Forces behind US Capitol riots ‘remain at work today’, Biden says

Congressional committee says attack on US Capitol by Trump supporters was ‘culmination of attempted coup’

The attack on the US Capitol on January 6th last year by supporters of former president Donald Trump was “the culmination of an attempted coup”, a congressional committee of investigation has maintained.

Speaking in Los Angeles the day after the committee held a closely watched hearing, the US president Joe Biden said he remained worried about the fallout from the events at the Capitol.

“It’s important the American people understand what truly happened, and to understand that the same forces that led January 6th remain at work today,” Mr Biden said.

“We’re seeing how the battle for the soul of America has been far from won. But I know together, and I mean this, we can unite and defend this nation, Democrat and Republican, allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.”

The president said he did not end up watching the hearing, which will continue on Monday.

In the dramatic public hearing on Thursday night the committee said there would be evidence Mr Trump suggested that perhaps his vice-president, Mike Pence, deserved to be hanged, as his supporters at the Capitol were demanding.

The chairman of the committee, Democrat Bennie Thompson, said Mr Trump was at the centre of “a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election” that he had lost to Joe Biden several weeks earlier.

The committee maintained at the public hearing that Mr Trump had been told repeatedly by advisers — including by his attorney general — there was no basis for the former president’s contention that his defeat in the election had been brought about by fraud.

In filmed testimony to the committee, Bill Barr, Mr Trump’s attorney general until late 2020, said: “I told the president it was bulls**t. I didn’t want to be a part of it.”

Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, told the committee in recorded evidence she “accepted” Mr Barr’s conclusion and that it affected her perspective on the issue.

The committee said when the attack on the Capitol on January 6th — where politicians were scheduled to certify the victory of Mr Biden — took place, Mr Trump resisted calls by his aides to get his supporters to disperse.

It said the president gave no order to deploy the national guard to reinforce police at the Capitol.

Vice-chair of the committee Liz Cheney, a republican, said there would be evidence that as some of the crowd at the Capitol chanted “hang Mike Pence”, the president responded with the sentiment that “maybe our supporters have the right idea”.

“Mike Pence, quote, ‘deserves it.’ ”

Ms Cheney said “not only did president Trump refuse to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, he placed no call to any element of the United States government to instruct that the Capitol be defended”.

“He did not call his secretary of defense on January 6th. He did not talk to his attorney general. He did not talk to the Department of homeland security.”

“President Trump gave no order to deploy the national guard that day, and he made no effort to work with the Department of Justice to co-ordinate and display and deploy law enforcement.”

“It was vice-president Mike Pence who made those calls”, she said.

The committee also said right-wing extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were influenced by Mr Trump’s comments. It said they considered his call on supporters to convene in Washington on January 6th as a call to arms.

Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards, who was injured in the January 6th riot, testified about “slipping in people’s blood” as the protests descended into hand-to-hand combat.

“Never in my wildest dream did I think as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, that I would find myself in the middle of a battle,” she said. She added: “I’m not combat trained. That day, it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat, hours of dealing with things that were way beyond anything any law enforcement officer is ever trained for.” Additional reporting: Guardian

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent