House panel proves Trump himself led Jan. 6 coup attempt
People's World via AP pool

WASHINGTON—Using previously unseen video and the testimony of top White House aides, including members of the former president’s family, the Jan. 6 House panel last night displayed to the nation and the world how Trump was the chief organizer at the center of a vast conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. Trump’s leadership of the plot included his sending of violent mobs to the Capitol to halt the counting of the electoral votes and thereby stop the peaceful transfer of power.

The Friday night hearing was the first of half a dozen which, panel members say, will expose the full depth of a systematic drive by Trump to reverse the election results and hold onto power.

“Our democracy remains in danger,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chair of the committee. “January 6 and the lies that led to insurrection have put two and a half centuries of constitutional democracy at risk. The world is watching what we do here.”

The panel laid bare a host of Trump actions that constitute not just an attack on democracy but amount to violation of specific federal laws including defrauding the United States and thwarting the functions of its government.

Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chair of the Jan. 6 House Panel | YouTube screenshot

When Trump failed to win some 60 challenges in courts with frivolous and insultingly frivolous lawsuits he turned to other measures to keep himself in power including putting up fraudulent slates of Trump electors in states where Biden had won, drafting a plan to seize voting machines, trying to remove the acting attorney general, and as a final move, planning of an attack on the Capitol to halt the counting of the electoral votes. To that end, the former president employed the services of the white supremacist Proud Boys who were sent to the Capitol before anyone else. They arrived, weapons in hand, before the rally at the Elipse was even done. They cased the grounds and selected the entrances through which the mobs would pour to carry out their plan to halt the electoral vote count.

Proud Boy leaders had weapons piled up and stashed on the outskirts of the Capital ready for use as soon as they would be called in. Leaders of the Proud Boys have been indicted already on charges of seditious conspiracy.

The House committee laid out the timeline, the history, and—most importantly—Donald Trump’s instigation and coordination of it.

Speaking on prime-time television, committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyom., said the panel would prove Trump, then the Republican Oval Office occupant, developed “a sophisticated seven-part plan to remain president of the U.S., despite the outcome of the election” and despite the U.S. Constitution’s provisions for a peaceful transfer of political power.

In plain words, a coup d’etat.

Trump’s plan included specific crimes relating to fraud against the government and violating his oath of office, which the panel will cover in detail later this month.

His overarching aim: To stop the electoral vote count that officially made Democratic nominee Joe Biden president. Their preferred method would be to send electoral college votes back to selected swing states, garnering fake vote certificates showing Trump triumphed.

Those tallies, once received by Congress, would either reverse the outcome or send the decision to the U.S. House. There, under the Constitution’s one-state one-vote rules, the plan was that Trump would win and hold onto power.

The panel’s point is to unveil its enormous evidence and tie it together to show Trump as the overarching orchestrator of the series of unconstitutional actions. Had his schemes succeeded, Trump would have “permanently damaged our form of government,” committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., stated.

Every presidential transfer of power has been peaceful “until Donald Trump,” Thompson added.

Trump’s plotting began even before he lost the 2020 electoral college vote to Biden, witnesses testified in taped video interrogations. One early indication, another film showed, came when Trump told one key violent group involved, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by,” during a debate with Biden. Even then Trump was yelling on the campaign trail, “Stop the steal!”, a lie about the coming balloting.

Trump “was informed over and over again” after the election of his loss, former Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Donoghue testified. Defying the Constitution, his own staff, and even his daughter Ivanka—a presidential adviser–Trump refused to believe it.

He set in motion the series of plots to keep himself in power, the panel emphasized.

The next obvious key was Trump’s incendiary mid-December tweet ordering his white nationalist and right-wing masses to Washington on Jan. 6: “Be there! Will be wild!” And erstwhile Trump adviser Steve Bannon was shown taping his Jan. 5 podcast declaring “All hell will break loose tomorrow!”

Behind the scenes, panel evidence and videos show, Trump hatched other plans, which the panel will detail in upcoming hearings this month. Bannon, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani were part of his inner circle “war room”  implementing the Trump-ordered overthrow schemes, in federal courts and, after those failed, in the streets of Washington.

