Five key takeaways from ninth January 6 committee hearing

Panel votes to subpoena Donald Trump, saying former president is ‘at the centre’ of what happened at the US Capitol.

Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, left, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney have led the public hearings on their investigation into the riot on January 6, 2021 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Washington, DC – The United States Congressional committee investigating the riot at the US Capitol last year has voted to subpoena former President Donald Trump over his role in the January 6 attack.

“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this in motion,” Vice Chair Liz Cheney said before the unanimous, 9-0 vote during the panel’s ninth public hearing on Thursday.

The panel spent much of the session, which largely reiterated its earlier findings and allegations, laying out how, despite calls from his top advisers, Trump refused to concede defeat to Joe Biden after the 2020 elections.

Instead, the Republican leader continued to press ahead with his false claims of electoral fraud, which the committee said culminated in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Here are five key takeaways from Thursday’s session:

Panel pushes to compel Trump’s testimony

The committee voted to subpoena Trump in an unprecedented move that compelled the former president to testify under oath in front of the panel.

Trump’s legal team is likely to challenge the decision.

“He is the one person at the centre of the story of what happened on January 6, so we want to hear from him,” Congressman Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, said before the vote.

“The committee needs to do everything in our power to tell the most complete story possible and provide recommendations to help ensure nothing like January 6 ever happens again.”

Thompson acknowledged that subpoenaing a former president is an “extraordinary action”, but he said, “That’s why we want to take this step [the vote], in full view of the American people”.

Trump denounced the subpoena on Thursday, reiterating his false election fraud claims.

“The Unselect Committee knowingly failed to examine the massive voter fraud which took place during the 2020 Presidential Election – The reason for what took place on January 6th,” he said on his Truth Social platform.

Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee were also quick to reject the panel’s move.

“The country is experiencing record crime and record inflation,” the House Judiciary GOP wrote in a tweet in response to the news. “Sadly, Democrats can’t get over their weird OBSESSION of President Trump to do anything about it.”

Former Trump aides have faced criminal contempt charges for defying January 6 committee’s subpoenas.

Congressional leaders called for help on January 6

The panel played videos showing congressional leaders frantically making calls to US defence officials and leaders of nearby states on the day of the riot, urging them to send law enforcement to secure the Capitol.

“They need massive personnel now,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer told the US defence secretary in a call. “Could you get the Maryland National Guard to come, too?”

In a separate phone conversation with then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Schumer urged Rosen to ask Trump to tell his supporters to end the attack.

“Why don’t you get the president to tell them to leave the Capitol, Mr Attorney General – in your law enforcement responsibility – a public statement they should all leave?” Schumer asked.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called the governor of Virginia to ask him to send security reinforcements.

The “personal safety [of lawmakers] just transcends everything, but the fact is on any given day, they’re breaking the law in many different ways, and quite frankly, much of it at the instigation of the president of the United States”, Pelosi said during the call.

Election fraud claims were ‘premeditated’, panel argues

The panel dedicated a large part of Thursday’s hearing to arguing that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election were “premeditated”.

The committee aired footage of comments from Trump associates Steve Bannon and Roger Stone saying before the vote in November 2020 that Trump would prematurely declare victory and dispute the results if he were to lose.

“I suspect [the results] will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. ‘No, we won. F**k you,’” Stone said in documentary footage from November 2020 that was aired on Thursday.

Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren also said during the hearing that Trump had a plan to dispute a potential election loss even before the votes were counted.

“This ‘Big Lie’ – President Trump’s effort to convince Americans that he had won the 2020 election – began before the election results even came in,” she said.

“It was intentional. It was premeditated. It was not based on election results or any evidence of actual fraud affecting the results or any actual problems with voting machines.”

For her part, Cheney stressed that Trump knew that his election fraud claims were false – a central theme of the committee’s hearings this year. “There is no defence that Donald Trump was duped or irrational,” the Republican congresswoman said.

“No president can defy the rule of law and act this way in a constitutional republic – period.”

Trump rushed to pull US troops out of Somalia, Afghanistan: Congressman

The panel also alleged that Trump, knowing that he lost the election, rushed to try to withdraw American forces from Somalia and Afghanistan before the end of his term in office.

Trump signed an order on November 11 for the acting US secretary of defense that “would have required the immediate withdrawal of troops from Somalia and Afghanistan, all to be completed before Biden’s inauguration on January 20”, Congressman Adam Kinzinger said.

In a clip then played during the hearing, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley said he did not agree with the effort. “It is odd. It is non-standard. It is potentially dangerous. I personally thought it was militarily not feasible, nor wise,” Milley told the panel.

Kinzinger added on Thursday, “These are the highly consequential actions of a president who knows his term will shortly end.”

‘Cannot only punish the foot soldiers,’ Cheney says

While the committee cannot lay formal charges, it can make recommendations to the US Department of Justice – and on Thursday, Cheney argued that accountability must go beyond the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.

“The violence and lawlessness of January 6 was unjustifiable,” the Republican lawmaker said.

“But our nation cannot only punish the foot soldiers who stormed our capitol. Those who planned to overturn our election and brought us to the point of violence must also be [held] accountable.”

Earlier during Thursday’s hearing, Cheney said Trump was “the central cause of January 6”. “None of this would have happened without him. He was personally and substantially involved in all of it,” she said.

Hundreds of Trump supporters face criminal charges over their participation in the riot, including members of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups.

It remains unclear whether the Department of Justice will press charges against Trump, any of his high-ranking aides, or US lawmakers accused of being involved in the violence on January 6.

Source: Al Jazeera