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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
January 6th Select Committee Hearing. Aired 9:30-10a ET.
Aired July 27, 2021 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There's Liz Cheney in the back saying hi to Officer Dunn.
One of the things that's remarkable is a lot of the evidence comes from the insurrectionists. They were livestreaming it, they were videotaping it, they thought it was great.
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, and they're proud of what they did. Now, some of them regret it now because they got caught. And everybody is sorry once they get caught. But at that moment, they weren't sorry at all. And they were attacking police officers in a very violent and vicious way. And anybody who doesn't see that, I mean, I don't know what to say.
TAPPER: Well, the other thing that's remarkable about this, Chief, is these officers literally risked their lives to protect members of Congress. And, in fact, it was maybe a week or two -- a week or two after the insurrection that there was a different, completely unrelated interview from extremists with completely different motivations who killed a Capitol Police officer protecting the Capitol.
TAPPER: So when you see Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and the Democrats on the committee hugging and shaking hands with these officers, they know the Capitol Police officers and also MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, officers here in D.C., they know that they actually risked their lives for them. And yet you have a number of people who work in that chamber, not in that committee, who don't seem to give them the respect they deserve.
RAMSEY: But they also know that those officers are going to protect them no matter what.
RAMSEY: And they know that. And so, you know, they're not really gambling on this because they know that those cops, even though they're clearly not on their side, those cops will still give their lives to protect them because they're there for a much higher purpose.
TAPPER: And that must be wired. I mean you see Harry Dunn there. He's on the right. He's a Capitol Police officer. He gets attacked on MAGA media as an activist. He's not a real cop, et cetera, et cetera.
We're going to listen in. They're gaveling in right now.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): (INAUDIBLE) investigate of the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol will be in order. The select committee is meeting today to receive testimony on the law enforcement experience on January 6th. Without objection, the chair's authorized to declare the committee in recess at any time.
I now recognize myself for an opening statement.
Let me say a few words at the outset about this committee's work and how, as chairman, I plan to run things.
We're going to be guided solely by the facts. The facts of what happened on January 6th and the run-up to that tragic day and what has taken place since. That's what we're charged to do by House Resolution 503. There's no place for politics or partisanship in this investigation. Our only charge is to follow the facts where they lead us.
And while we have a lot to uncover, there are a few things we already know. We know that the insurrection on January 6th was a violent attack that involved vicious assault on law enforcement. We know there is evidence in a coordinated, planned attack.
We know that men and women who stormed the Capitol wanted to derail the peaceful transfer of power in this country. We know that seven people lost their lives. That more than 140 police officers suffered injuries. We know that efforts to subvert our democracy are ongoing. And a major part of the select committee's work will be to find ways to eliminate that threat.
We also know that the rioters came dangerously close to succeeding. If not for the heroism of the United States Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department, many more lives might have been lost and the rioters could have accomplished what they set out to do, upend American democracy.
It's an honor to have four of these heroes sitting before us today. We welcome for appearing -- them for hear -- appearing here and, more importantly, for your heroism on January 6th. You have the gratitude of this committee and this country. You held the line that day. I can't overstate what was on the line, our democracy. You held the line.
We're going to revisit some of those moments today. And it won't be easy. But history will remember your names and your actions. And it's important to think about history as this committee starts its work. And as we hear from these courageous men and to get answers for the American people, because we need to understand our history if we want to understand the significance of what happened on January 6th and our role as members of the people's house.
I'm talking about the peaceful transfer of power.
Two hundred years ago, in 1801, the House of Representatives did one of its jobs laid out in the Constitution. After deadlock in the Electoral College, this body cast 36 ballots and ultimately selled (ph) the contest for president of the United States. What followed was the first peaceful transfer of power in our country's history.
We know that since then our history has been far from perfect. We've been torn apart and brought back together. We've struggled across generations to make our country's great vision a reality for all Americans. We won victories and we've suffered failures.
