WASHINGTON – During the House select committee's first hearing examining the events surrounding Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the police officers testifying pointed blame toward the former president and congressional Republicans who heightened the rhetoric.
U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who fended off pro-Trump rioters, begged lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee to "get to the bottom of what happened."
Dunn, using an analogy without explicitly naming former President Donald Trump, made clear where his blame lies.
"If a hitman is hired, and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, the person who hired them does," Dunn said. "There was an attack carried out on January 6th and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that."
The committee is investigating the events leading up to the insurrection attempt, and the rioter's attempts to stop Congress from confirming state-certified Electoral College results that solidified that then-candidate Joe Biden had emerged victorious in the 2020 election.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. and chairman of the select committee, pointedly asked officers: "What would you like to see us do?"
DC Metropolitan police officer Michael Fanone said he did not "believe it was a coincidence" that there was a "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6: the same day "members of Congress, you here in the room today, were charged with tallying the electoral votes and certifying the election of our president."
Thousands marched from that rally, where Trump and several of his allies spoke, directly to the Capitol, where the riot turned deadly.
"In the academy, we learn about time, place and circumstance in investigating potential crimes and those who may have committed them," Fanone continued. Those, to him, "leads in the direction of our president and other members, not only of Congress, in the Senate."
He also said he wants the committee to investigate whether there was "collaboration" among those members and their staff and "these terrorists."
Several congressional Republicans objected to the certification of the states' Electoral College results. A couple of them spoke at the Jan. 6 rally.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., told the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges seconded Fanone, saying he needs the committee to "address whether anyone in power had a role in this."
Dunn recounted several encounters he had with the pro-Trump crowd, testifying that rioters repeated that they were there to “Stop the steal!” and that Trump was still the true elected leader of the country because they had voted for him.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department also announced it will allow former Trump administration officials to testify before the 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 attack on the Capitol.
The DOJ said it will not assert executive privilege for former officials who may be called to testify before lawmakers. The decision could provide insight into Trump's actions, and conversations leading up to Jan. 6.
Dunn called the events on Jan. 6 "political," spurred by the "stop the steal" rhetoric.
He noted the two Republicans on the select committee — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — are "lauded as courageous heroes" for serving on the commission.
"While I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard?" he asked. "I guess in this America, it is."
Contributing: Kristine Phillips, Matthew Brown, Mabinty Quarshie, Christal Hayes, Bart Jansen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Harry Dunn says 'a hitman' sent pro-Trump mob to Capitol on Jan. 6