First Jan. 6 Special Hearing Starts with Eye Witness Testimony

The first hearing for the newly implemented select committee to investigate what really happened during the attack on Jan. 6 will take place this morning and the committee will kick off the process with four law enforcement officers, who spent all day defending the Capitol from the violent mob.

Today’s initial public presentation of the committee’s intent to probe the events of that day will be the first since last week’s scuffle between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, that resulted in McCarthy pulling all Republicans he had nominated from the committee.

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The Republican Party will still maintain representation on the panel, as Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WI) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) have been appointed by Pelosi to fill the gap intentionally left by McCarthy. Rep. Kinzinger issued a statement explaining his decision to put country first: “I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution — and while this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer.”

Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone (L) leaves the office of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), with US Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn (R) at the US Capitol on June 25, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/via Getty Images)

McCarthy has in turn already begun a smear campaign against both politicians, calling them “Pelosi Republicans,” to further pressure them and attack the work of the special committee before it even begins. Cheney and Kinzinger also voted in the House to impeach Trump for inciting the attempted insurrection, so it is likely that McCarthy will just continue to dismiss their conclusions and statements to Republican supporters, a majority of whom still continue to support Donald Trump.

One person who will testify today is Michael Fanone, an officer with the DC Metropolitan Police, who has publicly recounted how he was "tortured" that day. Fanone was separated from the other officers, dragged into the crowd by himself, tased and beaten with fists and metal objects, and left to beg for his life. He pleaded with insurgents, telling them, "I have kids."

Fanone suffered a mild heart attack and a brain injury on Jan. 6 and he continues to suffer from the trauma of the experience. Fanone has also said he struggles with anxiety from hearing people downplay the attack. 

Last month, Fanone met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and asked him to condemn the 21 House Republicans who voted against giving the police officers who defended the Capitol a congressional medal of honor. Fanone also requested that McCarthy publicly denounce a statement by Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA), who compared the riot to a "normal tourist visit."

Fanone met with the press following his disappointing meeting with Minority Leader McCarthy and told them he didn't find McCarthy's response sufficient. "I asked him specifically for a commitment to denounce that publicly,” said Fanone, “and he said that he would address it at a personal level with some of those members.” Officer Fanone continued, “But again, I think that…as the leader of the House Republican Party, it's important to hear those denouncements publicly."

Another witness who will give his account before the Jan. 6 Committee today is Harry Dunn, who refers to himself on Twitter as an “insurrection stopper” and who has often tried to recount his experience to the public. Fox News host Tucker Carlson used his program to attack Dunn last week, and referred to Dunn as an “angry left-wing political activist.”

Following the verbal attack by Carlson that called the Black officer’s professionalism and objectivity into question, lawyers for Dunn issued a joint response saying that Dunn would “lay down his life to protect a Member of Congress, regardless of being a Republican or Democrat.”

Members of the Jan. 6 select committee insist that even though the officers’ stories have been publicly relayed and documented, hearing about what happened from them in this context is a necessary prologue. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-MD), one of seven Democrats chosen for the select committee, gave an interview last week in which he explained that police personnel provide the “moral center of gravity of the whole investigation.”

Fellow panel member, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), also explained the importance of this first-hand testimony for context, saying a recount from these officers was “a really important perspective to begin with . . . to put to rest this fictional revisionist history.” Schiff made a point to counter the relentless references from Trump and other Republicans to characterize the Capitol riot as a “normal tourist visit” from a “loving crowd.”

The special hearing today is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am ET with opening statements from Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MI) and Rep. Liz Cheney, (R-WY). You can watch it live online here, and I will also be providing live updates on my Twitter feed here.


Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.

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