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Officers describe January 6 riot, ‘desperate struggle’ to hold back mob in House testimony

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 7/27/2021 Mabinty Quarshie and Matthew Brown, USA TODAY
a man talking on a cell phone: U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell wipes his eyes as he testifies during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021. © Andrew Harnik, AP U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell wipes his eyes as he testifies during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021.
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Schumer: Republicans ‘courage and truth telling has evaporated into smoke’

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., addressed the House’s January 6 commission, calling the insurrection “one of the darkest episodes in the history of our democracy.”

He said it is “important” they “establish a trusting account of what transpired on January 6, and who caused it.”

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Schumer then slammed Senate Republicans, who in May blocked a vote on a proposed Senate bipartisan commission to study the Capitol riot.

“We have traveled a very sorry road to get to this place,” Schumer said. “The special committee in the House was forced into existence because Senate Republicans and Leader McConnell blocked the formation of an independent commission.”

“Republicans of all stripes, many in this chamber, demanded accountability and answers. But in the last [6 months], all that courage and truth telling has evaporated into smoke,” the Senate Leader continued.

— Savannah Behrmann

Capitol Police officer Daniel Hodges describes moment of being crushed by rioters during testimony

Capitol Police officer Daniel Hodges described a harrowing encounter with Jan. 6 rioters during his opening testimony to lawmakers Tuesday.

After one rioter tried and failed to build a rapport with Hodges, another rioter told him, “You will die on your knees.”

Hodges was hit in the head during the insurrection, which he suspects led to a concussion he dealt with after the riot. Hodges told lawmakers he was kicked in the chest after a scuffle with one rioter.

“Terrorists were breaking apart the middle fencing and bike racks and the individual pieces, presumably to use weapons,” Hodge said during his testimony.

a man wearing a uniform: Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges listens during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021. © Andrew Harnik, AP Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges listens during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021.

He also described the rioters as allegedly Christian.

“It was clear the terrorists perceive themselves to be Christians. I saw the Christian flag directly to my front. Another read ‘Jesus is my Savior. Trump is my president.’ Another ‘Jesus is King.’”

“My perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us,” Hodges said.

During a vulnerable moment, Hodges told lawmakers of being tear gassed and having his head bashed in. Hodges said he screamed for help and eventually fellow officers were able to get him to safety.

When more law enforcement showed up to the Capitol, Hodges started clapping.

“Thankfully, as the day wore on, more and more resources had arrived at the Capitol to drive off the terrorists,” Hodges said.

Metro Police officer Michael Fanone recounts near-death experience with rioters

Officer Michael Fanone, a Washington Metropolitan Police officer who was violently assaulted by a mob on video during the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, testified about his near-death experience to lawmakers on Tuesday.

At one point during the riots, Fanone was pulled from the wall of Capitol police by a rioter, who exclaimed “I got one!” once he’d pulled the officer into the crowd.

“As I was swarmed by a violent mob, they ripped off my badge, they grabbed and stripped me of my radio, they seized a munition that was secured to my body. They began to beat me with their fists and what felt like hard metal objects,” Fanone recounted.

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone testifies during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021. © Andrew Harnik, AP Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone testifies during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021.

He also noted that one rioter yelled, “Get his gun! Kill him with own weapon!” after which rioters began pulling for his firearm. Fanone, being beaten, yelled at the top of his lungs “I have kids!” in a plea for his life. Eventually, some present rioters recanted and pulled Fanone back to law enforcement.

A fellow officer, also brutalized and injured during the riots, drove an unconscious Fanone to a nearby hospital, where doctors told Fanone that he’d experience a heart attack, multiple life-threatening injuries and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fanone repeatedly lamented that he did not wish for the investigation in the Capitol to be about politics but rather better understanding the horrors that occurred at the riot. He also expressed anger at the dismissal of his officers by many GOP lawmakers, as well as the spread of conspiracy theories denying the violence or motivations of the Jan. 6 rioters.

“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and people in this room, but too many people are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist, or hell wasn’t that bad,” he said.

