An infamous day. A search for answers. Will America listen?


WASHINGTON (AP) — In a time of agony for other things, the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — and democracy itself — comes to the fore as a House select committee opens hearings this week on the insurgency and Donald Trump. part in it. Will Americans care?

The committee’s aggressive investigation produces a reel of storylines that together will tell the story of a violent uprising fueled by the venom and lies of a defeated president.

But Americans are dealing with the nightmare of the massacre of children in Texas, the racist murders in Buffalo, New York, and other scenes of carnage in the United States.

They face what looks like highway robbery at the gas pump, harassed by a virus the world cannot shake and split into two hostile camps over politics and culture – the two pillars of the very foundation of the nation.

And they’ve already gone through the wringer on anything Trump-related.

Starting Thursday in prime time, the committee sets out to draw up the historical record of an event damaging not just to a community or individual families, but to the collective idea of ​​democracy itself.

After more than 100 subpoenas, 1,000 interviews and 100,000 documents, the committee promises to tell a story for the ages.

Dozens of insurgents have been brought to justice. But the purpose of the committee is broader: who in a position of power should also be held accountable?

There are so many layers of investigation. Did Vice President Mike Pence refuse to leave the beleaguered Capitol because he suspected the Secret Service, at Trump’s request, was trying to take him away to prevent him from certifying Joe Biden’s victory? Did Trump flush compromising papers down the White House toilet?

One goal: to establish whether Trump’s actions are criminal, as a judge thought, and whether that could mean prosecuting an ex-president.

More broadly, the effort is about who might be punished in Trump’s larger circle of enablers. Some of them are lawmakers who sided with his efforts to nullify a fair election only to cower in fear with everyone in a Capitol hideout when rioters swarmed the Capitol in service of that goal.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat on the committee, set high expectations as the panel attempts to renew interest in the machinations that have spanned nearly 18 months in the rearview mirror.

The dangers in this mirror are closer than they appear, according to the committee members.

“The hearings will tell a story that will really blow the roof off the House,” Raskin said in April. United States history. »

This offense? “An internal coup” coupled with a violent attack by “neo-fascists”, he declared.

Trump is not expected at any of the hearings, but his words and actions will weigh heavily on the proceedings as lawmakers seek to place him at the center of the chaos. It seems very plausible that he finds a way to go after them without being under oath.

The panel, relieved of the burden of proof beyond the standard of reasonable doubt, will likely attempt to demonstrate that the riot was not a spontaneous gathering, but part of a larger conspiracy.

Yet much is already known because the attack unfolded on TV and Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell” shouting for the world to hear.

“In quieter times, hearings would have a greater grip on the public’s attention,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. “But, as is, they will compete for attention on matters of greater immediate relevance to our lives.”

Hungry babies lack formula. Soaring prices. Increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations among vaccinees. The threat that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will escalate into something nuclear. Monkeypox.

“If the hearings are to do more than reinforce our existing political biases,” Jamieson said, “they will have to reveal previously covered-up events that threatened something that Democrats, Independents, and most Republicans can agree should be sacrosanct”.

Seven Democrats and two Republicans make up the panel. Among them is Rep. Liz Cheney, the deeply conservative but fiercely independent lawmaker from Wyoming who is virtually alone in the GOP in attacking Trump while seeking re-election to Congress.

Once an embodiment of the Republican establishment, she is now a renegade in a new order dominated by Trump, who wants her toppled in his August primary.

Dartmouth College historian Matthew Delmont said Jan. 6 cast such an ominous shadow that he expects Americans, despite all their concerns, to be drawn into the investigation.

“They want to understand how our democracy reached this precipice,” he said.

January 6 shares some distinctions with other traumas in history. Like 9/11, you can stenograph the date and people know it. Like Watergate, it speaks of acts of corruption at the highest level. The attack caused such visceral shock that many people remember where they were and what they were doing when they saw it.

On the far right, the historical analogy is the Boston Tea Party, with Liberals, Democrats, and the Washington establishment as redcoats.

Republicans pro-Trump sanitized what happened that day after the shock felt by nearly everyone on Jan. 6 subsided. In measures of public opinion, Republican voters overwhelmingly said they believed the 2020 election was rigged, while by all measures — the courts, nonpartisan state officials and even Republicans and the Trump administration’s own election observers — the election was purely fair.

Trump won the 2016 election with a minority of voters, lost the House to Democrats in 2018 and lost in 2020 by a decisive margin — not a glowing electoral record.

Yet he dominates his party thanks to supporters whose loyalty seems unwavering. They won’t be easily dislodged by anything a congressional committee reveals.


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