The first public findings from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol spurred Washington’s congressional Democrats to demand accountability — and even indictments — for former President Donald Trump, while Republican representatives and candidates stayed silent or sought to deflect and change the subject.
As the panel presented evidence on Thursday showing the attack on the Capitol as an attempted coup summoned and incited by Trump, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, was in the committee room and grew emotional as she recalled the day.
In sharp contrast, Joe Kent, a Republican seeking to become Jayapal’s colleague in Congress, was a featured guest on Fox News’ prime-time counterprogramming on Thursday, appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to say the riot was “not a Trump thing.”
The responses to the committee’s presentation from Washington’s members of Congress and candidates for federal office ran the gamut, with Democrats lauding the committee’s work and warning about the risks to democracy, to Republican challengers calling the hearing a sham and touting false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, her eyes red-rimmed, Jayapal’s voice broke.
“I never imagined,” she said, “that we would not be safe to do our jobs and that we would feel so helpless in that moment to protect our democracy.
“But I want the American public to remember that despite the fact that we were on the floor, fearing for our lives, that we went back and we certified that election.”
In an interview Friday, Jayapal called the initial hearing effective at “connecting all the dots” surrounding Trump’s efforts to block the peaceful transfer of power, despite being told by his advisers, including then-Attorney General Bill Barr, that there was no evidence of widespread vote fraud.
Jayapal said she hopes the Justice Department will criminally charge Trump once the panel’s investigation is complete.
“I think he should be indicted for conspiracy to overturn the election,” Jayapal said. “If this is what he has done, then absolutely he needs to pay the price.”
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, in a Seattle news conference Friday morning, said it was shameful that many Republicans continue to promote the lie that the election was stolen.
“What we saw was a mob who tried to stop a democratic process with brute force in order to overturn a free and fair election,” Murray said. “It did not happen by accident, this was an insurrection that was planned and promoted by Donald Trump, by his legal team and even some Republican members of Congress.”
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, said the committee’s presentation, which included new footage of the assault on the Capitol, was “shocking and disturbing” even for those who were there.
“The January 6th insurrection was a blatant attack on our democracy by pro-Trump extremists who attempted to overturn a fair and free election,” Smith tweeted. “Americans deserve answers about what led to that violent day and who is responsible, so that we can hold those people accountable.”
The hearing Thursday night was carried live by the networks and every major cable news channel except Fox News. Even as the private texts of Fox host Sean Hannity urging Trump to drop his claims of a stolen election were used as evidence by the committee, Fox hosts lambasted the investigation and downplayed the attack on the Capitol.
Kent, the Trump-endorsed Republican running to unseat Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, claimed on Carlson’s program that the attack was “not a Trump thing” and said that if Republicans win control of the House in November, they would investigate the “federal involvement” in the riot.
“The only reason that people were there on that day of Jan. 6 is that the American people, a vast majority of them, did not feel like their voices were heard at the election box and therefore things started to get a little bit dicey,” Kent said.
The majority of voters chose Joe Biden, who not only won the Electoral College and the election, but won about 7 million more votes than Trump.
Loren Culp, the 2020 GOP nominee for governor who is now challenging Rep. Dan Newhouse in the 4th Congressional District, tweeted a photo of the Muppet character Miss Piggy, but calling her Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who is vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee.
“What a joke Liz Cheney has become. All dressed up for her sham J6 hearings,” Culp wrote.
Culp lost the election by about 545,000 votes, subsequently sued the secretary of state alleging fraud, then withdrew his lawsuit after his attorney faced potential legal sanctions for making meritless claims in court.
Washington’s three Republican members of Congress remained quiet about the hearing on Friday.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse both drew Trump’s wrath and multiple Republican challengers after they voted for impeachment in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, two of only 10 House Republicans to join Democrats in the vote.
Both Herrera Beutler and Newhouse also voted for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. But after that effort was killed by Senate Republicans, they voted against creating the select committee.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse did not issue any public statements on the panel’s findings Friday and did not respond to requests for comment.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, who was the only member of the state delegation to vote against impeaching Trump over the Capitol attack, also did not respond to a request for comment.