But the peaceful transfer of power has stood as the pillar of our democracy. It's one of those things we rely on. A safeguard that we hold close. Because as heated and angry and divided as we may be, whatever victories we celebrate or upheavels we endure, we can rest easy knowing that when the moment comes, our system guarantees that one party will hand the reigns to another if that's the will of the people.
And while our institutions endured and while Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States, a peaceful transfer of power didn't happen this year. It did not happen. Let that sink in. Think about it. A violent mob was pointed towards the Capitol and told to win a trial by combat. Some dependent -- descended on this city with clear plans to disrupt our democracy. One rioter said that they weren't there to commit violence but that, I'm quoting, we are just there to overthrow the government.
I want to repeat that, I urge everyone to listen to those words and think about what they mean. We were just there to overthrow the government.
They marched on the Capitol with a clear intentions of stopping the certification of the election. And when they encountered the police, sworn to keep us safe, they went on the attack with bear spray, knives, tasers, hockey sticks, even flag poles fashioned (ph) in clubs with the American flag still attached. And those rioters breached the Capitol. They smashed windows, scaled walls, broke down doors and invaded the halls of Congress. It was a scene of violence in the citadel of our democracy, not seen since 1814 when British soldiers sacked the building.
They would race through the hallways chanting, "hang Mike Pence." Where's Nancy? They stormed onto the Senate floor because they wanted to stop the Senate from certifying the election. The rioters tried to take over the House floor for the same reason. Thankfully, some astute young staff member had the presence of mind to grab the physical electoral ballots for safe keeping.
These rioters were organized. They were ready for a fight. And they came close to succeeding. It's frightening to think about how close we were. A few inches of
wood and glass. An officer turning left instead of turning right. But just describing that attack doesn't come close to capturing what actually took place that day. So we're going to see some of what our witnesses saw on January the 6th.
Let's see the video, please. But please be advised that it contains graphic images and strong language which many may find disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, brother, we're boots on the ground here. We're moving on the Capitol now. I'll give you a boots on the ground update here in a few.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple Capitol injuries! Multiple Capitol injuries!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take the building!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still taking metal, sharpened objects, missiles, to include bottles and rocks and hand-thrown chemical grade fireworks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is now effectively a riot.
DISPATCH: 1349 hours. Declaring it a riot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, guys, apparently the tip of the spear has entered the Capitol Building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED), if I give this up, they're going to have direct access. At least the scaffold we can defend. We've got to hold what we have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the fuck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take your pins up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this the Senate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where the fuck are they.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cruiser 50. We're flanked. 10-33. I repeat, 10-33 west front of the Capitol. We have been flanked and we've lost the line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're coming, baby! They're coming, baby! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're spraying gas!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock the shields! Lock them together! Lock them together!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need fresh patriots to the front!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up if you need break.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He needs a break.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jimmy, get them to the back. To the back. Get him to the back. Let's get some fresh faces up front.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pull them out! Pull them out! Pull them out!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I speak to Pelosi?
Yeah? We're coming, bitch!
Oh, Mike Pence?
We're coming for you too you fucking traitor!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got the gallows set up outside the Capitol Building. It's time to start fucking using them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Start making a list, put all those names down. And we start hunting them down one by one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Traitors to the (INAUDIBLE).
Mobilize in your own cities, in your own counties. Storm your own capitol buildings and take down every one of these corrupt motherfuckers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we fucking need to have, 30,000 guns up here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next trip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
THOMPSON: He'll be back, he warns us. This is just chilling.
I thank God for our democracy and our republic withstood this assault. But that man's warning reminds us that this threat hasn't gone away. It looms over our democracy like a dark cloud. Some people are trying to deny what happened, to whitewash it, turn the insurrectionists into martyrs. But the whole world saw the reality of what happened on January 6th. The hangman's gallows sitting -- sitting out there on our nation's mall. [09:45:02]
The flag of that first failed and disgraced rebellion against our union being paraded through the Capitol. The hatred, the bigotry, the violence. And all of it for a vile, vile lie.
