US Capitol riot panel warns conspiracy behind violence 'not over'

US Capitol riot panel warns conspiracy behind violence 'not over'
US Representative Liz Cheney looks on during a House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 9, 2022. (Photo: AFP )
WASHINGTON, United States — A congressional panel investigating last year's deadly Capitol riot began laying out its case Thursday that Donald Trump and his claims of a stolen election were at the heart of a conspiracy that drove the shocking mob assault.اضافة اعلان

In a live, prime-time presentation of its findings from a year-long probe, the special committee is seeking to persuade a divided country of the existence of a deep-rooted and ongoing plot to undermine core tenets of the US Constitution and overturn the result of the 2020 election.

The conspiracy that drove the insurrection by a pro-Trump mob still poses a threat to American democracy, Democratic committee Chief Bennie Thompson warned in his opening remarks at the panel's first hearing.

Thompson said the committee's work was about more than looking backward, as US democracy "remains in danger."

"The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over," he said.

"There are those in this country who thirst for power but have no love or respect for what makes America great: devotion to the Constitution, allegiance to the rule of law, our shared journey to build a more perfect Union."

The panel aims to demonstrate that the violence was part of a broader drive by Trump and his inner circle to illegitimately cling to power, tearing up the Constitution and more than two centuries of peaceful transitions from one administration to the next.

"We will be revealing new details showing that the violence of January 6 was the result of a coordinated multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden," a select committee aide said.

"And indeed that former president Donald Trump was at the center of that effort."

Rioters acted "at the encouragement of the president of the United States," Thompson said in his opening remarks.

Slickly-produced 90-plus minutes of television on Thursday — and five subsequent hearings over the coming weeks — will focus on Trump's role in the multi-pronged effort to return him to the Oval Office by disenfranchising millions of voters. 

Trump has defiantly dismissed the probe as a baseless "witch hunt," — but the public hearings were clearly on his mind Thursday as he launched into a largely false tirade on his social media platform, defending the insurrection as "the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again."   

The committee plans to make the case that Trump laid the groundwork for the insurrection through months of lies about fraud in an election described by his own administration as the most secure ever.

His White House is accused of involvement in several potentially illegal schemes to aid the effort, including a plot to seize voting machines and another to appoint fake "alternative electors" from swing states who would ignore the will of their voters and hand victory to Trump. 

'Chilling' conspiracy

The select committee's Republican vice-chairwoman Liz Cheney on Sunday qualified the conspiracy seen by the committee as "chilling."

After their opening arguments, Thompson and Cheney will explain how each of the six hearings, organized by theme, is expected to play out.

On Thursday, the committee is planning to present live testimony from two people who interacted with members of the neofascist organization, the Proud Boys, on January 6 and in the days leading to the violence.

Emmy-winning British documentary filmmaker Nick Quested will testify about his experience shadowing members of the Proud Boys in the days leading up to January 6 and his interactions with them on the day itself.

Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was present at the breach of the first barricade, will describe sustaining head injuries in clashes with the Proud Boys.

Earlier this week, the group's leader and four lieutenants were charged with seditious conspiracy.

Thursday's hearing will also feature previously unseen video clips of the violence itself and excerpts from a trove of 1,000 interviews, including a "meaningful portion" of discussions with Trump's senior White House and campaign officials — as well as members of his family.

Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, as well as the former president's eldest son Don Jr., have all cooperated voluntarily with the committee.

Court of public opinion

The hearings will differ from Trump's two impeachments, however, in that he will not be represented in the room as he is not on trial -- except perhaps in the court of public opinion.

Nevertheless, a number of his most loyal counter-punchers are expected to circle the wagons, questioning any damning testimony and challenging the validity of the investigation. 

"It is the most political and least legitimate committee in American history," the leader of the House Republican minority, Kevin McCarthy, told reporters at the Capitol.

In fact, Congress has wide-ranging oversight powers, and a Trump-appointed federal judge last month emphatically rejected Republicans' arguments that the committee is illegitimate and overtly partisan.

The committee has not confirmed its plans for after the initial slate of hearings, but at least one more presentation and a final report are expected in the fall.