“The indifference to my colleagues has been disgraceful,” he thundered at another point. While police officers regular put themselves into harm’s way, Fanone noted, the downplaying and denialism of the severity of the Jan. 6 riots has been especially galling and unprecedented, he said.

a group of people standing in a room: Rep. Liz Cheney, left, R-Wyo., hugs Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone as he arrives to testify at the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (Oliver Contreras/The New York Times via AP, Pool) © Oliver Contreras, The New York Times/AP Rep. Liz Cheney, left, R-Wyo., hugs Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone as he arrives to testify at the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (Oliver Contreras/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

“But nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address the elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day and in doing so betray their oath of office,” Fanone said.

What to expect: Jan. 6 committee, which aims to find out who organized and funded Capitol insurrection, holds first public hearing

‘I did not recognize my fellow citizens’: Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell says in opening statement

Capitol Police Sgt. Auilino Gonell delivered an emotional opening statement to the committee, saying he “did not recognize my fellow citizens,” during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

An army veteran, Gonell said his experience during the insurrection was more threatening to his life than serving in Iraq. “I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than my entire deployment to Iraq,” he said.

“Nothing in my experience in the army or as a law enforcement officer prepared me for what we confronted in January 6th.”

During his statement, Gonell described being called a traitor and “falsely accused of betraying my oath.” He said he was shocked at being violently attacked by rioters using the American flag.


Video: Capitol Sergeant's Emotional Jan. 6 Testimony: 'This Is How I'm Going To Die' (Newsweek)

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“My fellow officers and I were committed to not letting any rioters breach the Capitol. It was a very prolonged and desperate struggle,” Gonell told the committee.  

Gonell also described thinking he would die defending the Capitol.

In between emotional pauses, he said he worked for 15 consecutive days after the insurrection because he wanted to help secure the Capitol.

Six months since the riot, Gonell is still recovering from injuries. He will need more surgery and has had “painful and hard” physical therapy.

Gonell also thanked fellow law enforcement forces for helping during the insurrection. “I want to publicly thank all the law enforcement agencies that responded to assist that day for their courage and their support,” he said. “I especially want to thank those Capitol police officers who responded on their own from home after working midnight shifts.”

Rep. Liz Cheney makes forceful case for bipartisan investigation into Jan. 6

In her opening remarks, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., made a bipartisan case for the importance of the Jan. 6 select committee.

"We cannot leave the violence of January 6th and its causes uninvestigated," Cheney said, cautioning that to not do so would invite a Jan. 6-style riot “every four years.”

Cheney's full statement: Liz Cheney calls for answers, accountability on Jan. 6: 'We must know what happened'

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Cheney accepted a nomination to serve on the panel by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after being ousted from House GOP leadership for her persistent focus on the role that former President Donald Trump played in inciting violence at the Capitol.

"I have been a conservative Republican since 1984, when I first voted for Ronald Reagan. I have disagreed sharply on policy & politics with nearly every Democratic member of this committee. But in the end, we are one nation under God,” Cheney said.

a woman sitting at a table using a laptop: Republican Rep. Liz Cheney demanded answers and "full and open testimony" for the American people about what transpired on Jan. 6. © Associated Press Republican Rep. Liz Cheney demanded answers and "full and open testimony" for the American people about what transpired on Jan. 6.

She has drawn criticism from her party for joining the panel. The congresswoman was undeterred in her first speech on Tuesday.

"We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know 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,” Cheney urged.

"Our children will know who stood for truth,” Cheney said in her final remarks. “They will inherit the nation we hand to them — a Republic, if we can keep it."

More: Liz Cheney got a fundraising boost, but Trump-friendly Republicans raised big money too

Rep. Bennie Thompson, committee chair, opens January 6 hearing

In his opening statement before the House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., emphasized the panel will be “guided solely by the facts.”

“There’s no place for politics or partisanship in this investigation, our only charge is to follow the facts where they lead us,” Thompson said.

He described the insurrection as a “violent attack that involved a vicious assault on law enforcement.”

Who's who: Meet the members of the House's January 6 select committee

While expressing gratitude for the four police officers who are testifying before the committee, Thompson called the men “courageous.”

“It's an honor to have four of these heroes sitting before us today,” he said.

He played a four-minute video showing rioters overrunning police officers, busting windows and invading the U.S. Capitol. Police officers were heard calling for help.

