This morning, the United States House Select Committee on the January 6th Attack held its first meeting, convening to hear testimony from four police officers who defended the Capitol on that horrific day almost seven months ago.
Chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the committee consists of nine members: seven Democrats and two Republicans. The Democrats are Thompson, Adam Schiff, Zoe Lofgren, Elaine Luria, Stephanie Murphy, Pete Aguilar, and Jamie Raskin; the Republicans are Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
All were appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Top Republican Kevin McCarthy withdrew all five of his choices after Pelosi said no to seating two out of the five, saying that Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana were not appropriate choices to serve on the panel. Banks and Jordan are zealous Trump boosters who stood ready to obstruct the committee’s work.
McCarthy’s withdrawal of his entire slate prompted Pelosi to add Kinzinger to the panel. (Cheney, who was kicked out of House Republican leadership earlier this year, had already been appointed to the committee as one of Pelosi’s initial picks. She has become one of the highest profile Republicans criticizing Trump.)
All nine committee members were on hand as Thompson gaveled the committee to order and introduced its first witnesses (descriptions are from Wikipedia):
- Daniel Hodges, Officer, Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. During the attack. Hodges was crushed in a doorway between rioters and a police line. An individual has pled not guilty to assaulting Hodges and grabbing his gear.
- Michael Fanone, Officer, Metropolitan Police Department. During the Capitol attack, rioters pulled him into the crowd, beat him with a flagpole, stole his badge and repeatedly tased him with his own Taser. They also went for his service gun. He supported the creation of the January 6 commission and criticized those who downplayed the attack.
- Harry Dunn, Private First Class, U.S. Capitol Police. He has spoken about the racial abuse he and other officers experienced during the attack. His lawyers responded to Tucker Carlson calling him an “angry, left-wing political activist”.
- Aquilino Gonell, Sergeant, U.S. Capitol Police. He was beaten with a flagpole and chemically sprayed.
Over the course of three and a half hours, the officers told their horrifying stories, describing the violence abuse they suffered at the hands of Trump’s terrorist mob.
Here are a few excerpts from their testimonies.
I thought I had seen it all, many times over, yet what I witnessed and experienced on January 6th, 2021, was unlike anything I had ever seen, anything I had ever experienced, or could have imagined in my country. On that day I participated in the defense of the United States Capitol from an armed mob… an armed mob of thousands determined to get inside.
Because I was among the vastly outnumbered group of law enforcement officers protecting the Capitol and the people inside it, I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country. I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm as I heard chants of, kill him with his own gun.
I could still hear those words in my head today.
I witnessed the rioters using all kinds of weapons against officers, including flag poles, metal bike racks they had torn apart and various kind of projectiles. Officers were being bloodied in the fighting.
Many were screaming and many were blinded and coughing from chemical irritants being sprayed in their faces.
I gave decontamination aid to as many officers as i could, flushing their eyes with water to dilute the chemical irritants.
While i was at the low terrace of the Capitol working with my fellow officers to prevent the breach and restore order, the rioters called me traitor, a disgrace and shouted that I — I, an Army veteran and a police officer, should be executed.
Some of the rioters had the audacity to tell me that it was nothing personal, that they would go through me, through us, police officers, to achieve their goal as they were breaking metal barriers to use as weapons against us. They used more menacing language.
If you shoot us, we all have weapons, we will shoot back. Or, we will get our guns. We outnumber you, they say.
As we came close to the terrorist our line was divided and we came under attack. A man attempted to rip the baton from my hands and we wrestled for control.
I retained my weapon. He yelled at me: “You’re on the wrong team.”
Cut off from my leadership, which is at the front of our formation, we huddled up and assessed the threat surrounding us. One man tried and failed to build a rapport with me, shouting: “Are you my brother”? [and] another shouting: “You will die on your knees.”
If you can spare the time, the video of their testimony can be watched on demand here. These firsthand accounts are worth seeing and hearing.
Later on during the hearing, Dunn lamented that so many Republicans have sided with Trump and his destructive, unpatriotic cult against the United States Constitution and the American people.
“Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes,” Dunn said. “And while I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard? I guess in this America, it is.”
Dunn asked the committee members to investigate not only the people who carried out the attack on the Capitol, but also the people who ordered the hit, noting that they are just as responsible for the events of January 6th as the people who smashed windows, beat officers, and ransacked offices.
Dunn is correct that even in an era of misinformation and disinformation, the truth still matters. Trump and his enablers cannot be allowed to rewrite history. If we can’t get to the bottom of what happened and properly confront this threat of domestic terrorism, we will be setting the stage for this to happen again.