“They hit me, grabbed me, and attacked me with tasers while calling me a traitor to my country.” Police officer Michael Fanone was initially composed when he read out his testimony on January 6th. On the first day of the Capitol attack hearing, he and three other security officials reported how hundreds of right-wing extremists and Trump supporters had broken into and attacked the House of Parliament. Fanone remembered someone shouting on Tuesday, “Kill him with his own gun!”
That the policeman survived is like a miracle for him and his family: he had a heart attack and a concussion, and lost consciousness. In front of the MPs and the cameras, the official showed how close the attack is to him – and how angry the attitude of many Trump supporters and politicians makes him. Fanone slapped his hand on the table and raised his voice when he shouted: “The indifference to my colleagues is repulsive!” Nothing prepared him for the confrontation with politicians who played down the events. In denying what happened on January 6, members of Congress betrayed their oath of office. “The same MPs I fought so desperately for their lives, offices and staff,” Fanone said.
Harry Dunn, a black Capitol Police officer, recalled racist attacks by the attackers, including the N-word. “For me, January 6th isn’t over for more than six months,” he said. The emotional and physical consequences continued for him and many of his colleagues.
Against the belittling
The hearing lasted three hours and formed the prelude to an investigation into the exact circumstances that led to the January 6th attack on the Capitol. The emotional and vivid statements of the police officers as well as video clips that have not yet been shown were intended to remind people of the seriousness of the crime.
Many conservatives continue to play down the violence as a spontaneously out of control demonstration. Trump had incited his supporters for months with lies about alleged “election fraud” – in Washington he had finally asked them to “fight like the devil”. Right-wing groups like the “Proud Boys” had already met online for weeks to “storm” the Capitol.
The body, which met for the first time in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, is a committee of inquiry that the Democrats established with a majority. Such a “select committee” consists of members of parliament and not of independent experts. Because of this, Republicans have an easier time discrediting it than partisan. A national commission of inquiry, similar to the one that investigated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had failed at the Senate. There the Republicans had used the “filibuster” process to stop the commission from being set up.
In the House of Representatives, they then nominated two Trump loyalists for the committee. The Chamber’s Democratic chief, Nancy Pelosi, turned down Jim Jordan from Illinois and Jim Banks from Indiana. Liz Cheney from Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger from Illinois took their place. Individual Republicans have already called for the two Republican Trump critics to be punished for participating by removing them from their other committees.
Cheney wants to investigate Trump’s actions
In this first session, Kinzinger thanked the four police officers and seemed to fight back tears when he said: “You won.” According to the MP, democracy is not defined by its worst days. Cheney used the day to once again position itself as a Republican alternative to Trump. She said at the meeting that the goal was “to know what was happening in the White House every single minute of that day.” Every phone call and conversation that Trump and his team had on January 6th must be analyzed.
Congress must behave responsibly: If the attack is not fully cleared up, “a cancer” will remain in the republic. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is politically right-wing conservative, but is one of the few politicians in her party who openly criticize Trump and also voted for his impeachment. In return, Cheney had lost her post in the parliamentary group in the spring.
After the meeting on Tuesday, she told CNN that what happened on January 6th was “absolutely clear”. Trump had “lit the flame” that led to the violent attack on the Capitol. It is a shame that many Republicans deny the former president’s responsibility. Cheney named Elise Stefanik, her successor in the parliamentary group leadership, and minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who treated the investigation as a kind of “political game”. “It’s not a game and it’s dead serious trying to divert attention from an investigation like this,” she said. The Republicans would be at a crossroads: if they continued to play down the January 6 attack, they would say goodbye to the rule of law and the foundations of democracy.
Several MPs around Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia and Matt Gaetz from Florida had previously demonstrated how far they are ready to go for Trump. While the police inside described how Trump’s hordes nearly killed them, the Republicans held a press conference on Capitol Hill. They claimed that most of the demonstrators were “peaceful” on January 6th. Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar called attackers in custody “political prisoners” who were “ill-treated”.