Jan 6. Hearing Shows Partisan Divisions05/13 06:09
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans sought to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6
insurrection during a rancorous congressional hearing Wednesday, painting the
Trump supporters who attacked the building as mostly peaceful patriots and
downplaying repeatedly the violence of the day.
Democrats, meanwhile, clashed with Donald Trump's former Pentagon chief
about the unprepared government response to a riot that began when hundreds of
Trump loyalists bent on overturning the election broke through police barriers,
smashed windows and laid siege to the building.
The colliding lines of questioning, and a failure to settle on a universally
agreed-upon set of facts, underscored the challenges Congress faces as it sets
out to investigate the violence and government missteps. The House Oversight
Committee hearing unfolded just after Republicans in the chamber voted to
remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post for rebuking Trump for his
false claims of election fraud and his role in inciting the attack.
Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting
Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, testifying publicly for the first time about
Jan. 6, defended their agencies' responses to the chaos. But the hearing almost
immediately devolved into partisan bickering about how that day unfolded, with
at least one Republican brazenly stating there wasn't an insurrection at all.
"I find it hard to believe the revisionist history that's being offered by
my colleagues on the other side," Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat,
proclaimed in exasperation.
The violence of that day is well-established, particularly after an
impeachment trial that focused on the clashes between rioters and police that
left officers beaten and bloodied, including one who was crushed between a door
and another shocked with a stun gun before he had a heart attack. Some of the
insurrectionists threatened to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence and
menacingly called out for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an apparent effort to
find her in the building.
But Republican lawmakers on the committee sought to refocus the hearing's
attention away from those facts, repeatedly equating the insurrection with
violence in American cities last summer that arose from racial justice protests
that they said Democrats had failed to forcefully condemn.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona played video footage of violence outside the
federal courthouse in Portland last summer. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia said
that while "there were some rioters" on Jan. 6, it was a "bold-faced lie" to
call it an insurrection and likened it in some ways to a "normal tourist visit."
In ways that fundamentally rewrote the facts of the day and the
investigations that resulted, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said the Justice
Department was "harassing peaceful patriots." He described Ashli Babbit, a
California woman who was fatally shot by an officer during the insurrection
after climbing through the broken part of a door, as having been "executed,"
even though prosecutors have said the officer won't be prosecuted because the
shooting did not break the law.
"It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters
who were taking the lives of others," said Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia,
downplaying the violent tactics used by loyalists to the president, including
spraying officers with pepper and bear spray.
One Capitol Police officer who was injured while confronting rioters
suffered a stroke and died a day later of natural causes. Dozens more were
severely injured, some of whom may never return to duty.
"This was a violent white supremacist mob who assaulted the nation's
Capitol" said Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. "It was a
deadly and dangerous insurrection that was incited by Donald Trump."
For their part, Democrats clashed with Miller over the hours-long gap
between when National Guard support was first discussed and the time troops
Rep. Ro Khanna of California told Miller he was dumfounded "we had someone
like you in that role." After Miller described a statement from Lynch, the
Massachusetts congressman, as "ridiculous," Lynch replied that Miller himself
"You were AWOL, Mr. Secretary," said Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of
"That's completely inaccurate," Miller replied. "That's completely
In testimony aimed at rebutting broad criticism that military forces were
too slow to be deployed, Miller told the committee he was concerned before the
insurrection that sending troops to the Capitol could fan fears of a military
coup and cause a repeat of the deadly Kent State shootings in 1970.
"No such thing was going to occur on my watch, but these concerns, and
hysteria about them, nonetheless factored into my decisions regarding the
appropriate and limited use of our armed forces to support civilian law
enforcement during the Electoral College certification," Miller said. "My
obligation to the nation was to prevent a constitutional crisis."
Miller said that though military involvement in domestic law enforcement
should be a "last resort," he regarded the speed at which the National Guard
was dispatched as among the most expedient deployments in history. He said he
stood by each decision he made that day.
He said that though he believed Trump had encouraged his supporters to
protest the election results, he did not believe Trump's rhetoric -- which led
to his impeachment -- was the "unitary" factor in the riot. That drew
complaints from Democrats, who said Miller appeared to be softening criticism
of Trump that he voiced in earlier media interviews.
Trump was ultimately acquitted by the Senate of having incited the riot.
Miller denied that Trump had any involvement in the Defense Department's
response, saying the two of them did not speak that day. Democrats nonetheless
honed in on Trump and his role in the riot.
"The failures of Jan. 6 go beyond the craven lies and provocations of one
man," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat and the committee's
Rosen in his testimony defended the Justice Department's preparation and
also said there was no evidence of widespread election fraud that could have
caused the results to be voided. His former boss, William Barr, has said the