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January 6 hearing: Capitol riot inquiry invokes emotional police testimony

At times wiping away tears, four officers detailed the repeated violent attacks by the pro-Trump mob. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, was also overcome.

The House select committee formed to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol convened its first hearing on Tuesday, hosting a panel of four police officers who defended the building against a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The testimony, which included new video footage from the day, was both emotional and dramatic, as the officers described being overwhelmed by rioters who were better equipped for the battle that unfolded.

  • Officer Dunn, a 13-year veteran of the Capitol Police force, recounted enduring racist slurs, in powerful testimony about confronting the mob. More on the officers here.
  • The officers provided chilling, detailed accounts of being knocked unconscious, beaten and fearing death at the hands of a mob that outnumbered them. They choked up reliving the hand-to-hand combat they faced on Jan. 6.
  • Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., issued striking criticism of her party for blocking an independent commission to examine the attack. She is one of two Republicans serving on the committee, at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's invitation.

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Dunn reflects on racial slurs he faced on Jan. 6 as representative of America

Rep. Schiff asked Officer Dunn about the racial epithets he faced and if he felt this was representative of America at large.

"I guess, it sounds silly but I guess it is American," Dunn said. "But it's not the side of America that I like. It's not the side that any of us here represent. We represent the good side of America, people that actually believe in decency, human decency, and we appeal to, just the good in people. That's what we want to see."

Dunn added that he is glad Republicans are also part of the committee.

"That's encouraging. It's encouraging, so that's the side of America that I say, 'Yes, this is America,'" Dunn said. "This is the side that I like and the side that I acknowledge."

Schiff also tears up: 'It must be an Adam thing today'

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., choked up near the conclusions of his questioning of the select committee's witnesses, commending the officers for risking their lives.

"It must be an Adam thing today," said Schiff, referring to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the panel, who had previously gotten emotional during his allotted questioning time.

"I believe in this country and I believe in it because of people like you who understand what the flag means and what our constitution means and risk their lives to defend it," Schiff said. 

Hodges explains why he and many other officers didn't shoot at rioters

Hodges said that he and likely many other officers didn't shoot at the rioters because they feared it would escalate the situation. 

"I was wondering how many more bombs are there? What's the trigger? Is it going to be a cellphone? Is it on a timer? How many guns are there...if we start firing, is that the signal to set off the explosives?" Hodges said in his testimony.

"That's the reason why I didn't shoot anyone," he said.

Hodges said there were about 9,000 "terrorists" at the Capitol that day and only a couple hundred officers.

"If that turned into a firefight, we would have lost and this was a fight we couldn't afford to lose," he said.

Gonell calls attack 'an attempted coup,' says U.S. would have sent help to another country

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., showed Jan, 6. body camera footage from Sgt. Gonell, who called the attack on the Capitol an "attempted coup."

"If it had been another country, the U.S. would have sent help," Gonell said. 

"They were calling us traitors," Gonell said about Trump's supporters, "Even though they were the one doing, committing the treasonous acts that day."

Referring to why he wanted to return to his job at the Capitol despite concerns from his family, Gonell said Tuesday, "My sense of duty for the country, for the Constitution, at that time was bigger than even my love for my wife and my, my son. I put that ahead."

'I was up s--- creek without a paddle': Officer Fanone describes mob attacking him

Fanone, an officer with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, recalled being violently assaulted from every direction and eventually pulling himself away.

"I knew I was up s--- creek without a paddle," he said, breaking his emotional testimony to chuckle softly at the cliché. His tone then turned serious as he walked the panel through a video clip of his body camera footage from the attack that had just been been shown.

"I was trying to push guys off of me, create some space." Fanone said. 

Individuals were trying to grab Fanone's gun and he specifically remembers one of them lunging at him, time and time again. "I heard people in the crowd yelling, 'Get his gun. Kill him with his own gun.'"

Fanone said he thought about using his weapon and believed there were individuals who wanted to kill him.

