A special (slightly) bipartisan U.S. House Committee formed to investigate the events leading to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol held its first public presentation last night.
The Donald Trump-inspired riots, you will recall, were designed to prevent the counting of electoral votes by which Joe Biden defeated Trump by a solid margin of 306-232. Trump still claims he wuz robbed.
I was impressed with the committee’s opening act, even though many of the basic facts have long been known. We’ll see if subsequent installments have some surprises in store.
Most congressional Republicans want nothing to do with the committee, but it does include two Republicans to go along with its seven Democrats. One of those two Republicans, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, is co-chair and came up big during the committee’s first prime-time hearing. In her opening statement, Cheney said:
“In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual or to a political party. We take an oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something. Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible. There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone. But your dishonor will remain. To defend the peaceful transfer of power [after an election] has been honored by every president except one: Donald Trump.”
She also said that Trump: “summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”
In a “prebuttal,” utilizing “his new social media outfit Truth Social,” Trump wrote that the real story “was about an Election that was Rigged and Stolen.”
According to me and a lot of other people who care about the health of our constitutional system, Trump’s attempted coup was perhaps the biggest threat U.S. democracy has had to survive since the Civil War. We’ve had much closer elections, and a recent one (George W. Bush vs. Al Gore in 2000) that had to be decided by the Supreme Court. But the court ruled in Bush’s favor in time for Inauguration Day, and Gore accepted the ruling.
With Trump having never acknowledged his 2020 defeat and still hoping to mount a 2024 comeback, the stakes underlying the special committee’s probe are high. But, especially with Cheney, the first night seemed a serious and honest effort to create a formal record of those horrible events.
Last night’s opening act packed a punch, including heart-rending testimony from Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who sustained a traumatic brain injury during the riot. The committee has scheduled two more meetings, for Monday at 9 a.m. (central time) and Wednesday at 9 a.m. But they may announce further sessions.