They say they went to protest peacefully. That they thought the police were letting them into Congress. That they got caught in the middle of the mob. Some are architects, business owners, students, entrepreneurs. A year after the assault on the Capitol in Washington, more than 700 protesters have been indicted on charges ranging from planning an attack to prevent official confirmation of President Joe Biden’s election victory on January 6, 2021, to assaulting the police. So far, 165 have pleaded guilty – four of them risk a sentence of 20 or more years in prison – and 71 have been sentenced to terms of up to five years in prison, according to data from the Justice Department.
In parallel to the work of the Department of Justice, a committee of the House of Representatives has been investigating what happened on that fateful day for six months, with special interest in the role of Donald Trump and his environment during the day of the assault. They are expected to make their findings public in the coming months.
The amount of surveillance videos, the cameras of security agents, and of the assailants themselves on social networks, collapse the defenses of Donald Trump supporters who put the Capitol in check that day. In the violent images it can be seen that among the more than 800 rebels there were some armed with axes, baseball bats, hockey sticks and other weapons. The attack left five dead and 140 officers wounded, and it took place after Trump urged, in a fiery speech near the White House, his followers to “fight like hell” in order to “take back” the country. The Republican’s final invitation was for them to march on Congress.
The Justice Department is in charge of filing criminal charges related to the assault, but the Congressional Commission of Inquiry – made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans – can collect evidence of a possible crime and recommend that Justice act. He can also pursue cases of perjury, witness intimidation, or contempt of Congress by individuals who challenge his subpoenas, such as Trump’s influential adviser Stephen Bannon and his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
So far, the committee’s congressmen – supported by dozens of advisers, including former attorneys general – have interviewed more than 300 witnesses; collected about 35,000 documents; and they have toured the country to speak with election officials in states like Arizona and Pennsylvania, where Trump insists there was never proven vote counting fraud. The objective of the interviews is to find out if there was pressure from the ex-president and his environment during the vote counting.
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Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee, and part of that small handful of Republicans who want to save their party from the clutches of Trump, told ABC News last Sunday that a “first-hand testimony” related that during the attack on the Capitol, Ivanka Trump, daughter and prominent adviser of the then president, went to her father at least twice “to ask him to please stop the violence.” For his part, Democrat Bennie Thompson, chairman of the commission, told CNN that day that they have “significant testimony” that “the White House had been told to do something.” “It is very unusual for someone in charge to observe what is happening and do nothing,” added Thompson, alluding to the three hours that elapsed between the riot and the video that Trump published in which he told the violent protesters: “You must go home, we must have peace. We love you, you are very special ”. But he also insisted on accusations of electoral fraud.
In another video, the last one published by the former president on January 6, he said goodbye with a request to his followers: “Always remember this day.” Robert Palmer, 54, will not forget. Accused of attacking the police who were working to contain the mob, in December he was sentenced to five years and four months in prison, the maximum penalty for the assault at the moment. “I am really very ashamed of what I did,” the defendant tearfully sprayed the Capitol officers with a fire extinguisher.
To Jacob Chansley, nicknamed “the shaman of QAnon [un movimiento de teorías conspirativas]”Nor will you forget your walk through Congress wearing antlers and bearskin and bare chest. He has been sentenced to three years and five months in prison after pleading guilty.
The commission of inquiry, according to the US media, is planning a schedule of witness appearances that will be broadcast on television and that are expected to start in the coming weeks. Time is not in the committee’s favor. In November are the mid-term legislative elections and the Republicans can take control of the House of Representatives and finalize the commission. The publication of a preliminary report is planned for spring or summer, and the final one would be presented before the elections.
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