Select Committees First Hearing On January 6 Was Riveting And A Brief Respite From Partisan Squabble (Analysis)

The four police officers who testified before the first hearing of the January 6 select committee Tuesday gave House lawmakers harrowing, dramatic and unnerving accounts of what happened that day. Even when video clips were not being shown of the Capitol riot, their testimony made for riveting TV, showing that more than six months later, emotions are still raw.

Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone pounded his fist on the table and, responding to lawmakers and Donald Trump allies who have taken to minimize what happened, said, “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”

Returning to the events of that day, described in graphic detail, seemed to be a purpose of the committee’s kickoff — against a number of Republicans who want to just move on or rewrite the narrative. The result was a hearing that garnered coverage across cable news channels and, at least in some markets, the broadcast networks. For at least several hours, that sidelined GOP leaders’ attempts to marginalize the hearing as yet another partisan pursuit.

Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for rejecting two members that he wanted to place on the committee, officially known as the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

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Some D.C. pundits saw Pelosi’s move as a big error, one that ultimately would undermine the legitimacy of the committee’s investigation because it wouldn’t have Republican buy-in. McCarthy, in the end, pulled all of his selections from the body, leaving it with two Republican members, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), two of the most prominent Trump critics in the GOP.

But as the first hearing of the committee played out today, what was largely absent was theatrics from Pelosi’s opponents. Had Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) or Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) been members, attention likely would have been diverted to their own agenda, as they and others try to blame Pelosi for not ensuring that the Capitol was better prepared. Or they would be indignant of the committee’s work itself, and why other civil unrest, like the protests and riots last summer, aren’t being investigated. Even if Pelosi had allowed the two Jims on the committee, does anyone really believe that the result wouldn’t be the same, that they would still, in the end, call its work another politically motivated attack on Trump?

Instead, what the first hearing had was much more focused, centered on the officers’ personal accounts, and largely free of partisan rancor. Cheney and Kinzinger were largely on the same page with the seven other Democrats.

Fighting back tears at one point, Kinzinger said to the officers, “Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We’re defined by how we come back from our bad days, how we take accountability for that.”

It’s true that many of the questions of what led to the events that day remain unanswered. As Banks said later on Fox News, some questions weren’t even being posed to the four witnesses. But more than anything, this first hearing was a reminder not to forget about January 6, to hear and even feel what it was like to be there faced with a violent mob. For many who were there on Capitol Hill that day, the reaction is still one of disbelief that it actually happened. Some wonder how it can be characterized as anything less than traumatic.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, in his closing remarks, said, “Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes. And while I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard? I guess in this America, it is.”

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