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Key takeaways emerge during prime-time hearing into attack on the U.S. Capitol

U.S. House investigators made the case to the American public in a prime-time hearing on Thursday that the violent storming of the Capitol by former U.S. president Donald Trump's supporters should not be forgotten.

House investigators make case that violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection should not be forgotten

Biden urges Americans to pay attention to Jan. 6 hearings

4 months ago
Duration 2:01
U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Americans to pay attention to the facts shown by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. House investigators made the case to the American public in a prime-time hearing on Thursday that the violent insurrection by former U.S. president Donald Trump's supporters should not be forgotten.

While the basics of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol are well known, the committee is trying to tell the story of how it happened, and how to prevent it from ever happening again, for history.

The made-for-TV hearings — which included video of police officers being brutally beaten and of right-wing extremists leading the crowds into the Capitol — came as some have tried to downplay the violence.

"We can't sweep what happened under the rug," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the panel, as he opened the first in the series of hearings. "The American people deserve answers."

Takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee's first hearing:

WATCH | Previously unseen footage from Jan. 6 riot gives timeline, new details:

Previously unseen footage of 'the violence of January 6' aired at hearing

4 months ago
Duration 11:25
Combining pieces of never-before-seen footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the committee created a video detailing the timeline and events of that day. This video may contain graphic language and content.

Trump's role

Thompson laid out the committee's initial findings that Trump led a "sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election."

Rep. Liz Cheney, left, gives an opening statement, with Rep. Bennie Thompson, right, as the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its first public hearing to reveal the findings of a year-long investigation, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

The panel's vice chairwoman, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, called it a "sophisticated seven-part plan."

The committee plans to look at how Trump pushed his false claims of widespread fraud and how it eventually prompted the violence at the Capitol. They argue that his lies prompted far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers to jump into action.

"Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt," Thompson said.

The sun sets behind the Capitol in Washington on Thursday, as the committee held its hearing. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

The committee has conducted more than 1,000 interviews with people connected to the siege and collected more than 140,000 documents. They will use that evidence over the course of the hearings this month to show how the attack was co-ordinated by some of the rioters in the violent mob that broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden's victory — and how Trump's efforts started it all.

"The attack on our Capitol was not a spontaneous riot," Cheney said.

Testimony from Trump's inner circle

The hearing featured never-before-seen video testimony from former attorney general Bill Barr and others who told Trump at the time that his fraud claims had no merit. Barr, who said publicly at the time that the Justice Department had not found fraud, said he had told Trump it was "bullsh-t."

WATCH | Barr and Ivanka Trump in never-before-seen testimony: 

Ivanka Trump, William Barr testimony aired at U.S. Capitol riot hearings

4 months ago
Duration 1:13
The U.S. congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riots started its televised hearings on Thursday by showing its video interview with former attorney general Bill Barr, who testified he told Donald Trump that his election fraud claims were 'bullshit.' The panel also showed testimony from Ivanka Trump.

The panel also showed video testimony from Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, who spoke to the committee in April. She said Barr's declaration "affected my perspective."

"I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he said," she told the committee.

Bid for attention

The committee took the unusual step of launching the hearings with a prime-time show — aimed to gather as many viewers as possible.

It's still unclear how many will tune in, but the panel is producing the hearing in hopes of becoming must-see television, featuring never-before-seen video footage of the violent insurrection.

The committee's interview with former White House adviser Ivanka Trump is shown as committee members look on, on Thursday evening. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

The hearing room was also set up for impact, with a huge screen hanging over the lawmakers.

Lawmakers who witnessed the attack

Lawmakers who were trapped together in the House during the insurrection attended Thursday's hearing after having dinner together. The lawmakers were caught in an upper gallery of the chamber as rioters beat on the doors.

Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota, said the House members, who were eventually relocated without harm, are dismayed that an event that exposed the fragility of democracy could "somehow be whitewashed by tens of millions of people, including many ... here in Congress."

"We want to remind people, we were there, we saw what happened. We know how close we came to the first non-peaceful transition of power in this country," Phillips said.

Some Republican lawmakers have tried to downplay the insurrection, charging that Democrats are overly focused on the attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power.

The committee took the unusual step of launching the hearings with a prime-time show — aimed to gather as many viewers as possible. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

But Cheney said the panel would show over the course of the upcoming hearings that Pennsylvania's Scott Perry — a leader of efforts to object to the election results — and "multiple other Republican congressmen" all sought presidential pardons in the weeks after Jan. 6, raising questions as to why the legislators would think that was necessary.

With files from CBC News

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