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House Committee places blame for Jan. 6 riot on Trump

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Most people know the basic facts of the attack on the Capitol. A challenge for House investigators is to show what those facts mean. A House committee played video from January 6. And they also played video of testimony. Witnesses showed it was not a mere protest or even tourism, as former President Trump's loyalists said. Republican Representative Liz Cheney said the defeated president led a violent attempt to overturn a Democratic election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues, you are defending the indefensible. There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us. Good morning.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. So if it wasn't a bit of tourism as people attacked police and broke down barricades and broke windows and damaged things and walked through the Capitol and a number of people were killed, what was it?

GRISALES: Right. Chairman Bennie Thompson said the attack marked the culmination of an attempted coup directed by former President Trump to overthrow the government.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BENNIE THOMPSON: The violence was no accident. It represents Senate - Trump's last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.

GRISALES: In a series of video clips, the committee gave us a look into some of the thousand - about a thousand interviews that they conducted. That vast majority was voluntary. Several featured their most high-profile witnesses, such as former Attorney General Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

INSKEEP: Well, as we heard from people like that who were so close to the former president, what did their testimony add?

GRISALES: Right. They did present some striking and revealing insight. For example, we saw one exchange with ex-Attorney General Barr using explicit language to describe how he told Trump three times that he had lost.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM BARR: I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was [expletive]. And, you know, I didn't want to be a part of it. And that's one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did.

GRISALES: We also learned Ivanka Trump agreed with Barr's assessment that no election fraud was committed. Here's a portion of her interview with the panel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: How did that affect your perspective about the election when Attorney General Barr made that statement?

IVANKA TRUMP: It affected my perspective. I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying.

INSKEEP: OK, Claudia, so the facts are obvious here. Even people close to Trump knew the facts. Even his family knew the facts, according to this sworn testimony. The two Republicans on the committee know the facts. But there are some other lawmakers who see it in their interest to pretend the facts are otherwise or to change the subject. What are they saying?

GRISALES: Right. Ohio Republican Jim Jordan complained, where's the prime time hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal last year? And this ties into a larger theme when GOP leaders yesterday said Democrats should be covering other pressing issues. Here's Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: I don't see any prime time hearing set for gas price, for battling inflation, for feeding our children, for making the streets safer.

GRISALES: And several GOP figures made their case on Fox News, which did not air the hearing in full as other networks did.

INSKEEP: Where do the hearings go from here?

GRISALES: Right. We'll see five more over the next two weeks, focusing on Trump's role in the attack from the lie of election fraud to his pressure campaign on state officials and his former vice president, Mike Pence.

INSKEEP: Claudia, thanks so much for your reporting, really appreciate it.

GRISALES: Thank you much.

INSKEEP: Up late last night, up early with us this morning, NPR's Claudia Grisales. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.