WASHINGTON — The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot began laying out on Thursday evening what they described as a methodical conspiracy, led and coordinated by former President Donald Trump, to remain in power, which culminated in the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814.
The committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and its vice chair, Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., used a multimedia presentation that relied on the videotaped testimony of Trump loyalists, including the former attorney general, William Barr, the former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, and longtime aide and spokesperson Jason Miller.
Together, the testimony and the lawmakers’ interpretations were used not only to highlight the threat that the activities that led up to the attack posed to American democracy but also to put Trump in the center of what Thompson called “a sprawling, multistep conspiracy aimed at overturning the election.”
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup,” Thompson said.
Cheney hit the former president hard: “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame for attack.”
The opening act of what will be a series of six hearings was the only one planned for prime time, an overview to remind viewers of the meaning and magnitude of the attack and the culpability of a former president who continues to methodically misinform his followers that an election he lost decisively was stolen from him.
Backing the committee up were the words of Trump administration officials. The committee played excerpts from videotaped interviews.
— Barr said he told Trump the talk of widespread fraud in the 2020 election was “bullshit.”
— Ivanka Trump said she “accepted what” Barr “was saying.”
— Miller said a data analyst told Trump in no uncertain terms that he was going to lose the election.
— Alex Cannon, another Trump aide, said he told White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that his team had found no evidence of fraud sufficient to overturn the results in any of the key states.
— Finally, Meadows asked in resignation, “So there’s no there there?”
Cheney, who has broken from the vast majority of her party to help lead the committee, had a stark message for her estranged colleagues, “Tonight I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”