OnPolitics: Police speak out on Capitol riot

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July 27, 2021: U.S. Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell cries as he watches a video during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington.
July 27, 2021: U.S. Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell cries as he watches a video during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Hello, OnPolitics readers.

Today, a House select committee held its first congressional hearing on the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. The committee heard from four law enforcement witnesses: U.S. Capitol Police officers Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell and District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges.

The session was packed with drama and emotion, which I will get to below.

But first: The last 24 hours have brought sad news about two ex-senators.

Retired Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican known as a consensus-builder, died on Monday after being injured in a bike accident. And former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer was assaulted and robbed Monday in Oakland, Calif., her son said.

It's Mabinty, with top news from the committee hearing.

Want this news roundup in your inbox every night? Sign up for OnPolitics newsletter here.

Quick background on the panel

The House select committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans was created to probe the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol on Tuesday, including who organized and funded the deadly insurrection that threatened to stop the peaceful transition of power.

A mob, spurred by former President Donald Trump's false claims of a stolen election, breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, when rioters broke down doors and shattered windows, some shouting "Hang Mike Pence!" The attack temporarily halted Congress' counting of Electoral College votes certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.

What the police said on Tuesday

In emotional testimony, sometimes cinematic in its detail, police described a day of terror and violence beyond what any of them had encountered before.

During their testimony, officers recalled being physically assaulted and harassed by the violent mob. Hodges at one point described a brawl with a rioter who tried to rip his police baton from his hands.

"After I pushed him back, he yelled at me, 'you're on the wrong team!'...another [shouted], 'you will die on your knees!'," Hodges testified.

Gonell said his experience during the insurrection was more terrifying than serving in Iraq, where he had to conduct supply missions on roads laced with improvised explosive devices.

"I did not recognize my fellow citizens," Gonell said. One rioter, he said, "shouted that I —an Army veteran and a police officer — should be executed."

Dunn told lawmakers that "officers of color fought our own slightly different battle." Dunn recounted how rioters chanting "Stop to steal!" called him racial slurs as they stormed the Capitol.

When Dunn told one of the rioters said that he’d voted for Biden – in response to her assertion that Trump won, she responded: “You hear that, guys, this (N-word) voted for Joe Biden!"

How lawmakers reacted

At times, lawmakers became overwhelmed by the testimony. Reps. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., both became visibly emotional when questioning the four police witnesses.

"You guys won, you guys held,” Kinzinger said to the officers. “Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We’re defined by how we come back from bad days."

Schiff closed his questioning of the witnesses by reflecting on youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem during Biden’s inauguration.

“I'd like to think, as Amanda Gorman so eloquently said, that we're not broken, we're just unfinished," he said.

A teary Schiff said "God help us" if Americans chose bigotry and hate against fellow citizens.

How the DOJ is handling the House probe

The Justice Department will allow former Trump administration officials to testify before congressional committees investigating whether Trump tried to use the agency to subvert the result of the 2020 presidential election in the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack.

The Justice Department said it will not assert executive privilege for former officials who may be called to testify before lawmakers, saying the matters under investigation are "exceptional circumstances warranting an accommodation to Congress," according to a letter from Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer.

Sending positive thoughts to anyone struggling with mental health! — Mabinty

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jan. 6 Capitol riot: Police testify before Congress

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