Senate Republicans waved off police officers’ emotional accounts Tuesday of battling a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as a partisan escapade not worth paying attention to.
“Just more of [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s] partisan pageantry. She loves drama,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who did not view the testimony. “Just because she loves drama doesn’t mean I have to attend the performance.”
The four officers who testified before the newly created House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 riot described vicious attacks, racial epithets and fearing for their lives as they attempted to prevent hundreds of rioters from breaching the Capitol. One Metropolitan Police Department officer directly slammed lawmakers who continued to downplay the violence despite enjoying the protection of Capitol Police officers every day.
“Disgraceful,” MPD Officer Michael Fanone shouted, slamming his hand on the table. “Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day.”
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said the attack was politically motivated and referred to Trump as a “hit man” who sent his mob to storm the building after holding a rally at the White House and spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said attackers threatened to kill him and called him a “traitor” and “a disgrace.”
But Republican senators seemed uninterested in the hearing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters he didn’t watch it because he was “busy doing work.” He pointed to comments he made months ago blaming Trump for the attack, adding, “I stand by everything I said.”
Sen. John Thune (S.D.) argued that because Pelosi vetoed two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the committee, she had tainted the investigation beyond repair and the public would no longer view it as bipartisan. Two GOP members serve on the committee at the invitation of Pelosi: Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.).
“They at least would have had some semblance of bipartisanship on this,” Thune lamented of Pelosi’s decision. “I think that has, for all intents and purposes, has been lost, and I think that probably shapes the way a lot of Americans view the process going forward.”
Like most of his colleagues, Thune voted against creating an independent bipartisan commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack. That panel, modeled after the bipartisan 9/11 commission, would have been staffed by experts ― not lawmakers.
Kennedy, who voted to object to the 2020 electoral results just a few hours after the attack on the Capitol, agreed with Thune. He said that if Pelosi “had done this in a way that was totally impartial it would have been a different story.”
“I think this is the speaker’s attempt to try to link the atrocities of January 6 to the Republican Party. I don’t think anybody’s fooled by what she’s trying to do,” he added.
The events of Jan. 6 are indeed linked to the GOP, however. Trump and his allies spent months lying about the election. The former president then urged hundreds of his supporters to march on the Capitol and declined to intervene after the riot began, despite top lawmakers’ urgent pleas. Moreover, rioters themselves told police officers on Jan. 6 and prosecutors afterward that Trump had sent them to overturn the election.
McConnell spelled out those facts himself earlier this year.
“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said in February before voting to acquit Trump during his second impeachment trial. “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”