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US Capitol riot hearings to link Trump election plots to insurrection

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Former US president Donald Trump, pictured speaking to supporters on January 6, 2021 before the violence broke out, is seen by congressional investigators as an ongoing threat to democracy./AFP
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Jun 09, 2022 - 11:04 AM

WASHINGTON — The year-long congressional panel probing the 2021 assault on the US Capitol begins outlining its findings Thursday, promising explosive new revelations that will tie the deadly siege to Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn his election defeat.

The first hearing — an evening primetime presentation — will serve as an “opening statement” on the January 6 insurrection, according to aides of the investigating House select committee, which began its work last July.

It will also aim to demonstrate that the violence was part of a broader conspiracy by Trump and his inner circle to illegitimately hold on 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.”

A slickly-produced 90-plus minutes of television — 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 as an unelected president by disenfranchising millions of voters.

The case the committee plans to make is 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 in history.

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 said on Sunday that the assault on the Capitol was part of a “chilling” conspiracy.

“It is extremely broad. It’s extremely well organized,” she told CBS.

The committee is planning to present live testimony Thursday 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.

Cheney and chairman Bennie Thompson will make opening arguments before explaining how each of the six hearings, organized by theme, is expected to play out.

They will 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.

British documentary filmmaker Nick Quested will testify Thursday 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.

The Emmy Award-winning director’s evidence is seen as crucial, said a committee aide, because he was on the scene during the first moments of violence against the Capitol Police and “all the chaos that ensued.”

‘Ongoing threats’ 

Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was present at the breach of the first barricade, will describe sustaining head injuries in clashes with the far-right group, which saw its leader and four lieutenants charged on Monday with seditious conspiracy.

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 on Capitol Hill, questioning any damning testimony and challenging the validity of the investigation in TV appearances.

AFP asked Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich for details of the plan for Trump’s defense, but there was no response.

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.

The panel, which sees Trump as a potential threat to the next election, will make legislative recommendations to ensure there is no repeat of the events of January 6.

“The investigation has flagged ongoing threats to our democracy, and our job is to tell the story of what happened,” said an aide.

“And, frankly, to let others judge about continuing threats and what needs to be done.”

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