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US Capitol riot hearings to put focus on Trump aides' words

US Capitol riot hearings to put focus on Trump aides' words

FILE PHOTO: A mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON: The hearings on the 2021 assault on the US Capitol by Donald Trump supporters will spotlight testimony by the former president's top aides and family as a House committee seeks to convince Americans the riot was an planned attack on democracy.

After almost a year of investigation, the US House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the Jan 6 Attack enters a new phase on Thursday (Jun 9) with a prime-time hearing that will include videotaped testimony from senior Trump White House officials and campaign officials, committee aides said.

"We will be revealing that the violence of Jan 6 was the result of a coordinated, 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 the former president, Donald Trump, was at the center of that effort," said an aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview the hearing.

Since leaving office, Trump has kept up his false claims that his defeat was the result of widespread fraud, an assertion that has been rejected by multiple courts, state election officials and members of his own administration.

Close Trump associates who have spoken to the committee include his son Donald Jr., daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Attorney General William Barr and senior aides to former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump, who is publicly flirting with another White House run in 2024, in a Thursday statement dismissed the committee as "political Thugs."

The session is scheduled for 8pm EDT (2400 GMT).

It will feature two in-person witnesses, US Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards, who sustained a traumatic brain injury in the attack, and Nick Quested, a filmmaker who captured footage of the far-right Proud Boys group, accused of planning the deadly attack.

A total of six hearings are expected this month as the Democratic-led committee attempts to reverse Republican efforts to downplay or deny the violence of the attack, with five months to go until the Nov. 8 midterm elections that will determine which party controls both the House and the Senate for the next two years.

Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide. The Capitol sustained millions of dollars in damage.

The committee wants to make the case not just that Jan 6 was planned with the cooperation of members of Trump's inner circle, but that there is an ongoing threat to US democracy.

"As I said, when it was occurring and subsequent, I think, a clear, flagrant violation of the Constitution," Biden told reporters on Thursday. "I think these guys and women broke the law, tried to turn around the result of an election.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday underscored the partisan lens through which many Americans view the assault.

About 55 per cent of Republicans believe the false claim that left-wing protesters led the attack, and 58 per cent said they believed most of the protesters were law abiding.

A Republican candidate for Michigan governor was arrested on Thursday on misdemeanor charges related to his participation in the Jan 6 riot.

Two Republican Georgia state election officials that Trump tried to pressure to "find" votes that would overturn his election defeat will testify to the hearings later this month, a source familiar said.

'IF WE CAN REACH PEOPLE'

"Our democracy is on more tenuous ground than it was on Jan 6," Representative Adam Schiff, one of seven panel Democrats, told reporters on Wednesday. "We will succeed if we can reach people with an open mind, if we can awaken the American public to the threat that still exists to our democracy."

The major networks NBC, CBS and ABC plan to air the hearing live, but Fox News, a favorite of Trump's supporters, will not carry it on its main channel.

There are two Republican members on the committee, Representatives Liz Cheney, its vice chair, and Adam Kinzinger.

Some congressional Republicans condemned Trump in the first days after the attack, but since then almost all have shifted their tone.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday called the committee was a "smokescreen" for Democrats to push dramatic changes to voting laws. "It is the most political and least legitimate committee in American history," he said.

When Republicans controlled Congress, there were at least 10 investigations of the 2012 attack on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in which four people died. The probes and hearings lasted over much of the next four years and were used as a political cudgel against then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she unsuccessfully ran for president against Trump.

Source: Reuters

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