Features Australia

The Trump Insurrection show

Capitol riot hearings are fatally flawed

25 June 2022

9:00 AM

25 June 2022

9:00 AM

There are words to describe the January 6 House Congressional committee looking into the Capitol Hill protest and those words would not include investigation, inquiry or probe. They would include agitprop, sham, show trial, star chamber and kangaroo court. How else do you describe a one-sided ‘investigation’ where only the prosecution has a role and the defence is non-existent?

That most of the Australian media is treating the committee’s made-for-TV hearings as credible is evident from the breathless coverage, but here are some pointers to what is really going on.

Firstly, none of the GOP’s nominees was appointed to the nine-member committee, whose charter requires 13 members. GOP spokeswoman Elise Stefanik says this breaks a 230-year precedent. In fact, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed two anti-Trump GOP members, pariah Liz Cheney and the retiring Adam Kinzinger, both of whom voted for Trump’s impeachment. She got exactly what she wanted, a figleaf of bipartisanship.

This is a bit like making Malcolm Turnbull the judge of Tony Abbott’s political career. There will be no cross-examination, no challenges to narratives or witnesses, no alternative evidence, simply a stage-managed smear of Trump aimed at derailing any 2024 presidential run.

Secondly, the committee revealed its priorities by hiring a network news veteran to produce the hearings, which were then scheduled for evening prime-time TV, rather than the more usual morning sessions. A certain fast-and-loose approach to the truth has emerged, evident in the committee’s December confession to altering evidence by doctoring GOP member Jim Jordan’s texts to Trump staffer Mark Meadows, and an edited cut-and-paste video in the first telecast that enraged influential pundit Scott Adams, who described it as propaganda and more damaging to the country than the January 6 riot itself.

Thirdly, Speaker Pelosi’s role has been explicitly removed from oversight by January 6 Democrat chairman Bennie Thompson. This is odd, because the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms control security and report to the Speaker and Senate leader. The two sergeants repeatedly denied multiple requests from Capitol Hill police chief Stephen Sund for extra manpower on 6 January, and now the paper trail explaining this is off limits. Similarly some 14,000 hours of video footage from inside the Capitol that day continues to be hidden. The real question here is why the Capitol’s security was so lax. Just this week new information emerged showing both Homeland Security and DC authorities warned the Capitol Police on 21 December 2020 of threatened 6 January violence in social media posts by the right-wing Oath Keepers. Trump himself called for 10,000 National Guardsmen to protect the building days before, but that was ignored. Was this mere negligence or something more malignant? Both sergeants-at-arms and Sund resigned the day after 6 January.

Fourthly, where is evidence of a connection between Trump and any violent protesters? The FBI itself concluded that the violence and protests that day were not organised. That Trump attacked 2020 election fraud and still urges protests against it is a given, but in his speech that day at the Ellipse he urged the rally to ‘peacefully and patriotically’ go to the Capitol – a line the committee cut from its telecast of his speech. If you don’t hold the Democrat leadership responsible for the damaging BLM riots that roiled the US in 2020, when Kamala Harris went so far as to support bail funds for jailed protesters, then you cannot hold Trump responsible for his supporters’ actions.

Then there is the question of who caused the violence on the day. Without all the missing CCTV footage one cannot know definitively what happened, and obviously some protesters behaved badly, we have all seen multiple videos. The curious case of former Marine sergeant Ray Epps, however, adds considerable shade to the possibilities. Thanks to Revolver news, we have seen  telling videos of Epps urging crowds on successive days to storm the Capitol. So incendiary was he in one clip that the crowd around him started chanting: ‘Fed! Fed! Fed!’ Epps was one of the first on the FBI’s most-wanted list immediately after 6 January, but then, the day after media reports questioned his role on 30 June, his name vanished from the database. He has never been arrested.

Revolver’s review of public footage suggests that Epps led the breach team at the metal barricades. Interestingly, the key intrusion occurred minutes after Capitol Hill police were told of a pipe bomb at nearby GOP headquarters, an event chief Sund says was a diversionary tactic. The barricades were then breached, 20 minutes before Trump finished speaking at the Ellipse and well before the Trump rally crowd arrived at the Capitol. Epps has never publicly explained his actions, although the January 6 committee reported that he denied being on the FBI payroll. Attorney-General Merrick Garland, when questioned by GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, refused to answer whether Federal agents were present on 6 January and whether they agitated to enter the Capitol.

And while we’re dealing with the meanings of words, it is nonsense to call a single unarmed protest an ‘insurrection’; reporters using that language are lazily doing the Democrats’ bidding. Any serious rebellion needs serious weapons, such as firearms, and the rabble inside the Capitol had none. The only shooting on the day was of a Trump supporter, by a member of the Capitol Hill police. Indeed, the only deaths on the day were of pro-Trump protesters, and officer Sicknick who died of a stroke after the event, despite early reports that he had been bashed. This contrasts with the BLM riots, where the protesters themselves caused some 20 deaths.

The truth of what happened that day will not emerge from this Trump Insurrection Show, which is simply agitprop. Judging from its slumping ratings, the US public is treating it as a sideshow to real concerns such as rocketing fuel prices, inflation, a crashing stock market, Biden’s dumpster fire of a presidency and the Ukraine war.

With the eyes of the nation on the Capitol that day, Trump and his supporters had everything to gain from the peaceful, scheduled airing of election fraud evidence ahead of the election certification. It was an enormous coup by the Democrats to both derail that and gain a stick with which to bludgeon Trump in the process.

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