January 6th Select Committee's First Hearing Was A Necessary Reminder

[ Posted Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 – 16:39 UTC ]

Today the House's new January 6th Select Committee convened for the first time and held its first hearing. Today's initial hearing was all about setting the stage for what is to come, explaining why such an investigation is necessary, and countering all the Republican gaslighting that has been attempted of late by instead reminding the country of exactly what did happen that day. It was brutal -- the videos played (once again) showed an out-of-control mob hellbent on harming sworn police officers while storming the seat of democracy, in an effort to overturn an election result they didn't like. Just like we all saw with our own eyes on that dark day.

The committee purposefully called four prominent police officers who served on the front lines during the attempted insurrection. All told their firsthand stories, and all expressed their desire that the committee get to the bottom of what happened so it can never happen again. These were not the high brass or the Pentagon officials we've already heard from in much more restricted investigations (much narrower in scope), these were the guys who actually put their own lives on the line to protect not only the congressmen in both chambers, but also all the aides and staffers who work in the building every day. They had a much more visceral story to tell than their bosses, to put this another way.

Much of the day was spent pre-emptively refuting all the Republican attempts to rewrite the past into something different than what every citizen actually saw that day. This parade of nonsense includes: The insurrectionists were "just tourists." They were not armed. They weren't actually supporters of Donald Trump but instead members of Black Lives Matter or Antifa. They greeted the police with "hugs and kisses." Above and beyond all these fantasy stories, Republicans have been urging everyone to just "move on," because investigating the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol since 1814 was somehow not worth the time, to them. Their attitude, in fact, is downright cliché: "Nothing to see here... move along...."

One of the biggest recent lies being told is that the committee is "too partisan." The two Republicans on the panel refuted this by their very presence, and they both took the time to explain how partisanship itself was simply inappropriate when investigating an attack of this magnitude, and furthermore that discovering and revealing the truth was a higher calling than loyalty to any political party. Sadly, they seem to be the only two Republicans in the entire House who still think so.

Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House Republicans, pulled all his picks for the committee after Nancy Pelosi scratched two of them, which meant that the only Republicans on the committee were two sober-minded individuals who are indeed seeking the truth. What this meant in a practical sense was there was zero gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, or (to be a bit more modern) zero shouting matches instigated by GOP representatives auditioning for a spot on Fox News. Which was a welcome change indeed (speaking as someone who has watched a number of hearings with the likes of Jim Jordan on the panels). There were no tirades from some Bizarro World alternate reality where up is down and Nancy Pelosi was somehow responsible for the crowd that was actively hunting her -- with kidnapping, beating, and perhaps execution on their minds. There were no such side journeys into the fantastical, instead we just got video footage of the actual events and police officers telling how they fought back against these domestic enemies of the U.S. Constitution.

Several moments of the testimony by the four officers stood out, to me. Daniel Hodges was resolute in naming who he was fighting that day -- as far as he was concerned they were terrorists, plain and simple. And as he pointed out, he came prepared to defend this characterization, by reading the legal definition:

U.S. Code title 18, part 1, chapter 113-B (as in brown), section 2331: The term domestic terrorism means activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state and, B, appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily during the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

The only part of that legal definition that is even open to debate (as to whether it applies to the 1/6 mob or not) is the part about intending to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population." All the rest fits the insurrectionists perfectly. To a "T" (as in treasonous terrorist). Hodges is right: they were, by definition, domestic terrorists.

The words treason, treasonous, and traitor came up repeatedly, in fact. Because it is undeniable on the face of it that the mob was committing treason against their own government, in an attempt to halt the peaceful transfer of power between one presidential administration and the next. If the shoe fits....

The most poignant moment, for me, was when Officer Harry Dunn explained at the very end what he would like the committee to accomplish. He used the metaphor of a hired assassin: "If a hit man is hired and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail,” he said, "but not only does the hit man go to jail, but the person who hired them does [too]." This was a not-so-veiled reference to the sitting president at the time, Donald Trump.

