Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Officers Attacked At U.S. Capitol Testify At Insurrection Hearing. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 27, 2021 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00]

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): But what about the question of firearms? So what is your reaction generally to this proposition that they weren't armed?

OFC. MICHAEL FANONE, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: First and foremost, I would say that the implements that you just described are most certainly weapons. With regards to firearms, I know that in the days immediately before the January 6th insurrection, and January 6th itself, firearms were recovered by law enforcement from individuals in Washington, D.C. who were believed to have been participants, or at least those who were planning to participate in the January 6th insurrection. And yes, those were firearms, handguns, and such.

RASKIN: Forgive me for these questions. But I've got to ask you, apparently, in some nether regions of the internet, it's being said that you Officer Fanone, maybe were mistaken for Antifa and that's why you were nearly beaten to death that day and carried in the crowd. Is there any way you think you were mistaken for Antifa?

FANONE: Well, I was in full uniform. I was, like I said, wearing a uniform shirt adorned with the Metropolitan Police Department's patch, I had my badge on until somebody ripped it off my chest. I do not believe I was mistaken for a member of Antifa.

RASKIN: You mentioned your testimony that there are some people who would prefer that all of this go away that we not have an investigation. Let's let bygones be bygones. But you seem pretty determined to get the country to focus on this. Why is that so important to you?

FANONE: Well, first and foremost, because of the actions of officers who responded there that day, specifically from my department, but also from U.S. Capitol Police and some of the surrounding jurisdictions, you know, downplaying the events of that day is also downplaying those officers response. And like Sergeant Gonell said, some of the officers, part of the healing process, from recovering from the traumatic events of that day is having the nation accept the fact that that day happened.

RASKIN: Some people are saying that as public servants, you all should not be speaking out that cops, firefighters, teachers should just serve the public but should not speak out as citizens. What do you think about that Officer Fanone?

FANONE: Well, I disagree. I've been outspoken throughout my career, never to this magnitude. As an undercover officer and a narcotics officer, I preferred obscurity in the public eye. However, this event is something that we have not experienced in our lifetimes.

RASKIN: Officer Hodges, I read your testimony carefully. I hope every American reads your testimony. But I noted that you referred to terrorists or terrorism 15 different times to describe the people who were assaulting officers, dragging them through the crowd, stealing their weapons, smashing them over the head, gouging eyes, and so on. However, some of our colleagues have been calling the violent insurrectionists not terrorists, but tourists. Why do you call the attackers terrorists? And what do you think about our colleagues who think we should call them tourists?

OFC. DANIEL HODGES, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, if that's what American tourists are like, I can see why foreign countries don't like American tourists. But I can see why someone would take issue with the title of terrorist. It's gained a lot of notoriety in our vocabulary in the past few decades. And we'd like to believe that now that couldn't happen here. No, no domestic terrorism, no home ground threats. But I came prepared.

U.S. Code Title 18, Part 1 Chapter 113B Terrorism, Section 2331. The term domestic terrorism means activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state. And B, appeared to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping, and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

[12:35:08]

RASKIN: Well, thank you for that. And I had one final question for Sergeant Gonell, but looks like my time is up. So I'll yield back to you.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), CHAIRMAN, SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6TH ATTACK: OK, we'll give the gentlemen opportunity to ask his question.

RASKIN: Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chairman. Are there questions Sergeant Gonell that you hope we can answer as a Committee about the causes of the attack, the nature of the attack, and what happened in the weeks prior to January 6th, as we develop our work plan moving forward?

SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I think in my opinion, we do need to get to the bottom of it, who incited, who brought those people here, why the people were made to believe that the process was vague along those lines. But going back to what I just said, I had my 15 years of service, I had given thousands of -- I have given tour to thousands of people at the Capitol as an officer, as a sergeant, and even plain cloth uniform. At no point in time did I ever got attacked. I don't know why, how will you call an attack on police officer, a tour, when you see me bleeding my hands, when you see all the officers getting concussion, getting main, getting fingers shatter. I got gauche. It's undescribable. You're defending the indefensible. And it demoralized not just the rank and file but the future, future recruits that we are trying to get.

