Committee investigating Jan. 6 Capitol attack holds first hearing

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 4:39 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol held its first hearing Tuesday.

The committee, which is led by Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, heard from a group of police officers who were on the front lines defending the Capitol.

There are two types of investigations going on right now. The federal courts are handling the criminal cases of hundreds of people charged in connection to the attack.

The select committee in Congress is mainly looking into the events leading up to Jan. 6.

The officers blame former President Donald Trump for inspiring the mob to attack the Capitol in order to prevent Congress from certifying the presidential election he lost.

“It’s a pathetic excuse for his behavior for something that he himself helped to create, this monstrosity,” said Sgt. Aquilino Gonell with the U.S. Capitol Police.

They also criticized Republicans who have tried to block an investigation into the insurrection.

“My fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened,” said Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone. “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”

The officers also shared riveting and emotional stories from that day.

“Directly in front of me, a man sees the opportunity of my vulnerability, grabbed the front of my gas mask and used it to beat my head against the door,” said Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges, who was nearly crushed to death by the mob as he tried keeping them from entering the building.

Federal authorities have arrested hundreds of people they say were involved in the attack, including Matthew Bledsoe, a Memphis man who prosecutors say filmed himself inside the Capitol and posted a video compilation to social media.

According to court documents, once inside the building, Bledsoe turned the camera toward himself and said, “In the capitol. This is our house. We pay for this (expletive). Where’s those pieces of (expletive) at?”

Richard Barnett, from Arkansas, was also arrested. Barnett is the man who was photographed with his feet propped up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk.

Both Bledsoe and Barnett have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Thompson says the officers defended more than a building that day.

“You have the gratitude of this committee and this country,” said Thompson. “You held the line that day. I can’t overstate what was on the line -- our democracy. You held the line.”

Only two Republicans sit on the committee, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois.

Both Cheney and Kinzinger voted to impeach former President Trump.

Pelosi appointed Cheney and Kinzinger to the committee over the objections of House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California.

McCarthy withdrew his five appointments to the committee after Pelosi rejected two of his choices, Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio and Jim Banks, R-Indiana.

Banks and Jordan are staunch supporters of Trump and supported objections to the election results.

“They have made statements and taken actions that I think would impact the integrity of the committee, the work of the committee,” said Pelosi. “This is deadly serious. This is about our Constitution.”

Action News 5 political analyst Mike Nelson says the perceived partisanship could make the committee’s job harder and impact its credibility once a final report is released.

“I hope that some voices of reason manage to get through to people depending on how well this committee does its work,” said Nelson. “Because we don’t want to have this happen again, ever again.”

The committee has not announced who they plan to interview next, but Thompson says they will go wherever the evidence leads them.

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