The House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol kicked off a prime-time hearing Thursday with searing charges against Donald Trump, painting a portrait of the former president at the center of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump, charged Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who leads the Jan. 6 panel, engaged in “what became a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election,” that was aimed at replacing Americans’ votes “with his will to remain in power after his term ended.”
“Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy,” said Thompson.
Lawmakers leading the probe said Thursday’s prime-time hearing would be the start of sessions revealing new details about the insurrection. The panel, led by Thompson and Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, showed a videotaped deposition by former Attorney General Bill Barr, in which he said he told Trump that claims the election was stolen were “bullshit.” Trump’s daughter Ivanka, in a separate video, said she accepted Barr’s statement about lack of election fraud.
Trump has denied responsibility or any wrongdoing related to the Jan. 6 attack.
Trump, said Cheney, “summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”
Five more hearings are expected over the next two weeks, with the next scheduled for June 13 at 10 a.m. Eastern. The final hearing, scheduled for June 23, is also planned for prime time.
The Jan. 6 panel plans to release more reports on its findings, so the hearings are not the committee’s final word. The committee may refer its findings to the Justice Department, but the panel cannot charge anyone, including Trump.
House Republicans, meanwhile, announced plans to release their own report on the riot, saying they’d focus on inadequate security preparations and the law enforcement response. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the panel “the most political and least legitimate committee in American history.”