So what will you -- what do you think people considering becoming law enforcement officer think when they see some -- elected leaders downplaying this. And why would I risk my life for them, when they don't even care. They don't care what happened to the public. They don't care what happened to the officers. All they care is their job, their precision. If they're not -- if they don't have the courage to put the job on the line, because they want to feed some lies or not to feed somebody is ego or like for a twee, that's not putting the country first.

We are willing to risk our life. Police make it worth it. We are trying -- we do that regardless whether you're Republican, Democrat, Independent, we don't care. When there's call, radio call, or dispatch center call, we don't ask, hey, by the way, before I tree you before I take care of you, are you Republican, Democrat, or Independent? We don't, we just respond.

And normally in under any other circumstances, we just stay shut. We don't talk about politics. We don't talk about what happened to us. But this is bigger than that. You're downplaying an event that happened to the country itself, to democracy, to the rule of law. You don't care about people who claim that they are pro law enforcement, pro police, pro law in order. And then yet, when they have the chance and the opportunity to do something about it to hold people accountable, you don't, you pass the bucket, like nothing happened.

And that's so devastating for recruiting. Yes, we need bodies right now. But this makes it harder, especially when trying to attract the talent that we need, people who are willing to risk their lives to protect you guys.

RASKIN: Well, thank you very much, Sergeant Gonell. And Mr. Chairman, you know, the question was asked by Officer Dunn, is this America? I think these gentlemen embodied the spirit of America and we must do justice to their sacrifice in the work of our Committee. I yield back.

THOMPSON: No question about it. Chair, recognizes gentlelady from Virginia, Ms. Luria.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA), SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6TH ATTACK: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And I want to say to the four officers here today that I'm grateful for your service, for you sharing your stories, for your willingness to speak to the members of this Committee and to the American people about the horrific things that you experience on January 6th, truly experienced in defense of our democracy.

[12:40:10] Sergeant Gonell, we talked earlier, and you mentioned the many times that you took the oath both to become a naturalized citizen, to join the army, to serve as an officer of the Capitol Police Force. And Officer Hodges you mentioned as well as a national guardsmen and as a police officer, and, you know, myself, something I can't share with you the horrific experiences that you had that day.

But all of us having taken that oath, and I took it when I was 17, and joined the Navy in over two decades, you know, Sergeant Gonell, when you mentioned and compare this earlier to the experiences that you had in Iraq, that in a warzone, you didn't feel like you felt that day, can you share that with us in a little more detail what was going through your head, your thoughts about what you would experience defending our nation on foreign soil, and then being here in the heart of our nation and our Capitol, and being assaulted the way that you were?

GONELL: It is very disappointing. It seems like when you see, when I was in the lower west stairs, and I saw many officers fighting for their lives against people, rioters, our own citizens, turning against us, people who had the blue light thing, blue line on their chest, or another rioter with a marine hat that says veteran or any other type of military paraphernalia whatnot.

And then they are accusing us of betraying the oath, or they the one betraying the oath? When I was in Iraq, the sense of camaraderie, it didn't matter whether you were white, black, Spanish, Middle Eastern, we all knew what we were fighting for. And my experience there was the -- there were times that I was, yes, I was scared of going on convoys, or doing my supply mission to local Iraqi population because I need to point we were possibly ambush or getting shot at. We knew the risk.

But here was simultaneously over, over, and over, our own citizens while they were attacking us because we are, we're defending the very institution that they are claiming they're trying to save.

LURIA: Thank you for sharing that. And I know it's been difficult today as we've watched these images from the Capitol, but I did want to share one more video. But this time I would ask people you could even like close your eyes and listen without watching. Just listen to what is being said as these brave men were being overrun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Traitors, how do you live with yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Die traitors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should be mad too, fucking traitors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fuck you. You're on the wrong side of freedom. Fuck you. You're on the wrong side.

