The panel investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol last year holds its second public hearing Monday, with former President Donald Trump’s campaign manager among those testifying in a session focusing on Trump’s unfounded allegations of election fraud.
Committee members said Sunday much more evidence will emerge in upcoming hearings that Trump knew he had lost his bid for reelection and yet fomented the mayhem by telling supporters he had been cheated out of another four-year term.
Trump “absolutely knew he had lost,” U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “Any reasonable person had to know he was spreading a big lie” by claiming, as he does to this day, that he won the November 2020 election over Democrat Joe Biden, who assumed the presidency two weeks after the attack on the Capitol.
Raskin described Trump’s actions as encouraging “a massive attack on our democracy,” while California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, in a separate interview on ABC’s “This Week” show, said, “While this attack was going on, he did nothing to stop it” until hours after it started.
Schiff contended that Trump engaged in a “dereliction of duty (by his) inactions that day” in not trying to call off the riot for more than two hours as his supporters rampaged through the Capitol, ransacking congressional offices and forcing lawmakers to flee the Senate and House of Representatives chambers for their own safety.
Raskin and Schiff said the committee’s chairman, Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson, and the panel’s vice-chairman, Republican Liz Cheney, only spelled out the broad outlines of the House investigative committee’s findings at last week’s opening hearing televised during prime-time evening hours.
At least six more public hearings are planned over the next two weeks.
“There’s no question the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame,” Cheney said in her opening statement last Thursday accusing Trump of illegally trying to upend the election result to stay in power and urging supporters to block lawmakers from certifying Biden’s victory.
Trump, posting on his own TRUTH Social platform, called the committee hearing Thursday night a “one sided, totally partisan, POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” He dismissed a brief videotape of his elder daughter Ivanka testifying that she agreed with former Attorney General William Barr that there was no broad evidence of political fraud in the election and that Biden had won fairly.
Trump said his daughter, a White House adviser to him, had “checked out” by the time vote recounts were being conducted.
Cheney outlined the case against Trump much like a prosecutor might do in an opening statement at a criminal trial although the House committee can only spell out the case to the public, not bring charges against anyone. The panel could, if it chooses to do so, refer its findings and transcripts of the thousand or so witnesses it has interviewed to the Justice Department for its consideration on whether to charge anyone, including Trump, for planning and carrying out the riot.
“The rule of law needs to apply equally to everyone,” Schiff said of Trump. “They need to be investigated if there is credible evidence and I believe there is. The president’s big lie (that he won the election) was in fact a big lie.”
More than 800 supporters of Trump have already been charged in the mayhem inside the Capitol and more than 300 have pleaded guilty or been convicted, with the remaining cases still unresolved. Judges have sentenced some of the rioters facing such minor charges as trespassing to a few weeks in prison, but those who attacked police to barge into the Capitol have been imprisoned for four years or more.
Raskin and Schiff said multiple Republican members of Congress sought pardons from Trump before he left office January 20, 2021, because they had supported his efforts to stay in office. Cheney said Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania was one of them, but he denied it after she mentioned his name in her Thursday night statement.
Raskin said the fact the lawmakers sought a Trump pardon, which he did not grant, showed “evidence of guilt or a fear they were culpable. The details will surface.”
“Everything is based on facts,” Raskin said of the information that has yet to be made public by the investigative committee.