Those latter plans led to the culmination of the plotting, the invasion and insurrection that dreadful day. As twice-injured Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards testified in person, the U.S. Capitol turned into “an absolute war zone.”

Video of the Jan. 6 attack shown for the first time by the Jan. 6 House Panel

“It was carnage. It was chaos,” she said.

This panel session, the first of at least six this June, followed almost a year of investigation by the nine-member select committee—a committee which congressional Republicans tried to sabotage and still, at Trump’s instigation, denigrate. So does he. So do his Trumpites from coast to coast.

But this initial hearing featured riveting and chilling never-before-released video from both inside and outside the Capitol, much of it from filmmaker Nick Quested. He was embedded with the Proud Boys, filming a documentary on the rise of U.S. white nationalist hate groups, with them as the example.

One of his scenes: An underground garage meeting on Jan. 5 where leaders of the Proud Boys and the white nationalist Oath Keepers agreed to collaborate the next day. One statement read into the record quoted the Oath Keepers leader’s tweet promising “a civil war” unless Trump was declared the victor.

The video showed the insurrectionists overrunning the police, injuring Edwards and knocking her unconscious as she tried in vain to stop them at the foot of Capitol Hill. They smashed in windows, surged inside the Capitol, occupied its rotunda, roamed its halls, thronged its basement crypt, trashed offices, and defaced its art, all seeking to stop the electoral vote count.

And all the while, the invaders’ chants included yelling “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and repeatedly claiming the Capitol is “Our house!” They also killed people.

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, stationed near Edwards to also help guard the Capitol, was so badly injured he died the next day. On June 9, his partner was in the audience in the large congressional hearing room. Three other officers, distraught at being unable to stop the invasion, later committed suicide. Edwards wore civilian clothes and apparently is still recovering from the trauma.

When Edwards regained her senses, she went to defend another section of the Capitol and was injured again—but not before, as she tended other wounded, she saw the war-like scene as a whole. The invaders streamed through corridors, forcing lawmakers, staffers, and press to flee for their lives. One part of the video showed them being evacuated.

Charging inside, the insurrectionists shouted “Hang Mike Pence!” against the Republican Vice President and chanted “Nancy! Nancy! Nancy!” as they stormed up an interior stairway, seeking the Democratic House Speaker and other lawmakers, planning to injure or kill them.

Witnesses were filmed telling committee probers that inside the White House, Trump agreed with hanging Pence, who had publicly, pointedly refused to void electoral votes.

And it was all premeditated and preplanned, including a stash of arms in suburban Virginia.

“The attack on our Capitol was not a spontaneous riot,” said Cheney, who handled much of the narration. “Intelligence before Jan. 6 shows how they planned, led by a group of the Proud Boys” who, the video showed, started for the Capitol at 10:30 am that day, even before Trump took the stage near the White House to egg on the crowd. The Proud Boys vanguard numbered 250-300.

And the invaders boasted, on film, about why they did it: Because Trump ordered it.

All with the aim, as Cheney repeatedly emphasized, of keeping Trump in the presidency, even though he lost the electoral vote. Trump, she said, violated his oath of office and the U.S. Constitution—and, as she put it, committed multiple crimes to achieve his goal.

“As our Founding Fathers recognized, our democracy is fragile,” Cheney said before introducing the main video. “We don’t swear an oath to an individual or a political party. You take an oath to defend the Constitution.

“To my Republican colleagues”—almost all of whom still slavishly tread the Trump line—Cheney added a warning that “one day Trump will be gone,” but they will be judged, harshly. They haven’t been listening, and still aren’t. In just one example of their fealty to Trump, Cheney’s 2021 vote to impeach Trump for violating the Constitution by instigating the insurrection cost the lawmaker her party leadership job. Trumpite Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., grabbed it.

And on June 9, both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and the Trump puppets on the Republican National Committee again denounced the hearings as political. McCarthy denied anew that he pleaded with Trump to call off the dogs—a call documented and taped. One video scene showed invaders trashing McCarthy’s office after he had fled the insurrection.