CROWD: Fuck the blue. Fuck the blue. Fuck the blue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to fuck you guys. You can't even call yourselves American. You broke your fucking oath today, 1776.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a traitor.

CROWD: Traitor. Traitor. Traitor. Traitor. Traitor. Traitor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LURIA: So Officer Fanone, I wanted to turn to you. And when you hear the rioters chanting things in this video, things like F the blue, you can't even call yourself an American. You're on the wrong side of freedom. Can you share how that makes you feel?

FANONE: Again, I think when I, you know, my response that day and a new point that day did I ever think about the politics of that crowd, even the things that were being said, did not resonate in the midst of that chaos. But what did resonate was the fact that thousands of Americans were attacking police officers who were simply there doing their job. And that they were there to disrupt members of Congress who were doing their job.

[12:45:33]

You know, in retrospect now thinking about those events, the things that were said, it's disgraceful that members of our government, I believe were responsible for inciting that behavior. And then continue to propagate those statements. Things like, you know, this was 1776. Or that police officers who fought risked their lives and some gave theirs were red coats, and traitors. To me, those individuals are, you know, representative of the worst that America has to offer.

LURIA: Thank you. And thinking about the events that happened on January 6th, then thinking about what led up to that day, I was reminded of a quote, a quote that I frequently heard used from Hemingway that asks, you know, how do these things happen? How do things like this happen? And that quote, it's very short, it just says, gradually and then suddenly.

And I think that our founders understood that our Republic was very fragile, and it would be tested, and it was tested here on January 6th. You know, in 20 years, I don't want to look back on this moment, and think that we saw these signs coming gradually, that these were signs that we ignored that signs that people thought were just isolated incidents or signs of things that we thought could never happen.

And I don't want to say to my daughter, or Sergeant Gonell, to your son, or Officer Fanone, to your four daughters, I don't want any of us to say that this happened gradually, and then suddenly. And that some were just too worried about winning the next election to do something about it, or too cowardly to seek the truth, so that's the task before this Committee. I am sure that we'll be attacked by cowards by those in the arena, those only in the stands, and that we'll be attacked by people who are more concerned about their own power than about the good of this country.

But my oath, your oath, all of our oaths here today, to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, will be our guiding light for this investigation. And as officer Dunn said earlier, you said we can never again allow our democracy to be put in peril. So I will say that, that we will persevere, we will do what is right. And our nation is truly ever grateful to you who held that line. Your actions on January 6th could very well have been what saved our democracy, and we thank you.

THOMPSON: Gentlelady yields back.

LURIA: And Mr. Chair, I yield back.

THOMPSON: Thank you. The gentleman from Maryland asked a question in terms of what you would expect this Committee to do in our body of work. The Sergeant Gonell responded, but we didn't give the other three members an opportunity to kind of tell us based on the last 202 days of your life, what would you task this Committee in its body of work. What would you like to see us do? Officer Fanone, I'll start with you

[12:50:13]

FANONE: Yes, Sir. So while I understand that there have been investigations into the events of January 6th, my understanding is that those have addressed some of the micro level concerns that being the immediate security of the Capitol building itself also the force mobilization of officers that day planning and preparation and training and equipment concerns. A lot of, you know, the events of January 6th, and the days preceding I guess it's interesting in from a law enforcement perspective, as a police officer, a lot of these events happen in plain sight.

We had violent political rhetoric, we had the organization of a rally, whose title was stopped the steel, and that that rally occurred on January 6th, which I don't believe was a coincidence that on January 6th, members of Congress, you here and the room today, we're charged with tallying the electoral votes and certifying the election of our President.

And in the academy, we learn about time, place, and circumstance in investigating potential crimes, and those who may have committed that. And so the time, the place, and the circumstances of that rally, that rhetoric, and those events, to me leads in the direction of our President and other members, not only of Congress and the Senate but that is what I am looking for, is an investigation into those actions and activities, which may have resulted in the events of January 6th, and also whether or not there was collaboration between those members, their staff and these terrorists.