Several people, starting with Representative Liz Cheney, pointed out why this committee is so important. All the other investigations have been very targeted, very limited in scope, and have only focused on the events of that day -- not what led up to them. This one will look at what led up to the rally, the riot, and the insurrection attempt. And that trail is pretty obviously going to end with Donald Trump. It is undeniable that if Trump hadn't started his Big Lie about the election being somehow "stolen" from him, then nothing would have happened on the sixth of January. There would have been no rally, no protesters at the Capitol, no siege, and no insurrection attempt at all. This point was made in various ways by both the committee members and the officers testifying.

All of this is a very good start for such an important committee. They began by outlining the duty given to the committee, refuting the gaslighting and conspiracy theories from the right-wing echo chamber, and reminding all Americans just how brutal an attack it truly was. The testimony was graphic and rude at times, using language not normally used in front of Congress. But that was merely a reflection of the rude and base nature of the people who stormed the building. Officer Dunn didn't get called "the N-word," because the people screaming it at him had no compunction about saying it out loud, in its full ugliness. Dunn accurately testified to that.

This only really crossed a line once, although I certainly had to applaud the sentiment. When asked about Trump's assertion that the officers were given "hugs and kisses" from a "loving" crowd, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell responded:

It's upsetting. It's a pathetic excuse for [Donald Trump's] behavior, for something that he himself helped to create, this monstrosity.

I'm still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day. If that was hugs and kisses, then we should all go to his house and do the same thing to him. 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 [on] to continue fighting.

[The insurrectionists] were telling us, "Trump sent us." Nobody else -- it was nobody else, it was not Antifa, it was not Black Lives Matter, it was not the F.B.I. It was his supporters that he sent over to the Capitol that day.

The next time he spoke, Gonell apologized for making the suggestion that a mob should storm Trump's new residence in Florida.

The best question of the day, however, came from Representative Jamie Raskin, who asked the officers what they wanted to see the committee investigate and uncover. There was only time for one officer to answer, so at the end of the whole hearing the chair of the committee asked all of the other officers to respond to the question as well. To a man, they all said to hold everyone accountable who bears responsibility for what happened. Which, without actually saying his name, clearly meant up to and including Donald Trump.

Amazingly, what immediately followed (it had been building for a while, in anticipation of this hearing) is the right-wing media echo chamber started badmouthing cops. Somehow these weren't real cops, or they were just puppets being used by those darn lefties. Anyone who watched even excerpts of today's testimony, however, knows that these officers were angry at what they had to endure, disgusted by the people who caused it to happen, and adamant that it should never happen again, period.

The subject of conservatives badmouthing cops was even addressed in the testimony, and Gonell made a very good point: their recruiting efforts have become much harder now, because potential recruits ask themselves: "Why would I risk my life for [these congressmen] when they don't even care?" For all the "Back The Blue" pro-police, pro-law-and-order rhetoric the Republicans have been using for decades, when it came to backing up the very cops that protected these congressmen with their lives, they have instead gotten nothing but scorn and lies. This may be a real political turning point, if the Democrats get enraged enough about it. Or Liz Cheney, for that matter. Republicans are badmouthing police to protect a man who tried to overturn a democratic election. This is an outrage -- it's hard to use any other word, really.

The day was an emotional one for both the witnesses and the questioners. Several people broke down or choked up during the questions and the testimony. It was an emotional thing to remember, after all. It was not some tourist picnic, it was a violent insurrectionist terrorist attack. As Gonell pointed out: "How do you call an attack on a police officer a 'tour' when you see my bleeding hands, when you see all the officers getting concussions, getting maimed, getting fingers shattered, eyes gouged?"

By scheduling the police who fought on the front lines that day as their first hearing, the committee reminded everyone of the seriousness of this event and this investigation. This was a brilliant move, because it completely debunks all the GOP gaslighting that has been going on ever since. It was a good way to start, even though it was raw and rather brutal to watch. It needed to be raw and brutal, to remind everyone of the brutal and inhumane treatment these officers received from the terrorist crowd that day.

