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Police who defended U.S. Capitol to testify at riot probe’s first hearing

World6 minutes ago (Jul 27, 2021 06:06AM ET)

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police attempt to clear the U.S. Capitol Building with tear gas as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside, in Washington, U.S. January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four police officers who worked to defend the U.S. Capitol from a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters are due to testify on Tuesday at the first hearing before a congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 riot.

The House of Representatives Committee was formed after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, named the committee’s members.

Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell, officers with the U.S. Capitol police, and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, officers with the District of Columbia police, are scheduled as the panel’s first witnesses.

Four people died on the day of the violence, including one rioter fatally shot by police and three others who died of natural causes. A Capitol police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day. Two police officers who took part in the defense of the Capitol later took their own lives. More than a hundred police officers were injured.

Police were overwhelmed when hundreds of Trump supporters intent upon stopping Congress from formally certifying now-President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory stormed the Capitol, smashing windows, fighting with officers and sending lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence scrambling for safety.

The riot followed Trump’s speech to supporters in which the Republican repeated his false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud. Pelosi has called the attack “an attempt to overthrow the government.”

Most House Republicans have fiercely opposed the creation of the committee, saying it is politically motivated by Democrats.

Pelosi last week rejected two of five Republicans chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for the panel amid concerns they would undermine the committee’s integrity, leading McCarthy to withdraw the three remaining Republicans names.

The committee will be headed by Democrat Bennie Thompson and will include two Republicans – Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both of whom have denounced Trump’s false statements about the election and voted with the Democrats in January to impeach him.

Cheney, who was stripped of her position in the House Republican leadership over her criticism of Trump, is expected to give one of the two opening statements on Tuesday.

“What we want to try to communicate during the hearing is what it was like to be on the front lines for these brave police officers, how vastly outnumbered they were, how well-militarized the members of the crowd were,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a panel member, told reporters on Monday.

Fanone was pulled into the crowd of rioters, beaten, attacked with a Taser device and robbed of his badge, police radio and ammunition. As one rioter tried to pull his gun from its holster, Fanone could hear him saying he planned to take it and kill him.

More than 535 people face charges arising from the riot including four charged in the attack on Fanone.

“These officers and their colleagues are American heroes,” said David Laufman, an attorney for Dunn and Gonell. “They courageously defended the United States Capitol and our democratic process against a violent insurrectionist mob on Jan. 6, and they’re going to tell Congress and the American people the terrible truth of what actually happened that day.”

Police who defended U.S. Capitol to testify at riot probe’s first hearing

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