The first January 6 committee hearing was a searing indictment of the GOP’s lies about the fatal Capitol attack

A US Capitol Police officer, Aquilino Gonell, wiping away tears.
U.S. Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell wipes his eye as he watches a video being displayed during a House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Jim Bourg/Pool via AP)
  • The first House Jan. 6 committee hearing was a disaster for Republicans.
  • Four police officers who fought off the pro-Trump mob ripped into the GOP for downplaying the riot.
  • “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” one officer said, slamming his hand on the table.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The first hearing held by the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection exemplified why Republicans have pushed so hard against a probe into the Capitol attack.

The hearing was a disaster for Republicans. It was an emotionally raw indictment of former President Donald Trump and his GOP defenders.

The four police officers who were called to testify on their experiences defending the Capitol repeatedly slammed GOP efforts to whitewash the insurrection. They called out Republicans who portray themselves as pro-law enforcement but won’t fully acknowledge the violence officers were subjected to on January 6. And they explicitly blamed the insurrection on Trump at a time when the GOP continues to defer to the twice-impeached president like the party’s Supreme Leader.

“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” DC Police Officer Michael Fanone said, slamming his fist on the table as he excoriated Republicans who’ve downplayed the insurrection. “Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so, betray their oath of office.”

‘Terrorists’

Video footage shown by lawmakers during the hearing showed in gruesome detail the brutal violence officers faced at the hands of the pro-Trump mob on January 6. The officers were mercilessly beaten, their weapons were taken from them, and the rioters pelted them with racial slurs – including the n-word – as they feared for their lives.

One such clip showed DC Police Officer Daniel Hodges screaming as he was crushed by a door.

When asked about Republicans attempting to downplay the riot by describing the insurrections as “tourists,” Hodges said, “Well, if that’s what American tourists are like, I can see why foreign countries don’t like American tourists.”

Hodges, who repeatedly referred to the insurrectionists as “terrorists,” later on said to the panel, “I need you guys to address if anyone in power had a role in this, if anyone in power coordinated or aided and abetted or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of this terrorist attack. Because we can’t do it.”

US Capitol Police Officer Harry A. Dunn, who recounted the racist abuse he faced from the pro-Trump mob, toward the end of the hearing remarked at the fact that the only two Republicans on the committee were being lauded as courageous for telling the truth about the insurrection as the rest of their party vies to rewrite history.

“Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes. And while I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard? I guess in this America, it is,” Dunn said.

Dunn likened the January 6 insurrection to a murder committed by a hired hitman.

“If a hitman is hired, and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to the jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, but the person who hired him does,” Dunn said. “There was an attack carried out on January 6th and a hitman sent them.”

Earlier in his testimony, Dunn said that when he confronted the rioters and told them to leave the Capitol they yelled in response, “‘President Trump invited us here. We’re here to stop the steal.'” Shortly thereafter, Dunn said he faced a “torrent of racial epithets.”

‘It was an attempted coup’

US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, who was beaten with a flagpole during the insurrection, did not hold back when asked to react to the fact that Trump described the violent mob he unleashed on the Capitol as a “loving crowd.”

“It’s upsetting,” Gonell said of Trump’s words. “It’s a pathetic excuse for his behavior, for something that he himself helped to create, this monstrosity.”

“To me, it’s insulting, it’s demoralizing because everything that we did was to prevent everyone in the Capitol from getting hurt. And what he was doing instead of sending the military, instead of sending the support, or telling his people, his supporters to stop this nonsense, he egged them to continue fighting,” Gonell, who like many others became emotional during the hearing, said of Trump.

Trump gave a lie-filled speech near the White House before the riot began, repeating false claims about the election results and urging his supporters to march on the Capitol. As the violence unfolded, Trump for hours did nothing to quell the unrest. He eventually told his supporters to go home, but did so while calling the insurrectionists “very special” as he continued to falsely assert that the election was stolen.

“It was an attempted coup happening at the Capitol that day. If it was another country, the US would’ve sent help,” Gonell said.

Republicans are trying to rewrite history

Capitol Hill dystopian
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Outside of the hearing, Republicans continued to push lies about the insurrection – with GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York falsely stating that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “bears responsibility.”

GOP leaders have dismissed the inquiry as a partisan sham given most of the panel’s members are Democrats, though it was Senate Republicans who blocked the formation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection.

Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy put forward the names of five House Republicans to sit on the committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two – Trump loyalists Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio – and called for McCarthy to offer alternatives. Both Banks and Jordan objected to the certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory on January 6, effectively amplifying Trump’s lies about the election result that sparked the insurrection in the first place.

McCarthy announced that none of his picks would participate, stating that the GOP would move forward with its own inquiry.

But the vast majority of Republicans have repeatedly made it clear they’re not interested in getting to the bottom of what happened on January 6. Merely participating in such an effort could put them at odds with Trump and some of the most powerful forces in their party.