THOMPSON: Thank you very much. Officer Hodges?

HODGES: I think, Fanone, hit the nail on the head there. As patrol officers, we can only, you know, deal with the crimes that happen on the streets, the misdemeanors and occasionally the violent felonies. But you guys are the only ones we've got to deal with crimes that occur above us. And I need you guys to address if anyone in power had a role in this, if anyone in power, coordinated, were aided or abetted or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of this terrorist attack, because we can't do it. We're not allowed to. And I think majority of Americans are really looking forward to that as well.

THOMPSON: Thank you. Officer Dunn?

OFC. HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Thank you, Chairman. There's been a sentiment that's going around that says everybody is trying to make January 6th political. Well, it's not a secret that it was political. They literally were there to stop the steal. So when people say it shouldn't be political, it is, it was, and it is. There's no getting around that.

Telling the truth, shouldn't be hard. Fighting for -- fighting on January 6th, that was hard. Showing up January 7th, that was hard. The 8th, the 9th, the 10th all the way until today, that was hard. When the fence came down, that was hard. We lost our layer of protection that we had and the fence came down and still nothing has changed. Everything is different, but nothing has changed. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes and while I agree with that notion, why, because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard? I guess in this America it is.

[12:55:21]

As for officers, we would do January 6th all over again, we wouldn't stay home, because we knew it was going to happen, we would show up, that's courageous, that's heroic. So what I asked from you all is to get to the bottom of what happened. And that includes like, I echo the sentiments of all the other officers sitting here. I use an analogy to describe what I want is a hitman. If a hitman is hired, and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on January 6th, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that so. Thank you.

THOMPSON: Well, thank you very powerful comments, by the way.

GONELL: Chairman Thompson.

THOMPSON: Yes?

GONELL: If I may add. I also would like to also for you guys to give us the tools, or at least the things we need to succeed, to continue to protecting you guys. As -- I think that's essential for you guys to provide us what we need in terms of life financially. I don't know, I'm not part of the -- in the window about how that process works, but perhaps fortifying the Capitol that will help. I know, we were literally desperate, if we had that, that would have made a big difference on January 6th. And I know people want to keep this price of open to the public, as much as possible.

But there are things that we could do to remade that and also or to reinforce entrances whatnot, it's hard, but it takes will. I know, God, I can tell that Capitol has some revelations, whatnot. But the time has passed, we still have security measure from 20 years ago, there had to go. We need to reinvent the wheel and change that. But only you guys have the power to authorize that.

They won't do unless you guys do. The same -- the other thing is we still on the operating on certain things that we could adjust, things that we were doing back in when 9/11 happened, we still doing it today, even six months after the attack on the Capitol. But only you perhaps with the chief of police, the new chief of police, which he seems receptive to some of these changes, perhaps, that will change.

But we too, just like Officer Dunn said, we still don't think that prior January 6th we were doing and we still doing it today. And I think that should change. Thank you.

THOMPSON: Well, again, I thank all of you for your testimony. And obviously you are real heroes in this situation. What you did in the Committee's opinion, help preserve this democracy, the time you gave for reinforcements to finally get to the Capitol made the difference. So for that, we thank you. But you carried out your duties at tremendous risk.

Now we on this Committee, have a duty, however, a far less dangerous one, but an essential one, to get to the bottom of what happened that day. We cannot allow what happened on January 6th to ever happen again. We owe it to the American people. We owe it to you and your colleagues. And we will not fail, I assure you in that responsibility. Thank you again to our witnesses, as well as our distinguished colleagues of the Committee.

[12:59:41]

Any closing remarks? Without objections, the members will be permitted 10 business days to submit statements for the record, including opening remarks and additional questions for witnesses to appropriate staff at all meetings on the Select Committee. Without objection, the Committee stands adjourned.