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Key takeaways from the US Capitol riot hearings

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US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) (C), chairs a meeting of the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol./AFP
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Jul 22, 2022 - 06:48 AM

WASHINGTON — Over the past two months, a bipartisan panel of US lawmakers has held a series of televised hearings probing Donald Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol.

The hearings have included a mix of live testimony by key witnesses and pre-recorded depositions as well as documents and footage gathered as part of the committee’s investigation.

With no more public sessions scheduled for now, here are some of the key takeaways from the hearings.

Never-before-seen video 

The committee’s hearings have featured captivating footage showing film-like scenes of violence and recordings of officials giving behind-the-scenes descriptions of usually-secret White House deliberations.

During the committee’s first hearing in June, images capturing the raging anger and violence of the mob ransacking the US Capitol building provided a vivid and visceral prime-time picture of the insurrection.

A minute-by-minute visual breakdown — much of it composed of new footage — served as a painful reminder of the mayhem that played out as a mob attempted to disrupt the formal vote by lawmakers to transfer power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

New photos and audio recordings also revealed the risks faced by Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, whom some protestors had threatened to hang.

Damning testimony from White House aide 

Once an ardently loyal footsoldier in the former commander-in-chief’s posse, Cassidy Hutchinson turned sheriff in a late June hearing as she fired off a volley of allegations without historical parallel against an American president.

Crucially, she offered what critics of the investigation say has so far been lacking — testimony that Trump not only knew his election fraud claims were false but that he was aware of the potential violence they would cause, and encouraged it.

An erratic leader who often overturned tableware in fits of rage, Trump demanded to be driven to the Capitol to be with the insurrectionist mob after the violence had already broken out, assaulting his Secret Service detail when the order was refused, according to a second-hand anecdote Hutchinson relayed.

Cheney risks political career 

A little over a year ago, Wyoming congresswoman and Republican scion Liz Cheney was being lined up as the party’s first female House speaker.

But the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney is now a pariah in her home state and in Washington all for committing the heresy of joining the panel investigating Trump.

Along with her only other Republican colleague, Representative Adam Kinzinger — who is retiring at the end of this term — Cheney has sought to condemn from the conservative perspective Trump’s actions as unpatriotic and unconstitutional.

As vice chair of the committee, she has also taken a starring role in the hearings, announcing some of the panel’s biggest revelations, such as a report that Trump himself had attempted to call a witness, who in the end did not take the call.

Unhinged’ White House meeting 

In the committee’s seventh hearing, new behind-the-scenes information was revealed about how Trump continued to work to overturn his November 2020 election loss, even after being advised that he had no legal paths forward.

A White House lawyer described one late-night meeting in the Oval Office a few weeks before January 6th as “nuts.” A presidential aide said it was “unhinged.”

The panel’s recreation of a surreal December 18 gathering between Trump and outside advisers including Sidney Powell, a campaign attorney actively pushing conspiracy theories, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump lawyer Rudi Giuliani, will live long in the memory.

Described by committee member Jamie Raskin as the “craziest meeting of the Trump presidency,” it featured a proposal for Trump to sign an executive order allowing the seizure of voting machines and for Powell to be appointed a special counsel to investigate the election.

Holding Trump ‘accountable’ –

Speaking at the televised finale of the hearings on Thursday, Committee chairman Bennie Thompson laid the blame for the Capitol riot squarely on Trump.

He said Trump “recklessly blazed a path of lawlessness and corruption” as he sought to overturn the results of the 2020 US election.

“There needs to be accountability,” Thompson said. “Accountability under the law, accountability to the American people. Accountability at every level … all the way up to the Oval Office.”

The committee may issue criminal referrals to the Justice Department, leaving it up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to decide whether Trump or others should be prosecuted for the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

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