Thompson was followed by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of two GOP lawmakers Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed to the panel after House Republicans shunned the committee.
Cheney said the panel should pursue every facet of the facts about Jan. 6 but also dig into “every minute of that day in the White House,” a subtle but unmistakable shot at the former president who she lost her GOP leadership spot for criticizing.
“I have been a conservative Republican since 1984,” Cheney said, and has “disagreed sharply on policy and politics” with all Democratic members of the select panel, but “in the end we are one nation under God.”
“Every one of us on the dais voted for and would have preferred that these matters be investigated” by an independent, bipartisan commission, she added. While 35 House Republicans supported legislation to create such an inquiry into the riot, Senate Republicans blocked it from passage.
Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, said he was “more afraid” on Jan. 6 than he was during his entire deployment in Iraq. He “didn’t recognize” the rioters on Jan. 6 and was “shocked” to see rioters use the American flag that “they claimed they sought to protect,” he said, wiping away tears from his face as he spoke.
What officers were subjected to resembled “a medieval battle, Gonell said. “I could feel myself losing oxygen” and “thinking to myself this is how I’m going to die” as he was crushed by rioters, he added.
D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who suffered a mild heart attack and was electrocuted with a taser during the riot, “thought I’d seen it all” during his past work but what he saw on 1/6 was “unlike anything I had ever seen,” describing in stark details his fear that rioters might kill him. His voice briefly climbed to a shout and he slammed a fist on the table before him as he described GOP lawmakers’ “disgraceful” attempt to downplay the siege.
“I remain grateful that no member of Congress had to go through the violent assault” he suffered on Jan. 6, Fanone said, describing the heroism of his fellow officers as “the most inspirational moment” of his life.
Fanone said he thought about using his firearm on attackers, “but I knew that if I did, I would be quickly overwhelmed. And that in their minds would provide them with the justification for killing me, so I instead decided to appeal to any humanity they might have.”
Most House Republicans, having shunned participation in the committee, tried to counter-program the hearing instead.
Standing outside the Capitol, Minority Whip Steve Scalise said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had “canceled” the Republicans she rejected from the committee. House Republicans are trying to take pains to criticize Democrats rather than the officers who responded that day. But other Republicans could derail their efforts.
A group of more firebrand House Republicans including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), were set to hold a press conference outside the Justice Department later Tuesday to protest the treatment of insurrection suspects.
The select panel’s members are still weighing what their next course of action will be. The House leaves for its August recess after this week, so it could be hard for the panel to maintain momentum after lawmakers leave Washington.
But they will still have to resolve thorny questions like whether to call Trump as a witness, let alone other members of Congress who some of the panel’s members see as potential material witnesses to the events of Jan. 6.
Democrats are already predicting they might be able to make investigative inroads. with President Joe Biden’s administration.
Democrats fought bruising court battles with the Trump administration over their ability to enforce congressional subpoenas of administration officials, but now, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a panel member who spearheaded many of Democrats’ investigations into Trump, said “it’s a different situation” with the Biden administration. The Department of Justice notified former Trump administration officials Tuesday they could testify before the various committees investigating the attack.
Maeve Sheehey and Nick Niedzwiadek contributed.