What we learned from the first Jan. 6 committee hearing
The two-hour hearing, broadcast nationwide in prime time, was designed to refocus Americans’ attention on what Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney described as an unprecedented conspiracy against the United States government.
On Thursday night, the first in a series of ready-for-primetime hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection was broadcast nationwide.
The two-hour presentation was designed to refocus Americans’ attention on what Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee investigating the attack, described as an unprecedented conspiracy against the United States government. At the center of it all – though not physically present in the room – was former President Donald Trump.
Todd Gillman, the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, joined Texas Standard to share how the hearing unfolded. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Before we get to some of the details and revelations, can you give us your sense of how this played out in living rooms across the country last night, the way it was orchestrated and presented by the committee?
Todd Gillman: It was a very smooth presentation. It was riveting – mesmerizing, even. And I think that for those who tuned in, it was shocking and yet not surprising, because many of these details have been reported since January 6th of last year. They came out during President Trump’s impeachment trial. And for the 40 percent of people who seemed to believe that Trump was correct, that the election was stolen, probably it didn’t play out at all in those living rooms because they weren’t watching.
On some of the new information that we heard last night, what stood out most to you?
Well, the British documentary maker [Nick Quested] who had been embedded with the Proud Boys – to see the heads of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers actively conspiring the night before January 6th, meeting furtively, surreptitiously – it just absolutely dispels the idea that there was no conspiracy going on, at least between those two organizations. The melee that we saw in just a gripping video of physical violence and trampling security lines at the Capitol on January 6th. You know, those of us who’ve paid attention, we’ve seen video like that, if not that specific video. But for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, it is eye-popping. I mean, there is no way that you can look at any of that video and say these were loving tourists who just were peacefully protesting.
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 10, 2022
Talking about the humanization of this drama – I think one of the big moments in the hearing centered around Caroline Edwards, who was a Capitol Police officer; I think she was believed to have been the first injured during the riot. Was there any new detail in her testimony?
I haven’t paid close enough attention to know how much of that had come out before. I mean, it was well known that she was injured; she fell backwards. She was trying to hold the line at a bike rack area well away from the Capitol itself, but on the Capitol grounds. And the bravery that she showed was really remarkable.
And then the fact that she went back into the fray, even after having a concussion that knocked her out and suffering all kinds of injuries in the initial melee, she went back in and was right there. She got tear-gassed. I think what her testimony illustrated was that some people were on the right side of history and were putting their lives on the line to defend democracy and defend the democratic process and Congress and the members of Congress. And some people were on the wrong side of history.
I think something else that stood out was that there were some key figures who were very close to then-President Trump who seemed to not believe the stolen election lie. I think that was something that was quite revealing, at least at least to those I’ve talked with.
Oh, you’re being gentle that they ‘seemed not to.’ Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, the nation’s highest law enforcement official at the time, told Trump flat-out that his claims that the election was stolen or fraudulent were B.S. And, you know, he is a very conservative guy. He would have loved to see Trump and Republicans remain in power. But he also, in that respect, couldn’t tolerate the abuse of the rule of law. And some of the other concurring, brief snippets of testimony from others in Trump’s inner circle who absolutely agreed there was no election fraud. It was all a lie. Again, it was eye-opening – but no surprise for anyone who’s paid attention, and may not move the needle for anyone who just refuses to believe.
I wonder, though, if it might move the needle over at the Department of Justice. It seemed like there was some language from the dais that was directed at Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice investigation. Did you notice that?
I did, and it’s an interesting point. What is the point of these hearings? Is it just to bring out truth that most of us knew, but enhanced? And I don’t mean to downplay – there’s all kinds of detail that’s coming out that is just staggering – but it is designed clearly to shift public opinion, to build public opinion, to give political cover for potential prosecutions. I think you’re right about that.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]