Trump ‘refused to act’ to stop US Capitol riot, congressional hearing finds

It is not yet clear if the Justice Department will bring charges against the ex-president, but the hearings may have hurt his standing with Republican voters

US Capitol attack
The House Select Committee holding a prime-time hearing on July 21, 2022 in Washington, DC.TASOS KATOPODIS (AFP)

After losing the 2020 election, Donald Trump ignored close allies who told him that his claims of widespread election fraud were untrue, and when the followers who believed his false accusations stormed the US Capitol, he sat back and watched.

That was the narrative the US House of Representatives’ select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack laid out in eight hearings over six weeks, which wrapped up with a study of the former president’s actions during the 187-minute assault on Congress by thousands of his supporters.

“President Trump sat at his dining table and watched the attack on television while his senior-most staff, closest advisors and family members begged him to do what is expected of any American president,” US Representative Elaine Luria said. “President Trump refused to act because of his selfish desire to stay in power.”

Some 18 months after the deadly assault, the hearings replayed video of rioters smashing their way into the Capitol, screaming “Hang Mike Pence” as they hunted the vice-president who Trump had called on to overturn his election defeat.

They featured hours of testimony, some live and some recorded, from close Trump allies including former Attorney General Bill Barr, who dismissed Trump’s fraud claims as “bullshit,” and former White House staff including one who recalled an enraged president hurling plates, leaving ketchup running down a wall.

The hearings were intended to lay out a case that the Republican Trump violated the law as he tried, for the first time in US history, to stop the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.

It is not yet clear if the Justice Department will bring charges against Trump, but the hearings appear to have somewhat hurt his standing with Republican voters. A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Thursday found that 32% of Republicans say Trump should not run for president in 2024 - a possibility he continues to flirt with publicly - up from 26% who said that at the start of the hearings.

Attorney General Merrick Garland this week declined to say whether the Justice Department would charge Trump. But he did not rule it out. ”No person is above the law in this country. I can’t say it any more clearly than that,” Garland told reporters on Wednesday.

Trump and his allies - including some Republicans in Congress - deny he did anything wrong and dismiss the committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans as politically motivated.

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