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It was a day of raw, emotional testimony on Capitol Hill as lawmakers on a new, select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection held their first hearing. Lisa Desjardins has this report. Viewer warning: The testimony included videos of violence from the riot, as well as offensive language — some of which is featured in this report.
Now to the raw, emotional testimony on Capitol Hill today, as lawmakers on a new select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection held their first public hearing.
Lisa Desjardins has this report.
And a warning to our viewers: Today's testimony included videos of violence from January 6, as well as offensive language that you will only hear in part in this report.
Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, United States Capitol Police:
We fought hand to hand, inch by inch.
This was January 6, as it happened.
Michael Fanone, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer:
I was dragged from the line of officers and into the crowd. I heard someone scream, "I got one."
Told by four police officers who defended the Capitol that day, as a pro-Trump mob broke into the building, seeking to stop lawmakers from certifying the election results and Joe Biden's presidency.
Harry Dunn, U.S. Capitol Police Officer:
I told them to just leave the Capitol. And, in response, they yelled: "No, man. This is our house. President Trump invited us here. We're here to stop the steal. Joe Biden is not the president."
This was the first hearing of a House select committee to investigate January 6, itself a sign of divide. A bipartisan commission was blocked by Republicans. And Speaker Pelosi rejected two of the GOP's appointees to this committee.
Today, the remaining group, including two other Republicans, kept a serious tone, alongside powerful testimony and video showing officers outnumbered 50-1.
Sgt. Aquilino Gonell:
I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance.
Daniel Hodges, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department:
A man tried to rip the baton from my hands, and we wrestled for control. I retained my weapon. After I pushed him back, he yelled at me: "You're on the wrong team."
Another takes a different tack, shouting: "You will die on your knees."
D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges recalled seeing crowds early in the day and hearing indications then they were certainly not tourists.
After a bit of small talk, one of them asked my colleagues something to the effect of: "Is this all the manpower you have? Do you really think you're going to be able to stop all these people?"
Hours later, Hodges was nearly crushed in a key doorway.
A man seized the opportunity of my vulnerability, grabbed the front of my gas mask, and used it to beat my head against the door.
Rioters did pull D.C. police officer Michael Fanone into the crowd and beat him.
They ripped off my badge. They grabbed and stripped me of my radio. They seized ammunition that was secured to my body.
They began to beat me with their fists and with what felt like hard metal objects. At one point, I came face to face with an attacker, who repeatedly lunged for me and attempted to remove my firearm.
I was electrocuted again and again and again with a Taser. At the hospital, doctors told me that I had suffered a heart attack, and I was later diagnosed with a concussion, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Like many of his fellow officers, Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn ran into the mayhem, moving from one battle to another, with rioters calling him a traitor and more.
And I do my best to keep politics out of my job. But in this circumstance, I responded: "Well, I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?"
That prompted a torrent of racial epithets.
One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled: "You hear that, guys? This (EXPLETIVE DELETED) voted for Joe Biden."
Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming: "Boo, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED)."
No one had ever, ever called me a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.
Each has been trying to understand.
Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the Capitol Police:
The rioters called me traitor, a disgrace, and shouted that I, I, an Army veteran and a police officer, should be executed.
But, on January 6, for the first time, I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than in my entire deployment to Iraq.
The officers said their experience tells them the same danger still exists and the Capitol needs to be better fortified.
One of the scariest things about January 6 is that the people that were there, even to this day, think that they were right. They think that they were right. And that makes for a scary recipe for the future of this country.
All expressed frustration and even anger at members of Congress who have questioned the seriousness of the day.
I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room.
But too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist, or that hell actually wasn't that bad.
I need you guys to address if anyone in power had a role in this, if anyone in power coordinated or aided or abetted or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of this terrorist attack, because we can't do it. We're not allowed to.
Earlier in the day, House Republican leaders held their own news conference, decrying the committee as political and pledging their own push to find out what happened.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA:
January 6 should have never happened. We should've prepared and be prepared for the officers, make sure they have the training and the equipment that they needed.
But in the hearing, Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger said his party was wrong to block a commission. He spoke directly to the officers.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-IL:
Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days.
I want all Americans to be able to trust the work that this committee does and get the facts out there, free of conspiracy.
The committee now begins its work in earnest, gathering documents, interviewing other witnesses, and answering police officers' call for the facts.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mass:
But you carried out your duties at tremendous risk. Now we on this committee have a duty, however, a far less dangerous one, but an essential one.
Watch the Full Episode
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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