said.

The hearing featured never-before-seen video testimony from Trump’s family and close aides, many of whom were interviewed by the
committee remotely.

They started with a video interview with former Attorney General Bill Barr, who said he told Trump at the time that his fraud claims had no merit.

The panel also released audio from General Mark Milley, who testified that former Vice President Mike Pence dispatched the military and national guard to quell the riot rather than Trump.

Pence’s chief of staff told the committee that the former vice president’s loyalty is to the constitution, not Trump.

The panel also presented graphic new footage of the riot, showing people rushing out of Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office.

Police officer, documentary filmmaker testify

A police officer assaulted during the riot, Caroline Edwards, shared her testimony. She had cracked her head on the Capitol steps and spoke of her “literal blood, sweat and tears… shed that day defending the building that I spent countless holidays and weekends working in.”

She also said she was insulted in the days following the siege.

Documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who was tracking the far-right Proud Boys group’s movement on that day, also testified. He said he “was surprised at the size of the group, the anger, the profanity.”

The panel presented accounts from Trump’s family members and aides, including Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Trump has derided the probe as a “witch hunt.”

Many Republicans in Congress have downplayed the investigation and the riot ahead of critical midterm elections this fall. The party tried unsuccessfully to challenge its legitimacy in the courts partly because the committee’s nine-member panel was comprised of seven Democrats and two moderate Republicans, excluding anyone who had voted against certifying the election results on January 6.

Biden says riot violated Constitution

President Joe Biden, who was attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, said viewers of the hearing “are going to be seeing for the first time a lot of the detail that occurred.”

“I think it was a clear, flagrant violation of the Constitution,” Biden said.

The investigation also faces a challenge in convincing the American public that its findings still matter amid soaring inflation, high gas prices and the continued consequences of the COVID pandemic.

There will be a least five other hearings over the course of June. The panel has not said what it plans to do after the hearings, but at least one more presentation and a final report are expected later in the year.

This article was first published on DW.