Let's be clear, the rioters who tried to rob us of our democracy were propelled here by a lie. As chairman of this committee, I will not give that lie any fertile ground. We need to understand how and why the big lie festered. We need to know minute by minute how January 6th unfolded. We need to understand how the rotten (ph) lie behind January 6th has continued to spread and feed the forces that would undermine American democracy. And we need to figure out how to fix the damage.
It won't be easy. But I have tremendous confidence in the colleagues sitting to my left and right. These are men and women of courage and character.
We did not ask for this. But the House of Representatives did its job to give this country its first peaceful transfer of power. And we will do our job now to make sure the peaceful transfer of power remains a pillar of our democracy.
We cannot allow ourselves to be undone by liars and cheaters. This is the United States of America.
My distinguished colleague from Wyoming, Ms. Cheney, is not the ranking member of this select committee, but because this investigation is bipartisan, it's important that we hear Republican voices as well.
I now recognize Representative Cheney for an opening statement.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much, Chairman Thompson.
Thank you to all my colleagues on this committee. And thank you to each of the witnesses appearing before us today. It is because of you, you held the line. You defended all of us. You defended the Capitol and you defended the Constitution and our republic. And every American owes you our undying gratitude.
Every American, I hope, will be able to hear your testimony today and we'll watch the videos. The videos show the unbelievable violence and the inexcusable and intolerable cruelty that you all faced. And people need to know the truth.
I want to begin by reflecting briefly on the investigation that we're launching today.
Every one of us here on the dais voted for and would have preferred that these matters be investigated by an independent, non-partisan commission composed of five prominent Americans selected by each party and modeled on the 9/11 Commission. Although such a commission was opposed by my own leadership in the House, it overwhelmingly passed with the support of 35 Republican members. It was defeated by Republicans in the Senate. And that leaves us where we are today. We cannot leave the violence of January 6th and its causes
uninvestigated. The American people deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for January 6th. We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House, every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack. Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward.
If those responsible are not held accountable and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system. We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come and another January 6th every four years.
I have been a conserve Republican since 1984 when I first voted for Ronald Reagan. I've disagreed sharply on policy and politics with almost every Democratic member of this committee. But, in the end, we are one nation under God.
The framers of our Constitution recognize the danger of the vicious factionalism of partisan politics. And they knew that our daily arguments could become so fierce that we might lose track of our most important obligation, to defend the rule of law and the freedom of all Americans. That is why our framers compelled each of us to swear a solemn oath to preserve and protect the Constitution.
When a threat to our constitutional order arises, as it has here, we are obligated to arise above politics.
This investigation must be non-partisan.
While we begin today by taking the public testimony of these four heroic men, we must also realize that the task of this committee will require persistence. We must issue and enforce subpoenas promptly. We must get to objective truth. We must overcome the many efforts we are already seeing to cover up and obscure the facts.
On January 6th, and in the days thereafter, almost all members of my party recognized the events of that day for what they actually were. One Republican, for example, said, quote, what is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is unacceptable and un-American. Those participating in lawlessness and violence must be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No member of Congress should now attempt to defend the indefensible, obstruct this investigation or white wash what happened that day. We must act with honor and duty and in the interest of our nation.
America is great because we preserve our democratic institutions at all cost. Until January 6th, we were proof positive for the world that a nation conceived in liberty could long endure. But now, January 6th threatens or most sacred legacy. The question for every one of us who serves in Congress, for every elected official across this great nation, indeed for every American is this, will we adhere to the rule of law? Will we respect the rulings of our courts? Will we preserve the peaceful transition of power? Or will we be so blinded by partisanship that we throw away the miracle of America? Do we hate our political adversaries more than we love our country and revere our Constitution?
I pray that that is not the case. I pray that we all remember our children are watching.
As we carry out this solemn and sacred duty entrusted to us, our children will know who stood for truth. And they will inherit the nation we hand to them, a republic, if we can keep it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Representative Cheney.
I will now introduce our witnesses.