The insurrection, Thompson said after the video finished playing, “looms over our democracy like a dark cloud.”

“We cannot allow ourselves to be undone by liars and cheaters.”

More: House Speaker Pelosi names GOP Rep. Kinzinger to select committee investigating Jan. 6 riot

Kevin McCarthy et al. standing in front of a building: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., joined from left by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, holds a news conference before the start of a hearing by a select committee appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the Jan. 6 insurrection, at the Capitol in Washington, on July 27, 2021. © Jacquelyn Martin, AP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., joined from left by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, holds a news conference before the start of a hearing by a select committee appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the Jan. 6 insurrection, at the Capitol in Washington, on July 27, 2021.

McCarthy, Scalise, Stefanik slam Pelosi and Jan. 6 committee

Flanked by would-be GOP members of the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy excoriated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for denying two Republican lawmakers spots on the investigation, claiming the the panel was a partisan effort.

“Pelosi will only take people onto the committee that will ask the questions she wants asked. That becomes a failed committee and a failed report, A sham that no one can believe,” McCarthy warned at an early morning press conference Tuesday, insinuating that Republicans may not accept any findings from the committee.

“Clearly they’re not searching for the truth, they’re searching for a narrative that Speaker Pelosi has already written,” Rep. Steve Scalise, the second-ranking GOP lawmaker in the House, said at the press conference.

Last week, Pelosi denied seating Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Jim Banks, R-Ind., on the panel over their votes to reject the results of the 2020 election and criticism of the committee’s investigative premises.

Pete Aguilar in a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, flanked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., finishes his remarks as Pelosi announces her appointments to a new select committee to investigate the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. © J. Scott Applewhite, AP Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, flanked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., finishes his remarks as Pelosi announces her appointments to a new select committee to investigate the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Scalise argued that Jordan and Banks were “canceled” by Pelosi, evoking the idea of “cancel culture,” which has garnered popularity among conservatives.

Jordan sought to tie the failures of the Capitol Police on Jan. 6 to calls to “defund the police” in the summer of 2020. “When you spend a year talking about defunding police… it’s kind of hard to actually have police here on Jan. 6,” he said, declining to draw any further causal link.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., chair of the House Republican Conference, called Pelosi an “authoritarian” and a “lame duck speaker” who “doesn’t want the American people to learn the truth or know the facts.”

Absent from the lawmakers’ criticisms was any mention of the causes of the attack on the U.S. Capitol or the motivation for the rioters. 

While McCarthy noted he would have liked “a response faster” from Trump during the riot, he quickly pivoted to attacking the House Sergeant at Arms for a message sent to Pelosi notifying her of the riots on the Capitol.

4 police officers to testify

The House Select Committee on Tuesday is set to hold its first congressional hearing on the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. 

Chaired by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., the committee will call on four police witnesses, two of whom are U.S. Capitol Police officers — Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell. The other two witnesses — Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges — are Metropolitan Police officers. 

Arriving at this point has not been without drama. 

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's Republican recommendations for the committee, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana. Pelosi said they undermined the integrity of the committee by opposing certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election and //by criticizing the committee's investigation.

In retaliation, McCarthy threatened to pull all five Republicans he selected out of the process. The three other Republicans — Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls — were not officially appointed by Pelosi to the committee.

a man wearing a uniform: U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn testifies during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021. (Oliver Contreras/The New York Times via AP, Pool) © Oliver Contreras, The New York Times/AP U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn testifies during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 27, 2021. (Oliver Contreras/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Jan. 6 committee: Pelosi rejects GOP picks Jordan, Banks; McCarthy threatens to pull out

On Sunday, Pelosi asked Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois to join the select committee.

“He brings great patriotism to the committee’s mission: to find the facts and protect our democracy,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement announcing her decision. 

Kinzinger is the second Republican Pelosi has chosen to join the committee; Pelosi previously picked Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

The panel, created in June after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan independent commission to study the insurrection, is made up of 13 members. 

Related: Pelosi names GOP Rep. Kinzinger to select committee investigating Jan. 6 riot

Watch this file for updates throughout the hearing.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Officers describe January 6 riot, ‘desperate struggle’ to hold back mob in House testimony

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