US Capitol riot hearing shows Trump allies, daughter Ivanka rejected election fraud claims
- The first of six planned hearings into the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol made a prime-time television debut
- Ivanka Trump said she accepted that there was no evidence of fraud and that her father had lost the 2020 election
A congressional hearing into the US Capitol attack by Donald Trump’s supporters trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat presented testimony on Thursday showing that close allies – even his daughter – rejected his false claims of election fraud.
The House of Representatives select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, assault also showed graphic footage of thousands of rioters attacking police and smashing their way into the Capitol during the first of its six hearings intended to show that Trump tried to subvert the US Constitution and unlawfully hold onto power.
The hearing presented video of testimony or public statements from key Trump administration figures including his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, Vice-President Mike Pence and his chief of staff, Attorney General William Barr and General Mark Milley.
It featured a clip of Trump’s incendiary speech before the riot in which he repeated his false claims of election fraud and directed his supporters’ anger at Pence, who was at the Capitol overseeing the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s win.
“Aware of the rioters’ chants, to ‘Hang Mike Pence’, the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Well, maybe our supporters have the right idea,” said congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of the two Republicans on the nine-member panel and its vice-chair.
Barr in video testimony called the election fraud claims “bull****”, an argument that convinced Trump’s daughter.
“I respect Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he was saying,” Ivanka Trump said in videotaped testimony.
Democratic US congressman Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman, said Trump was at the centre of a conspiracy to thwart American democracy.
“January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one writer put it shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government,” Thompson said “ … The violence was no accident. It was Trump’s last stand.”
Since leaving office last year, Trump has kept up his false claims that his 2020 election loss was the result of widespread fraud, an assertion that has been rejected by multiple courts, state election officials and members of his own administration.
“We can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election,” Barr, who resigned before Trump left office, said in the video.
Trump, publicly flirting with another White House run in 2024, issued a statement before the hearing calling the committee “political Thugs”.
The Justice Department has arrested and charged more than 800 people for the violence that day, the biggest dragnet in its history.
Trump hasn’t been charged with any crimes, and as a former president enjoys special protections, such as the ability to withhold information based on claims of executive privilege.
Kushner was shown on video dismissing threats by members of Trump’s Cabinet to resign after the riot, saying he considered their concerns as “whining”.
US Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards also gave an account of the violence, in which she was concussed when she cracked her head on the Capitol steps after being knocked over by the surging mob.
She spoke of her “literal blood, sweat and tears … shed that day defending the building that I spent countless holidays and weekends working in”.
The hearings begin about five months before the November 8 midterm elections that will determine which party controls both the House and the Senate for the following two years.
The pro-Trump mob failed to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, attacking police and causing millions of dollars in damage. Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.
“Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: That the election was stolen and that he was the rightful president,” Cheney said. “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”
Biden on Thursday described the attack as “a clear, flagrant violation of the Constitution,” telling reporters: “I think these guys and women broke the law, tried to turn around the result of an election”.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday underscored the partisan lens through which many Americans view the assault. It found that among Republicans about 55 per cent believed the false claim that left-wing protesters led the attack and 58 per cent believed most of the protesters were law-abiding.
Two Republican Georgia state election officials who Trump tried to pressure to “find” votes that would overturn his election defeat will testify to the hearings later this month, a source familiar with the matter said.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg and Associated Press