The insurrection followed months of constant Trump lies that the election was stolen—lies that his own staff, his daughter Ivanka and then-Attorney General William Barr forcefully told him were untrue. The committee will delve into those lies at its next session, starting at 10 am Eastern Time on June 13.

But the numerous video depositions made it clear that Trump was told he had lost and went ahead with his illegal long-term campaign to stay in office, anyway.

“I did not agree with the idea the election was stolen,” Barr told committee investigators, describing on video three face-to-face conversations with Trump in mid-November and early December 2020.

“I told the president it was bullshit.”

“You can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration”—Trump’s—“wants to stay in power” despite “no evidence” of vote fraud that would have given him an excuse, said Barr. “I respected Attorney General Barr and I accepted what he was saying,” Ivanka Trump said in the next video.

And “Trump kept going” though ”the Acting Attorney General” Jeff Rosen, “told him over and over he was defeated,” said Cheney. Rosen succeeded Barr, who had quit after the fruitless conversations.

Even California law professor John Eastman, who constructed the top scenario for Trump to keep himself in power, knew Trump didn’t win, the committee revealed. So he lied to the courts about it.

“If Eastman’s and Trump’s plan had worked,” to have Pence void electoral votes and throw decision back to the states—who could then send fake electors—or to the House, “it would have permanently undermined our constitutional government,” said committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

“And you will hear the Trump legal team continued to work to undermine the electoral votes” even after Barr’s warnings, Cheney said. The committee will cover the legal machinations at its fifth hearing later this month.

That hearing will also cover Trump’s pressure on top state election officials to overturn popular vote results for Biden. One focus, Cheney said, will be on Trump’s pressure on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, to “find enough votes” in Trump’s words—11,780–to give the Republican the win in that key swing state, by one vote.

Video of the Jan. 6 attack shown for the first time by the Jan. 6 House Panel

General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in a video deposition that Trump’s mind was interpreted by his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, when the insurrection hit. Milley quoted Meadows as saying Trump sought to show he—not Pence—was in charge. The general’s reaction: “Politics, politics, politics.”

Pence had called out the National Guard and other armed forces to come to the aid of the beleaguered Capitol Police and Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Police, who were trying to repel the invaders. Trump had refused to call for the reinforcements, even after staffers and lawmakers told him of the invasion and pleaded with him to call it off. Trump refused and Pence, who had to flee, too, stepped in.

While the panel touched on the issue only briefly, Capitol Police had few indications of coming trouble. A disjointed command structure, lack of preparation, and a belief Jan. 6 would be like prior protests—rowdy but not violent—hampered their response.

Last month, the Washington Post revealed another pre-invasion warning. Moderate Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who has often publicly clashed with progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called the New Yorker on Jan. 5, to alert her. Lie low, Spanberger, a longtime CIA counterterrorism officer, told Ocasio-Cortez. Make yourself inconspicuous. You’re a target.

Her warnings were justified. Ocasio-Cortez dressed in dark colors and wore tennis shoes and prepared to run. Invaders, specifically yelling for her, crashed into her office. Fearing for her life, Ocasio-Cortez had already taken refuge in another House member’s quarters.

Future hearings will detail specific aspects of Trump’s coup planning. One issue neither Thompson nor Cheney mentioned was who paid for the plans, the lawyers, the “War Room” in the Willard Hotel, or for flying the invaders in from as far away as California—including a distinctive orange-hatted brigade of Proud Boys from Arizona.

News reports have identified Republican big givers bankrolled Republican political organizations which in turn echoed Trump’s “Stop the steal!” campaign, but not who paid for the invasion itself.

However, Cheney pointed out the committee’s investigation is continuing, as is that of the Justice Department, which has indicted more than 800 of the invaders. Some, when interviewed on video, were shown with their charges, and often sentences, added at the bottom of the screen.

The next two hearings are scheduled for June 13 at 10 am and on June 15. Big over-the-air networks have yet to say if they’ll air the sessions. All but one televised the June 9 hearing live. The exception was Trump’s megaphone, Fox. It diverted the committee hearing to its cable business channel.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.