While the mood in the room has been somber as the officers testify, there's a noticeable shift when video footage plays. As the clip from Fanone's body camera aired, the officers watched, with Fanone looking away very briefly at one point.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., kept glancing between the video and the officers. All committee members were listening intently as Fanone described the scene.

Kinzinger gets emotional as his questioning begins

An emotional Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the panel, choked up as he began his allotted questioning time.

He praised the officers for their actions on Jan. 6 and condemned how other Republicans are handling the inquiries about the riot as a partisan brawl.

"I'm a Republican, I'm a conservative," he said, adding, "It's time to stop the outrage and the conspiracies" and "we need to reject those who promote it."

Kinzinger added he's on the panel "to investigate Jan. 6 not in spite of my membership in the Republican Party, but because of it."

'It's insulting': Gonell responds to Trump's assertion that there was a 'lot of love' in the crowd

Cheney asked Sgt. Gonell how he feels hearing former President Trump describe there being a "lot of love" in the crowd of his supporters on Jan. 6 when they attacked the Capitol. 

"If those are hugs and kisses, we all should go to his house and do the same things to him," Gonell said.

"To me, it's insulting, it's demoralizing," he continued. 

A few minutes later, he said that he didn't mean that people should literally go to Trump's house and said he apologizes for his "outburst." 

Gonell said that he and other officers tried to prevent everyone inside the Capitol from getting hurt and instead of sending in the military, he said that Trump "egged" on his supporters to continue fighting. 

'Words are weapons': Dunn reflects on mob berating him with racial slurs

After delivering powerful testimony about being bombarded with racial slurs on Jan. 6, Officer Dunn, who is Black, called the words "weapons."

"Disheartening that we live in a country with people like that," Dunn said, "who attack you based on the color of your skin. Those words are weapons."

"Once I was able to process it, it hurt," he added. "It hurt just reading it now, thinking about it. ... It just hurts that we have people in this country that result to that regardless of your actions and what you desire to do to make a difference out there."

In his opening testimony, Dunn said he responded to the mob suggesting that no one voted for President Joe Biden that Dunn himself had voted for him.

"'You hear that guys? This n----- voted for Joe Biden,'" Dunn said someone in the crowd responded, adding the more people shouted: "'Boooo, f------ n----.'"

"No one had ever ever called me a n----- while wearing a uniform," Dunn said.

Analysis: McCarthy chooses not to defend (or condemn) actions of Trump, his supporters

Republican leaders have chosen to neither defend nor condemn former President Donald Trump and his supporters who stormed the Capitol in his name Jan. 6. 

The voluntary silence is effectively a plea of no contest to allegations that House GOP leaders have acted as accessories after the fact in fighting against the investigation.

Those who deny what happened or play it down, "betray their oath of office," Officer Michael Fanone said during his opening testimony.

"The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful," he said, raising his voice and slamming the table.

The only Republicans participating in the hearing — Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. — were appointed by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., over the objections of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

McCarthy chose to withdraw the rest of his party's appointees to the panel when Pelosi nixed two lawmakers who have cast doubt on the inquiry, the danger posed by the rioters and the risk the attack created for the republic.

In doing so, he gave up the opportunity to create distance between Republican officials, including Trump, and the rioters. McCarthy opted not to defend any of them. And maybe that's because it's impossible to defend the indefensible. 

Biden not expected to watch select committee hearing live

President Joe Biden is not expected to be watching the Jan. 6 hearing in real-time due to his schedule, according to multiple White House officials.

He will likely watch clips or headlines but he’s not sitting down and watching it, according to officials. 

Another official said the president fully supports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the committee leadership, and the courage of those testifying who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Officers around the Capitol watch the hearing on their phones

Officers around the Capitol complex Tuesday were seen watching the hearing on their phones as their fellow officers delivered emotional testimony about their experiences defending the building before the select committee. 

Many officers were huddled together as they watched. A few remarked to NBC News how important it was to witness.