By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney began her part of the primetime Jan. 6 committee hearing Thursday night by saying former President Trump “lit the flame” and “summoned the mob” to the Capitol.
Cheney, vice chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, took center stage after an opening statement from Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson. She started her presentation by reading a statement former President Donald Trump made in the hours following the Jan. 6 riot. In his Twitter post, Trump said, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long.”
“On this point, there is no room for debate,” Cheney said later in her opening remarks. “Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful President. President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”
Trump doubled down on his position Thursday morning, describing Jan. 6 as “The greatest movement in our country to Make America Great Again,” in a social media post.
“Over multiple months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power,” Cheney said. “In our hearings, you will see evidence of each element of this plan.”
Cheney laid out a preview for what the public can expect over the course of the seven June hearings the Committee plans to hold. Thursday’s hearing centered on an overview of the major moments on Jan. 6. The committee heard testimony from Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and British filmmaker Nick Questad, who provided the committee footage of the event.
Cheney talked the audience through five video clips showing interviews with former members of Trump’s staff. They spoke on Trump’s attempts to overthrow the results of the election and how he was advised against doing so.
“In our hearings, you will hear first-hand how the senior leadership of the Department of Justice threatened to resign, how the White House Counsel threatened to resign, and how they confronted Donald Trump and Jeff Clark in the Oval Office,” Cheney said. “The men involved, including Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, were appointed by President Trump. These men honored their oaths of office. They did their duty, and you will hear from them in our hearings.”
Cheney said the testimony of Trump’s staff proves he knows the election wasn’t stolen or rigged. She also had a message for her Republican colleagues who have defended Trump after the attack.
“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,” she said.
Her congressional opponent Harriet Hageman has opposed the Jan. 6 Committee, describing it as a “witch hunt.” Trump has endorsed Hageman in her campaign against Cheney.
Some detractors of the committee like Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters have laid the groundwork for conspiracy theories that the FBI and Capitol Police instigated or even organized the Jan. 6 events. No information related to the FBI was mentioned on Thursday.
Cheney introduced a video with footage provided by Quested, showing what led up to Edwards getting knocked over and injured during the riot when a bike rack was pushed on top of her. Edwards hit her head on a concrete stair and lost consciousness. Once she came to, she got up and continued trying to hold the crowd back.
“It felt like they kept coming at us,” she said.
Later in the day, she was sprayed with tear gas. Edwards expressed memories of a scene of “carnage” and “chaos” to the committee, involving “hours of hand-to-hand combat,” much more than any training had ever prepared her for.
“We understand how important your service is,” Cheney said to Edwards. “Thank you.”
Cheney said she and other members of Congress hid out under the building while law enforcement was outside.
The Committee presented testimony alleging members of the Oath Keepers had an organized plan for how they would breach the Capitol on Jan. 6. Once entering the building, members of the organization sought out Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) but were unable to find her. Members of the group infiltrated many areas within the Capitol including the Senate chambers, causing damage, and inciting more violence.
Cheney said the second hearing will involve evidence showing Trump and advisors knew he had legitimately lost the election, yet still engaged to spread misinformation. The third hearing, she said, will involve specific conversations where Trump is told he cannot overthrow the election, and the resignations and terminations that took place within his cabinet as a result. The fourth hearing will focus on former Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure him not to count electoral votes on January 6.
The final three hearings will focus on Trump’s effort to pressure officials from certain states to question the results of the election and involvement he allegedly had on influencing the mob that marched on and breached the Capitol.
“As Americans, we all have a duty to ensure what happened on January 6th never happens again, to set aside partisan battles to stand together to perpetuate and preserve our great Republic,” Cheney said, finishing off her presentation.
The event was televised live on most major television networks, but not Fox News. The next hearing is at 10 a.m. Monday.