US Capitol riot hearing reopens Republican Party divisions

Senior GOP figures point fingers at Nancy Pelosi for security failings on day of attack

The US Capitol Building. Photograph: Samuel Corum/Getty

The US Capitol Building. Photograph: Samuel Corum/Getty

 

Senior Republicans blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the attack on the US Capitol and refrained from criticising former president Donald Trump as the committee hearing into the incident got under way in Washington. ”On January 6th these brave [police] officers were put into a vulnerable and impossible position because the leadership at the top failed,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters.

New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who replaced Liz Cheney as the head of the House Republican Conference, said that “Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility as Speaker of the House for the tragedy that occurred on January 6th,” arguing that she should have been prepared for the security breaches that occurred that day.

The inquiry into the events of January 6th in Washington DC has reopened divisions within the Republican party.

The mob that ransacked the Capitol had attended a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House just before the riot unfolded, and the former president was impeached for his role in inciting the violence.

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, Mr McCarthy said that Mr Trump “bears some responsibility” for the riot, though since then he has remained close to the former president, visiting him in Mar-a-Lago.

Two Republicans – Wyoming representative Liz Cheney and Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger – have joined the committee in defiance of the Republican leadership, pledging to establish the truth about what happened that day.

Finding the truth

Speaking during the hearing, a visibly upset Mr Kinzinger said the mission of the committee was “to find the truth and ensure accountability.”

“I am a Republican, I am a conservative, but in order to heal from the damage caused that day, we need to call out the facts. It’s time to stop the outrage and conspiracies that fuel violence and division in our country, and most importantly, we need to reject those that promote it.”

Millions of Trump supporters continue to believe that President Joe Biden was not the rightful winner of last year’s presidential election, a false theory that is still promulgated by the former president.

Mr Kinzinger also dismissed the comparison between the events of January 6th with the protests that took place across American cities last year in the wake of the George Floyd murder that has been made by many Republicans.

“There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law,” he said.

Opening proceedings yesterday committee chairman Bennie Thompson pledged to “follow the facts where they lead us” and said there was “no place for politics or partisanship” in the investigation.

But he said that there were already facts that were widely known. “We know there is evidence it was a co-ordinated, planned attack. We know that men and women who stormed the Capitol wanted to derail the peaceful transfer of power in this country.”

He played a video montage of the day, containing new disturbing footage of the events.

Kidnap or kill

Four police officers who were attacked on January 6th as they tried to defend the Capitol recounted their experience to the hushed committee room yesterday.

Officer Daniel Hodges described being beaten on his face, and being told he would “die on your knees” if he didn’t side with the insurrectionists. Video of him being crushed between doors by the protesters as he screamed was widely shared in the aftermath of the riot. He said he believed that the intent of the demonstrators was to kidnap or kill someone.

Another officer, Harry Dunn, was subject to a string of racial slurs, recalling that he had been called the “N word” by a group of demonstrators.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Thompson said that no additional hearings had yet been scheduled, but it is possible that lawmakers will be called back early to Washington during the August recess.

“I think this was a really important opportunity to get some facts on the table and hear directly from heroes who protected us that day.”