Cops in Jan. 6 hearing recount attacks from Capitol rioters

Mobs of Trump supporters attacked police officers, threatening their lives and hurling racial slurs as they stormed the Capitol, law enforcement witnesses told House lawmakers Tuesday in the Jan. 6 select committee’s first hearing on the insurrection.

“I was grabbed, beaten, Tased, all while being called a traitor to my country,” Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone testified.

“I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm, as I heard chants of, ‘Kill him with his own gun.'”

Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone listens to testimony during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021.

Andrew Harnik | Reuters

The four officers’ testimony painted a picture of a vicious, weapon-wielding mob that was willing to assault police in pursuit of its goal of stopping Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s electoral victory over then-President Donald Trump, who had spent weeks falsely claiming the election had been stolen from him.

“They literally were there to ‘Stop the Steal,” said Capitol Police PFC Harry Dunn, referencing a phrase Trump employed repeatedly after his loss to Biden, including at a rally right before the invasion began.

Dunn, who is Black, also described being berated with racial slurs by a group of Trump supporters when they found out he had voted for Biden.

Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Harry Dunn listens during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021.

Andrew Harnik | Reuters

“One woman in a pink ‘MAGA’ shirt yelled, ‘You hear that, guys, this n—– voted for Joe Biden!’ Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in, screaming ‘Boo! F—— n—–!'” he said.

Dunn later testified that he “wasn’t able to process it as a racial attack” at the time. “I was just trying to survive that day and get home,” he said.

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Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who is leading the panel and chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., stressed at the start of the hearing that the problems that led to the invasion have not been solved.

“This threat hasn’t gone away. It looms over our democracy like a dark cloud,” Thompson said.

Earlier Tuesday, Cheney suggested that the investigation might subpoena Trump and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. “It could,” Cheney told ABC News. “The committee will go wherever we need to go to get to the facts.”

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges testifies during the opening hearing of the U.S. House (Select) Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

Some of the officers also expressed incredulity at the continuing efforts, including from lawmakers who were present on Jan. 6, to downplay the attack.

“We were all fighting for our lives to give you guys a chance to go home to your families and escape,” Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell told the lawmakers, “and now the same people who we helped, the same people who we gave them the borrowed time to get to safety, now they are attacking us, they are attacking our characters.”

Gonell also described being crushed by a group of rioters pushing their way into the building.

“I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance,'” he said.

U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell looks down and covers his eyes during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021.

Andrew Harnik | Reuters

The officers spoke after lawmakers on the panel called for more facts and accountability, including from the Trump White House.

Investigators must figure out “what happened every minute of that day in the White House — every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during and after the attack,” said Cheney, one of two Republicans on the nine-member panel.

“Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward. If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system,” Cheney said.

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) listens to testimony from Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges recall how he was assaulted during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, during the opening hearing of the U.S. House (Select) Committee investigating the attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

Before the mob broke into the Capitol, Trump held a rally outside the White House and heaped pressure on Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, to challenge key states’ Electoral College results. He exhorted the crowd to march to the Capitol, telling them, “If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

As throngs of rioters broke through lines of law enforcement officers and streamed into the Capitol, Trump initially lashed out at Pence on Twitter for refusing to reject electoral votes. Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” Trump tweeted.

He later posted a video urging the attempted insurrectionists to go home, adding, “We love you. You’re very special.”

The House committee, whose members were all appointed by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was created after Senate Republicans voted down an independent, “9/11-style” commission to study the invasion.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger gets emotional as he speaks during a hearing by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021.

Oliver Contreras | Reuters

Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both vocal critics of Trump in the wake of Jan. 6, are the only Republicans on the panel. House Republicans voted to strip Cheney of her House leadership role after she refused to stop criticizing Trump for spreading the lie that the 2020 election was rigged to favor President Joe Biden.

McCarthy submitted five Republicans to be added to the select committee, but withdrew all their names after Pelosi rejected two of his picks. One of those rejects, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, may be a material witness in the probe, Cheney said last week.

In opening minutes of the hearing, Thompson played a video that spliced together footage from in and around the Capitol during the siege. The video showed rioters attacking police, shooting sprays and throwing objects, breaking windows and other property, threatening lawmakers by name and calling for the election results to be reversed.

Some of the officers looked away from the video as it played.

In his closing remarks, Dunn likened the insurrectionists to hired killers.

“If a hitman is hired and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, but the person who hired them does. It was an attack carried out on Jan. 6 and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.”

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