Due to McCarthy's tantrum, the hearing today was blissfully devoid of people shouting at the witnesses, trying to berate them into disbelieving their own eyes and their own experiences on that grim day. There was no showboating for the cameras that will be used in upcoming GOP campaign ads, to put it another way. None of it. When McCarthy pulled his entire slate from the committee, he complained that a serious investigation was now simply not possible. But by doing so, he pretty much guaranteed that a serious and sober (and clown-free) investigation will be exactly what happens -- without all the usual nonsense and fantastical gaslighting from the likes of Jim Jordan. Which was indeed a relief, for people like me who watched the whole hearing from start to finish.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


21 Comments on “January 6th Select Committee's First Hearing Was A Necessary Reminder”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    But by doing so, he pretty much guaranteed that a serious and sober (and clown-free) investigation will be exactly what happens -- without all the usual nonsense and fantastical gaslighting from the likes of Jim Jordan.

    Well, this is very good news!

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    What I'm waiting to hear is Lauren Boebert being called to explain about the tours of the Capitol she was giving on January 5th.

  3. [3] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Excellent commentary, thanks.

    I heard about twenty minutes of testimony on public radio driving home this afternoon. The Representatives came off as simple-minded politicians out to make talking points, but the cops transcended politics. They were genuine and affecting. Because they work at the U.S. Capitol, they are exceptionally aware of the nature of their work as on-the-floor guardians of democracy. Their jobs are utterly above party - they protect Representatives without asking first who's a Democrat and who's a Republican, as one of them put it. And they can tell a terrorist from a tourist because, as another one said, because he had been giving Capitol tours to civic-minded Americans for several decades and never had he been cursed, grabbed, and beaten up by them.

    I hope this commission can continue at this level of seriousness and informativeness.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well said, John!

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I've never heard of her or him but, I sure do hope that the former president is called to testify.

    Because, he is the one most responsible for the attack on the Capitol, after all ...

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    my wife wandered in from a meeting and couldn't pull herself away. she made essentially the same point as JMCt, that the officers took some politically pat questions and gave incredibly nuanced answers. the one that stood out for both of us was officer dunn, responding to the "is this america" question. representative [i think it was schiff] teed him up for a very pat answer, and instead dunn was extremely reflective, something to the effect of "yes, this is america. it shouldn't be, but this is the way things are."

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I have learned tonight that the Federal Order of Police (FOP) has so far refused to denounce the 21 House Republicans who voted against the Gold medal bill, to denounce any lawmakers who lie about the events of Jan 6 and refused to denounce the vile comments that have been made against the officer who shot Ashley Babbit, and denounce any active duty or retired law enforcement officers who participated in the insurrection.

    The FOP, instead, offered the services of the FOP's wellness program to the officers who held the line at the Capitol on Jan 6, six months after the incident.

    This is why the police are often viewed in a very bad light ...

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    that's why?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It's one of the reasons why.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Did I not make myself clear, again?

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    you weren't unclear, it's just that there are so many reasons why law enforcement in the US tends to get a bad rap. what i think you meant is that the entire profession spent a century as enforcers of jim crow and white supremacy, and it has taken some time to steer police culture in a different direction. old habits die harder in some places than others.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    What I meant was that if the president of the FOP can't bring himself to publically call out Trump's Big Lie and denounce what the former president has done and is doing with regard to Jan 6, then it's hard for me to understand what good can come out of these hearings. ( But, they seem to be off to a good start so I have hope. :) )

    And, THAT'S not a bad rap against police - it's actually what the FOP has done, or hasn't done as the case may be.

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    The fraternal order of police is one of multiple organizations dedicated to supporting law enforcement. It's not the sole voice of the country's police. As an educator I'd hate to be held accountable for every time Randi Weingarten put a foot in her mouth on my behalf.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In future, I'll try to improve my ability to make a point.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, the kind of support the FOP is giving to law enforcement who were defending the Capitol on Jan 6 is the kind of support those officers could do better without.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, they are!

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... doing better without.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Here is the pertinent clip from the Don Lemon Tonight show with Officer Fanone.

    He talks about the lack of support from the Federal Order of Police starting at about the 5:30 mark of the video ...

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Federal should be Fraternal ... sorry for that repeated mistake on my part.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Just heard the president of the national Fraternal Order of Police in an interview on CNN.

    I learned that the majority of the members of the FOP are Trump supporters.

    Which goes a long way toward explaining why the FOP are not taking a public stand against the terrorists who invaded and attacted the Capitol and Capitol police and MPD who were protecting the Capitol and Democracy on Jan 6.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Shame on the FOP.

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