We're joined today by Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the United States Capitol Police. He's a 15 year veteran of the Capitol Police. He's assigned to a first responders unit in the United States Capitol Police, his (ph) Uniform Services Bureau. Before joining the Capitol Police, Sergeant Gonell served as eight years in the United States Army and spent 545 days in Iraq, where his base was under constant mortar, rocket and indirect fire by insurgents. He's received multiple awarded and accommodations for his military service.
We're also joined by Officer Michael Fanone of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. Officer Fanone began his law enforcement career with the United States Capitol Police shortly after the terrorist attack of 9/11. For nearly 20 years, Officer Fanone has served the citizens of the District of Columbia in special units focusing on narcotics investigation and violent criminals.
Officer Daniel Hodges is a member of the Civil Disturbance Unit 42 in the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, where his responsibilities include riot response. Prior to his service on the Metropolitan Police Department, he serves six years in the 116th Infantry Regiment, Third Battalion, as an indirect fire infantryman.
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn is a 13 year veteran of the United States Capitol Police and a member of its first responders unit. His responsibilities include ensuring the integrity of the perimeter around the Capitol Building. Officer Dunn has been among the first Capitol Police officers to describe what happened to law enforcement on January 6th.
I will now swear in our witnesses. Our witnesses will please rise and raise their right hand.
Do you swear, or affirm, that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
THOMPSON: Thank you.
You may be seated.
Let the record reflect that the witnesses answered in the affirmative.
Without objection, the witnesses' full statement will be included in the record.
I now recognize Sergeant Gonell to summarize his testimony.
SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Good morning, everybody.
THOMPSON: Good morning.
GONELL: Chairman Thompson, members of the select committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify regarding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
It is with honor and heavy heart that I come before you to tell you my story, from a painful firsthand experience of what happened that terrible day at the Capitol. Providing this testimony shows you my personal capacity in that as a representative of the U.S. Capitol. It is imperative that the events of January 6th are fully investigated in the Congress and the American people know the truth of what actually occurred and that all those responsible are held accountable, particularly to ensure the horrific and shameful event in our history never repeats itself. I applaud you for pursuing this objective.
Even though there's overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including hours and hours of videos and photographic coverage, it is a continued shocking attempt to ignore or try to destroy the truth of what truly happened that day and to whitewash the facts into something other than what they all mistakenly reveal, an attack on our democracy by a violent domestic extremists and a stain our history and our moral standing here at home and abroad.
As a child in the Dominican Republic, I look up to the United States as the land of opportunity and a place to better myself. From that moment I landed at JFK, 1992, I have tried to pursue goal.
Thankfully, I achieved that goal on many levels. I was the first in my family to graduate college, join the Army and become a police officer. On July 23, 1999, the day before my 21st birthday, I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of the United States because this country gave me an opportunity to become anything that I wanted.
At that time, I already started basic training with the Army Reserves. In fact, I raised my hand several times in ceremonies to pledge my commitment to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.
When I joined the Army Reserves, when I was promoted to sergeant in the Army, when I was promoted during my naturalization ceremony and when I -- my reenlistment in the Army, when I joined the United States Capitol Police and, lastly, when I was promoted to sergeant three years ago.
I've always taken my oath seriously. On January 6, 2021, I fulfilled my oath once more. This time to defend the United States Capitol and members of Congress, carrying out their constitutional duties to certify the results of the November 2020 presidential election. To be honest, I did not recognize my fellow citizens who stormed the Capitol on January 6th or the United States that they claim to represent.
When I was 25 years old, and then a sergeant in the Army, I had deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. From time to time, I volunteered to travel on IED infested roads to conduct supply missions for U.S. and allied forces in local Iraqi population as well. But on January 6th, for the first time, I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than in my entire deployment to Iraq.
In Iraq, we expected (ph) armed (ph) violence because we were in a war zone. But nothing in my experience in the Army, or as a law enforcement officer, prepared me for what we confronted on January 6th.
The verbal assaults and disrespect we endured from the riots were bad enough.