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Televised hearings investigating Jan. 6 begin

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And I'm Mary Louise Kelly in Washington, where the first primetime televised hearings by the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are underway tonight. Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, opened tonight's hearing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BENNIE THOMPSON: Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup; a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident. It represents Senate - Trump's last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.

KELLY: The hearings are meant to capture the public's attention, lay out the threats to democracy on that day and show who and what caused the attack.

NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson is following tonight's hearing. Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Hey. How's the committee laying out the case so far?

LIASSON: Well, the committee is laying out the case in pretty stark terms. You just heard Chairman Thompson say this was an attempted coup, an attempt to overthrow the government, to violate the oath that every single public official in America takes to defend the Constitution against enemies, foreign and domestic. But he also said that what he wants to accomplish in the next few weeks is not just to remind Americans of what happened that day, how they felt that day, but to talk about how our democracy is still in danger, and the conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is still not over. And he talked about people in this audience, meaning Republicans, who still want to undermine the Constitution.

You know, Liz Cheney, who is one of the two Republicans on the committee, she talked about several things, one of which has never been heard before. She talked about how the president on the - January 6, and we've heard about this before, didn't want to call off the rioters even though his officials were begging him to release a statement. But then she said this - when he heard about the chants that the rioters were making to hang Mike Pence.

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LIZ CHENEY: You will hear that President Trump was yelling and, quote, "really angry" at advisers who told him he needed to be doing something more and aware of the rioters' chants to hang Mike Pence. The president responded with this sentiment - quote, "maybe our supporters have the right idea." Mike Pence, quote, "deserves it."

LIASSON: These are the kinds of bombshells of things that we haven't heard before, maybe videotape we haven't seen before, that the committee is going to try to sprinkle throughout their presentation to keep people's attention but also to drive home that point that what happened that day was a grave threat to American democracy. And that threat is still ongoing.

KELLY: And what else are we expecting them to sprinkle through tonight's proceedings? There's more testimony. There's a couple witnesses.

LIASSON: That's right.

KELLY: Yeah.

LIASSON: That's right. We're going to hear videotaped testimony from some - we - some members of the Trump campaign and White House officials. We've already heard some of that. We're going to have two live witnesses - Caroline Edwards, who was a U.S. Capitol Police officer. She was the first law enforcement member who was injured by rioters on the West Front Plaza. We're also going to hear from Nick Quested, a filmmaker who captured the chaotic scenes because he was embedded making a documentary about far-right groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

KELLY: And real quick, Mara, the Republicans who aren't on this committee, what are they saying tonight?

LIASSON: Well, they're basically saying it's illegitimate. It's partisan. People don't care. They care about inflation and gas prices. They're really not offering a counternarrative. But you know who is offering a counternarrative? - Donald Trump. Today, he tweeted that, quote, "January 6 was more than a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the...

KELLY: Right.

LIASSON: ...History of our country." So there you have it.

KELLY: NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.