Some of these videos are so troubling.
Roughly six months after a mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a last-ditch attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, four Capitol police officers are coming forward with their testimonies on what they experienced during that painful day. These testimony videos from the Jan. 6 insurrection hearing are an intense reminder that the attack on the U.S. Capitol was much, much more terrifying than some people (including some lawmakers in Congress) are willing to admit. Content warning: Some of these videos contain detailed descriptions and depictions of racism, violence, and harassment, and may be overwhelming to watch.
On Tuesday, July 27, the House select committee gathered to hold its first hearing on the investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. The committee hosted a panel of four Capitol police officers who were present on the day of the insurrection: Officers Aquilino Gonell, Harry Dunn, Daniel Hodges, and Michael Fanone. One by one, the four read out testimonies that painfully detailed the distress they underwent at the hands of the pro-Trump insurrectionists — many of whom were armed with deadly weapons.
“Some of the rioters had the audacity to tell me that it was nothing personal; that they would go through me — through us, police officers — to achieve their goal,” Gonell stated. “I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die. Defending this entrance,’” he added. Gonell also detailed some of the mob’s threatening words: “If you shoot us, we all have weapons. We will shoot back.”
Ironically, the officers testified that many of the Capitol insurrectionists were wearing and carrying “thin blue line” flags — a flag that is largely seen as a sign of support for law enforcement, and has been co-opted by extremist right-wing movements with hateful ideologies. During his testimony, Hodges continually referred to the rioters as terrorists, and commented on their use of the “thin blue line” flag, as well as the ironic use of Christian symbolism, during the attack.
Officer Dunn was physically and verbally assaulted with racial slurs from the violent crowd. During his testimony, he stated that the Jan. 6 riots were politically motivated, and that the insurrectionists were on a mission to carry out former President Donald Trump’s instructions. “They literally were there to ‘stop the steal,’” he explained.
Hours before the riot, Trump delivered a speech just across from the U.S. Capitol at his "Save America" rally, where he once again made baseless claims about a stolen November 2020 election. "We will never give up. We will never concede," he stated to the crowd. "Together we will drain the Washington swamp and we will clean up the corruption in our nation’s capital," he continued. "It’s a dirty business." After Trump's rally came to a close, the mob broke past barricades and stormed the Capitol building.
In the final seconds of his testimony, Dunn added that, “If a hit man is hired and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on Jan. 6, and [someone] sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.”
Fanone, who was beaten unconscious and suffered a heart attack as he fought back the rioters, expressed his anger and frustration with Trump supporters in Congress for downplaying — and even altogether denying — the gravity of the situation. “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” Fanone stated. “Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so, betray their oath of office.”
While Trump was impeached by the House on Jan. 13 for his role in inciting the Capitol riots (largely through spreading baseless misinformation about election fraud), he was acquitted of all charges on Feb. 13 by the Senate. Trump has continued to deny that he incited the Jan. 6 insurrection. However, during the ongoing investigation by the House select committee, Trump is left without a defense, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all five Republican members of the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed two of them — Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks — for their roles in fueling the Jan. 6 riots, and downplaying them afterward.
Additionally, the Justice Department issued a July 27 decision that states former government officials cannot invoke executive privilege to “avoid testifying about conversations with Trump or his advisers about the insurrection,” per NPR. This means the committee could subpoena Trump himself, as well as other Republicans, to testify as soon as August. As of July 28, the committee has made it clear that obtaining testimonies from Trump’s inner circle is a top priority. "We must know what happened every minute of that day in the White House," stated Rep. Liz Cheney, one of 10 Republicans who broke party lines to vote toward Trump’s impeachment.
“I need you guys to address if anyone in power had a role in this,” Hodges said. He urged the committee to find out “if anyone in power coordinated, or aided and abetted” the attack that day.