WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AFP) - Ms Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Mr Donald Trump and a former White House adviser, said she accepted that there was no evidence of fraud and that her father had lost the 2020 election.
A clip of her testimony was played during the House hearing on the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. She was asked in a deposition what impression she had when then-Attorney General William Barr told Mr Trump and his advisers there was no such fraud.
“It affected my perspective,” she said. “I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he was saying.”
The Jan 6 riot followed shortly after Mr Trump gave an incendiary speech to thousands of supporters outside the White House, repeating his false claims of a stolen 2020 election and urging them to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell”.
The chairman of the congressional panel probing the deadly Capitol attack by Trump supporters opened on Thursday (June 9) the hearings into the causes of the violence by accusing the former president of being at the centre of a conspiracy to thwart democracy.
After almost a year of investigation, the US House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the Jan 6th Attack showed videotaped testimony from senior Trump White House officials and campaign officials.
"Jan 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one writer put it shortly after Jan 6, to overthrow the government," Democratic US Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee's chairman, said in his opening statement. "The violence was no accident. It was Trump's last stand."
One of the two Republicans on the committee, its vice chair Representative Liz Cheney, opened by blaming Mr Trump for the violence that followed his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
"Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: That the election was stolen and that he was the rightful president," Ms Cheney said. "President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack."
Since leaving office last year, Mr Trump has kept up his false claims that his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud, an assertion that has been rejected by multiple courts, state election officials and members of his own administration.
Indeed, the first video testimony shown during the hearing was an interview with Mr Barr saying that he had told Mr Trump he did not believe the election was stolen, calling those claims "bullshit".
"We can't live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election," said Mr Barr, who resigned before Mr Trump left office.
Close Trump associates who have spoken to the committee include his son Donald Jr, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, Mr Barr and senior aides to former vice-president Mike Pence.
In a clip released during the House hearing, Mr Kushner told House investigators that he was not taking seriously the White House counsel’s threats to resign over Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. He dismissed it as “whining”.
“My interest at that time was on trying to get as many pardons done, and I know that he was always, him and the team, were always saying ‘Oh we are going to resign’,” Mr Kushner said in a deposition.
“So, I kind of took it up to just be whining, to be honest with you.”
Mr Trump, publicly flirting with another White House run in 2024, called the committee in a statement on Thursday "political Thugs".
The hearing also featured two in-person witnesses, US Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards, who sustained a traumatic brain injury in the attack, and Mr Nick Quested, a filmmaker who captured footage of the far-right Proud Boys group, accused of planning the deadly attack.
A police officer who sustained brain damage during the Capitol insurrection likened the chaos on Jan. 6, 2021 to a “war scene,” in the most dramatic moment of Thursday’s House hearing into the assault waged by then-President Donald Trump’s supporters.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were officers on the ground, they were bleeding, they were throwing up,” Ms Edwards told the House panel investigating the attack. “I was slipping in peoples’ blood.”
Ms Edwards was injured during the attack when rioters pushed a bike rack on top of her head, knocking her unconscious. She has not yet received medical clearance to return to duty.
During the mayhem, Ms Edwards said she saw fellow Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day, suddenly fall and go “ghostly pale”. The Washington, DC, medical examiner found that Mr Sicknick, whose family was in the hearing room on Thursday, suffered a stroke and died from natural causes. Video shows two men spraying him and another officer with a chemical.
“My cop alarm bells went off,” she said, saying she tried to determine whether he had been pepper-sprayed.
Ms Edwards said earlier in her testimony that her grandfather served as a Marine in the Korean War.
“Never in my wildest dreams as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer did I think I would find myself in the middle of a battle,” she said. “It was carnage, it was chaos.”
Mr Quested, an Emmy-winning British documentary filmmaker, testified about his experience shadowing members of the Proud Boys in the days leading up to Jan 6 and his interactions with them on the day itself.
He recalled being shocked by “the anger” he saw among the group’s members, and described the larger rally crowd as transforming “from protesters to rioters to insurrectionists”.
“I was surprised at the size of the group, the anger and the profanity,” he said.
Other Capitol Police officers who fought with rioters on Jan 6 were present in the audience for the hearing including Officer Harry Dunn, who wore a T-shirt bearing the word "insurrection" and Officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten and electrocuted with a taser during the attack. Some House Democrats who are not panel members also attended.
A total of six hearings are expected this month as the Democratic-led committee attempts to reverse Republican efforts to downplay or deny the violence of the attack, with five months to go until the Nov 8 midterm elections that will determine which party controls both the House and the Senate for the following two years.
The pro-Trump mob sought to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's victory, attacking police and causing millions of dollars in damage. Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.
The committee wants to make the case not just that the attack was planned with the cooperation of members of Mr Trump's inner circle, but that there is an ongoing threat to US democracy.
Mr Biden on Thursday described the attack as "a clear, flagrant violation of the Constitution," telling reporters: "I think these guys and women broke the law, tried to turn around the result of an election."
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday underscored the partisan lens through which many Americans view the assault. It found that among Republicans about 55 per cent believed the false claim that left-wing protesters led the attack and 58 per cent believed most of the protesters were law-abiding.
Two Republican Georgia state election officials who Mr Trump tried to pressure to "find" votes that would overturn his election defeat will testify to the hearings later this month, a source familiar with the matter said.
Some congressional Republicans criticised Mr Trump in the first days after the attack, but since then almost all have shifted their tone.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday called the committee a "smokescreen" for Democrats to push dramatic changes to voting laws. "It is the most political and least legitimate committee in American history," Mr McCarthy said.