A year after America’s Capitol Hill was stormed and raided by the country’s proudest “patriots,” the aftermath is still being cleaned up.
On Jan. 6 2021, the nation’s capital was the setting of egregious acts perpetrated by far-right extremists. The protesters swarmed the building arguing the validity of then-President elect Joe Biden’s electoral win, which the Congress’s joint session was there to certify.
At approximately 12 p.m. the day of the attacks, Congress is certifying Biden’s win. The then-President Donald Trump speaks at a rally not far from the White House. Clattering cheers grow louder as Trump assures the supporters he had left that “We will never give up. We will never concede.” Trump then continues on urging then Vice President Mike Pence to use his role as leader of the Senate to use his influence saying, “Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country,” Trump says. “And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you.”
Soon after Trump’s message to Pence, the then Vice President sends out a letter formally rejecting Trump’s demand. The letter read, “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
— Mike Pence
Pence’s stand against the President he worked directly under marks MAGA supporters’ final straw, as that was when the first wave of protesters headed to the capitol.
Around the same time, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi begins the joint session of Congress, Trump ends his speech with the statement, “We’re going to the Capitol, we’re going to try and give them [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” Trump then returns to the White House, leaving his supporters unaccompanied on their journey to the nation’s capital.
Around 2 p.m. Trump supporters, Qanon supporters and other extremists break through the police barricade, the capital police retreat back into the building, as the rioters break the windows to climb into, they then open the doors to invite their friends in. It is also around this time that mysterious packages (later confirmed to be pipe bombs) were left at the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Shortly after, both the Senate and House are called into recess as the Capitol goes into lockdown.
As the news reports on the smashed windows, stampedes and other ghastly acts at the Capitol taking place, the then-President of the United States tweets out “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
As Congress members and other Capitol employees take cover and put on gas masks as instructed with rioters just outside the Senate chamber, Trump takes to Twitter again urging his supporters to “stay peaceful.” The riots however, continue to unfold, growing more violent as time goes on.
The mob of angry “patriots” break into the Senate chamber, taking self-incriminating selfies and videos, then breaking into lawmakers’ offices.
Around 4 p.m. then-President Elect Joe Biden addresses that nation as a whole, along with specifically imploring Trump to take action to stop his supporters, saying: “I call on President Trump to go on national television now, to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege. This is not a protest — it is an insurrection.”
Around 20 minutes later, Trump uses his favored means of communication, Twitter, to share a video talking to his supporters: the rioters, to leave the capitol grounds.
“I know your pain. I know your hurt,” he begins. “We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You’ve seen the way others are treated. … I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace,” says Trump.
It’s not until 6 p.m. that the Capitol is cleared out and the interior is secured. Around this time, Trump tweets out his final statement before (unbeknownst to him) all his social media accounts are suspended permanently saying, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Congress then goes back into session, some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle giving speeches denouncing that day’s events.
The New York Times
The insurrection may have been over, but a year later the country is still feeling the effects.
In response to the attack, the Capitol police have made measures to ensure that an event like that doesn’t happen again. They have amplified communication between their department and other agencies, intelligence gathering and major event security.
This year, Capitol police saw 9,600 threats against lawmakers, reportedly more than double the amount they had gotten the five years prior to the siege.
The agency reported that due to these new security measures and sets of challenges around 130 officers quit this past year. Along with the toll of the several Capitol Police officers that died after and due to the attack, more than 100 were injured.
Congress now has a committee for the sole purpose of ensuring that, that moment in American history won’t repeat itself through comprehensive legislative proposals and a thorough investigation.
Pete Aguilar, a state representative from California, shares that the siege shed light on the security threats that come from within the capital, “We’ve seen metal detectors as a result of our own members stating that they were carrying weapons after and leading up to that date.”
After the Capitol riots, the Jan. 6 House committee has been investigating the people involved or purportedly involved in that event. One of them is Mark Meadows, who was Trump’s latest Chief of Staff, turned over 9,000 pages of documents that were subpoenaed, including text messages with people related to the incident before he stopped cooperating. Meadows is now facing contempt of congress charges due to his failure to assist the committee with their investigation. The most recent person of interest being Fox News anchor and close confidant of Trump, Sean Hannity.
As of Jan. 4 the committee stated its intent to investigate Hannity’s involvement in the Capitol riot. Chair Bennie Thomson (D-MS 2nd District) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY At-Large District) wrote a joint appeal to Hannity that says, “The Select Committee has immense respect for the First Amendment to our Constitution, freedom of the press, and the rights of Americans to express their political opinions freely.” They also state that “At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to investigate fully the facts and circumstances of these events in order to inform our legislative recommendations. Our nation cannot let anything like January 6 ever happen again. Thus, we write today to seek your voluntary cooperation on a specific and narrow range of factual questions.”
The reason Hannity is now of interest to the committee is due to newly revealed text messages between Hannity and key Trump administration figures received surrounding the insurrection.
One of the few publicly released text messages from Hannity was sent to Mark Meadows on Dec. 31, 2020 that read, in part: “We can’t lose the entire WH counsel’s office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told.”
This message is noted as what sparked the committee’s interest in him, as Thompson and Cheney’s letter said, “Among many other things, this text suggests that you had knowledge of concerns by President Trump’s White House Counsel’s Office regarding the legality of the former President’s plans for January 6th. These facts are directly relevant to our inquiry.”
A year after the attack, President Biden addressed the nation in his speech, honoring the victims of the riot and at the same time denouncing those who instigated it, in particular former President Trump.
They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage. Not in service of America, rather in service of one man.”
— Joe Biden
The speech featured impactful lines like, “Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging. Waving, for the first time inside this Capitol, the Confederate flag that symbolizes the cause to destroy America. To rip us apart.Even during the Civil War that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021. Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers; dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured.” Biden said. The President continued on by describing the people guilty of the attack. “Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage. Not in service of America, rather in service of one man.”
The speech placed blame on the one who directed his supporters to the Capitol, “For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election; he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed.”
The day of the insurrection, the riot, the siege or whatever else you want to call it, was only a year ago. It is evidenced by the majority of lawmakers in Washington that an event that took place, this day a year ago will be the first and last, as it is remembered and not to be recurrent.