January 6 panel zeroes in on the crimes of Donald Trump
Julio Cortez/AP

WASHINGTON — With dozens of witnesses and many hours of live testimony the select House Committee on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has made the case that former President Donald Trump was criminally responsible for and led an attempted coup to overthrow the government of the U.S.

The nation and the world have watched in shock the stunning details of how a fascist-minded former president did everything in his power, employing government officials and agencies, to overthrow the government of the United States in order that he could remain in power.

There were officials in the government who tried hard to stop Trump but they were often too few and too late to head off the damage. And, what perhaps is worse, the infrastructure that threatened our democracy remains in place and in some ways is even more powerful today than it was on Jan. 6, 2001.

From stunning testimony to earth-shattering video to first-ever displayed documents, the true picture of what happened was, however, painted fast and furious during the historic hearings.

Cassidy Hutchinson related chilling details of what went on in the White House on the day of the Capitol invasion. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

“January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6th, to overthrow the government,” said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” a Capitol police officer testified. “There were officers on the ground. You know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up. … It was carnage. It was chaos.”

The committee showed video of its interview with former Attorney General Bill Barr during almost every hearing, displaying his clear declarations that the election was not stolen by Biden.

“And my opinion then and my opinion now is that the election was not stolen by fraud and I haven’t seen anything since the election that changes my mind on that,” Barr said.

One interesting detail related to the pressure Trump put on Vice President Pence to block certification of the Biden win was when Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka, testified how she had heard Trump, on a phone call with the Vice President on the morning of Jan. 6 repeatedly call Pence a “wimp” because of his insistence that he did not have the power to hold up certification of the vote.

Egged on by Trump’s tweet, after the attack on the Capitol had started, that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” rioters at the Capitol singled out the vice president. Armed mobs, after erecting a noose outside, chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as they rampaged through the building. Pence evacuated the Senate just moments before the mob could grab him.

Greg Jacob, the president’s lawyer, said Secret Service agents wanted Pence to leave the building but Pence refused to get in the car. “The vice president didn’t want to take any chance” that the world would see him leaving the Capitol, Jacob said. Had Pence left with the agents he could have been prevented from later finishing the certification of the Biden win, thereby making the attempted coup an actual coup.

At the committee’s fourth hearing, state officials detailed the extraordinary pressure the ex-president put on them to overturn their states’ legitimate and certified results. Rusty Bowers, Arizona’s Republican House speaker, told the committee how Trump asked him directly to appoint alternate electors falsely stating that Trump had won the state of Arizona and not Biden.

Bowers detailed additional calls with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. “I will not do it,” Bowers told him, adding: “You are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.”

One of the horrible consequences of Trump’s attempted coup was the resulting harassment and ongoing endangerment of the lives of election workers across the country.

Georgia election workers Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, also testified before the panel in the fourth hearing, describing constant threats after Trump and his allies spread false rumors that they introduced suitcases of illegal ballots and committed other acts of election fraud. The Justice Department debunked those claims.

The two women said they had their lives upended by Trump’s false claims and his efforts to go after them personally. Through tears, Moss told lawmakers that she no longer leaves her house.

In videotaped testimony, Freeman said there is “nowhere I feel safe” after the harassment.

When his efforts to overturn his defeat failed in the courts and in the states, Trump turned his aim at a Justice Department already corrupted into functioning as his personal legal team.

Richard Donoghue, the acting No. 2 at the time, testified about his resistance to pressure from another department official, Jeffrey Clark, who was circulating a draft letter recommending that battleground states reconsider the election results. Trump at one point floated replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark but backed down after Donoghue and others threatened to resign.

“For the department to insert itself into the political process this way, I think would have had grave consequences for the country,” Donoghue testified. “It may very well have spiraled us into a constitutional crisis.” Unfortunately, on so many matters that noble sentiment came years too late in a Trump administration more corrupt than any other in U.S. history.

In a shocking sixth hearing, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson recounted  Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, including his dismissive response when told that the crowd waiting for him to speak outside the White House was armed.

“I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t effing care that they have weapons,’” Hutchinson said. “‘They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effin’ mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.’”

Reminding everyone of his obsession with crowd size, Trump told his aides to take the metal-detecting magnetometers away. In the coming hours, he would step on the stage and tell them to “fight like hell.”

Hutchinson also described Trump’s anger after security officials told him he couldn’t go to the U.S. Capitol with his supporters after he had told them he would. She said she was told that the president even grabbed the steering wheel in the presidential SUV when he was told he couldn’t go.

Wandrea Shaye Moss, a temp election worker in Georgia, accused by Trumpites of stuffing ballots, testified that her life has been “upended.” | Jacquelyn Martin/AP

For the president to have visited the Capitol during Biden’s certification, and as his supporters descended on the building, would have been an unheard of situation with a sitting president bursting into the Capitol with armed mobs to halt the certification of the victory of his successor.

At its seventh hearing, the committee reconstructed a Dec. 18 unhinged meeting at the White House where outside Trump followers pushing election fraud claims clashed with White House lawyers and others who were telling him to give up the fight.

The six-hour meeting featured profanity, screaming, and threats of physical violence, according to the participants, as Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and others threw out conspiracy theories, including that the Democrats were working with Venezuelans and that voting machines were hacked. Pat Cipollone, the top White House lawyer, testified that he kept asking for evidence, to no avail. Cipollone finally testified after initially delaying with false claims of executive privilege. Executive privilege is held by the people of the U.S. through the current sitting president. A former president, especially one who was refraining from rather than carrying out his duties, along with his sycophants, is entitled to no executive privilege. Cipollone, like so many others in the administration, deserves no praise for carrying out duties for which he was paid. Especially outrageous is the fact that he waited for more than a year to lend his public voice to the falsehood of the stolen election claims of the right wing in this country.

After the unhinged meeting, at 1:42 a.m., however, Trump sent a tweet urging supporters to come for a “big protest” on Jan. 6: “Will be wild,” Trump promised.

Ruby Freeman, an election worker in Georgia, has received many threats from Trumpites. She testified that she no longer leaves her house. | Tom Williams/AP

During the actual attack, Trump was sitting at a dining room table near the Oval Office, watching Fox News coverage of the violence. But he made no calls for help — not to the Defense Department, the Homeland Security Department nor the attorney general — even as his aides repeatedly told him to call it off.

In the video released at 4:17 p.m., as some of the worst of the fighting was still happening down the street, Trump told rioters to go home but said he loved them and that they were “very special.”

The committee showed never-before-seen practice cuts of a speech Trump released on Jan. 7 in which he condemned the violence and promised an orderly transition of power. But he bristled at one line in the prepared script, telling his daughter Ivanka Trump and others in the room, “I don’t want to say the election is over.”

The committee will hold its next hearing in September, by which time it is likely other witnesses will finally come out of the woodwork.

The problem now, for the nation, is the extent to which the fascist threat in the country has gone way beyond Trump. GOP legislatures are rapidly passing bills that curb basic constitutional rights with sharp attacks on women, minorities, and LGBTQ people. The voting rights of African Americans and other minorities are under attack.

Among many other attacks on the people, for example, are right-wing groups of sheriffs who are applying pressure on rural election officials to run elections with what they call “integrity.”

One of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has been taken over by fascists who are putting forward candidates for public office on all levels who are equal to or even worse than Trump. If they gain power what we saw on Jan. 6 could well be only a small part of what they have in store for the country.

Only a massive turnout at the polls in the Midterm elections this November and the defeat of Republicans on all levels will hold off or mitigate the threat. In many ways, the current midterm elections are the most important ones ever held.

Associated Press contributed to this story


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.