Emotions run high among witnesses & lawmakers during first day of testimony before Jan. 6 Committee [Video]
House members including Kinzinger and Schiff were choked up over emotional testimony from police officers who tried to stop breach.
Members of the select committee to investigate January 6 could return before Congress’s August recess ends to continue their work, according to Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
“I put some members on notice that they won’t enjoy the entire August recess, but we will give them time to work in their districts … conceivably, we could come back before the end of August,” said Thompson at the conclusion of today’s inaugural hearing of the committee.
The first day of testimony before the select committee was colored by intense emotional testimony from four law enforcement officers – two members of the Capitol Police Force, and two members of the Metropolitan Police Department. The strain of holding back tears was plain on the faces of each officer, as well as several members of the panel, as the officers described the events of 1/6, when as many as 800 people reportedly entered the Capitol building.
Near the end of his questioning period, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) choked up and said, “It must be an Adam thing today,” making reference to the tears shed by his colleague Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
“I never expected today to be quite as emotional for me as it has been,” said Kinzinger moments earlier. “I’m a Republican, I’m a conservative. It’s time to stop the outrage and the conspiracies … we need to reject those who promote it,” he said.
Testimony and Questioning
The four officers were given a chance, following opening statements from Thompson and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to deliver first hand accounts of what they experienced on January 6 while defending the Capitol complex.
Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, the first member of law enforcement to testify, said “I was falsely accused of betraying my ‘oath’ and choosing my ‘paycheck’ over my loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.”
Gonell, an immigrant to the United States, became visibly emotional as he described finding out that his wife and family had frantically been texting and calling him throughout the day, attempting to check in on his wellbeing.
When asked by Rep. Cheney how he felt hearing former President Trump describe there being a “lot of love” in the January 6 crowd of his supporters just prior to the Capitol attack, Sgt. Gonell said, “If those are hugs and kissed, we all should go to his house and do the same things to him.”
Several minutes later, the Sgt. apologized for his “outburst,” saying he did not mean to imply that people should literally go to Trump’s place of residence.
Officer Daniel Hodges, who repeatedly referred to the Capitol breachers as “terrorists,” defended his language, saying “I can see why someone would take issue with the title of terrorist. It’s gained a lot of notoriety in our vocabulary in the past few decades, and we like to believe, ‘No, that can’t happen here, no domestic terrorism, no homegrown threats.” He then read from the U.S. Code Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 113B, Section 2331, which defines terrorism as:
Acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States
He went on to urge the panel of lawmakers to get the bottom of whether “anyone in power had a role in this.”
“If anyone in power coordinated, or aided or abetted, or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of this terrorist attack, because we can’t do,” he said, responding to a question about what the officers expect the committee to accomplish.
“To be honest, I did not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the United States they claimed to represent,” said Hodges, who argued that the attack was pre-planned and not a spontaneous riot.
Officer Harry Dunn, a 13-year veteran of the Capitol Police force, described the racial slurs he endured throughout the day on January 6. Specifically, Dunn said it was the first time he was ever called the n-word while wearing his uniform.
Dunn said it is “disheartening that we live in a country with people like that, who attack you based on the color of your skin. Those words are weapons.”
Representative Adam Schiff asked Dunn whether he believes the racial epithets he faced were representative of America at large. Dunn replied, “I guess, it sounds silly but I guess it is American. But it’s not the side of America that I like. It’s not the side that any of us here represent.”
D.C. Metro Police Officer Michael Fanone told the panel that the events of January 6 were “unlike anything I had ever seen, unlike anything I had ever experienced.” He detailed the physical abuse he endured after being pulled into a crowd and being beaten with “what felt like hard metal objects,” and tased multiple times.
Fanone slammed his hand on the table and and called the actions of those who have downplayed or denied the events of 1/6 “disgraceful.” On the day of the breach, Fanone was taken to receive medical treatment where he was diagnosed with a concussion, a heart attack, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Committee Chairman Thompson opened the morning with a dramatic statement claiming that a “peaceful transfer of power did not happen.”
Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of just two Republican members on the panel, then said that no member of the legislative chamber should “defend the indefensible,” adding that “our children are watching,” and will know which side of history was right.
Notably, Cheney made it clear that she wants to understand a “minute by minute” play out of what happened at the White House on January 6. “We must get to objective truth,” she said.
At a press conference prior to the hearing, senior members of the GOP caucus, led by minority leader Kevin McCarthy praised officers who protected the Capitol on 1/6, but accused Speaker Pelosi of heading into the hearing with a predetermined set of conclusions. McCarthy, as well as House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), blamed Pelosi for failing to properly address security concerns at the Capitol ahead of the January 6 breach.
McCarthy earlier announced that he would boycott the committee following Nancy Pelosi’s rejection of two of his selections to sit on the panel – namely, Reps. Jim Banks and Jim Jordan. He has warned his caucus that any member who opts to participate in what he is calling a “partisan sham,” will potentially face punishment.
WATCH LIVE: First hearing of House’s Select Committee to Investigate Jan. 6 Attack on U.S. Capitol
(TLB) published this article with permission of John Solomon at Just the News. Click Here to read about the staff at Just the News
Some emphasis and video content added by (TLB) editors
Header featured image (edited) credit: U.S. Capitol Police sergeant Aquilino Gonell (Photo by Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)
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