Sat, 29 Jan 2022

The Inside Story-Capitol Attack One Year Later TRANSCRIPT

Voice of America
14 Jan 2022, 04:05 GMT+10

TRANSCRIPT

The Inside Story: Capitol Attack: One Year Later

Episode 22 - January 13, 2022

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Voice of KATHERINE GYPSON, VOA Congressional Correspondent:

A year after a mob attacked the US Capitol to overturn an election--- How far has the investigation moved?

Who is being held accountable?

Go inside the hallways of the Hill and find out how close America was to losing --- And keeping --- its democracy ...

Next, on The Inside Story: Capitol Attack: One Year Later.

The Inside Story:

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Hi. I'm Katherine Gypson, VOA's Congressional Correspondent.

And welcome to my workplace --- the U.S. Capitol.

A little more than a year ago, this citadel of democracy was overrun by a mob of people with

apparent intent to disrupt the official process of declaring the winner of the 2020 presidential

election.

One year later, the legal and political impact of the Capitol attack is still being determined.

Ahead, details on the arrests, the search for accountability and American attitudes on the

January 6th attack.

First, VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara reports on where President Joe

Biden places the blame.

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA, VOA White House Bureau Chief:

It has been a year since supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop

lawmakers from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election... won by Joe Biden.

U.S. President Joe Biden:

One year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked.

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA:

Without once mentioning Donald Trump by name, Biden laid the blame squarely on him.

U.S. President Joe Biden:

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob reached the Capitol.

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA:

Biden also blamed Trump for what Democrats call the "Big Lie" - the narrative that the 2020

election was stolen - a baseless claim the former president and some Republicans continue to

push to this day.

U.S. President Joe Biden:

Because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important

than his country's interest, than America's interest. And because his bruised ego matters more

to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can't accept he lost.

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA:

Trump canceled his planned news conference and said in a statement that..

"...this political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed.'

In a statement, Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, accused Democrats of trying try to exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals.

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA:

Many observers say American democratic institutions had been under stress long before the assault. Strengthening voting rights and election integrity was highlighted by Vice President Kamala Harris as a needed response to the insurrection.

Kamala Harris, U.S. Vice President:

Will it be remembered as a moment that accelerated the unraveling of the oldest greatest democracy in the world? Or a moment when we decided to secure and strengthen our democracy for generations to come?

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA:

The siege has had a global impact. Adversaries, including Russia and China, have used it to defend their undemocratic systems.

Suzanne Spaulding, Center for Strategic and International Studies:

For Putin to continue to push the message around the world that that U.S. democracy is not something to be longed for, that it is as chaotic and broken as the Russian system is. And for China to argue, as it does, that it has an alternative that is superior.

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA:

Biden rejected the arguments.

U.S. President Joe Biden:

China, Russia and beyond, they're betting that democracy's days are numbered. They actually told me democracies are too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today's rapidly changing, complicated world. They're betting that America will become more like them, and less like us. They're betting that in America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strong man. I do not believe that. That is not who we are. That is not who we have ever been. And that is not who we should ever, ever be!

PATSY WIDAKUSWARA:

The road ahead is challenging. Fueled by election fraud conspiracies, Republicans in multiple states have championed legislation limiting voting access and giving them more power over their states' election systems. Democrats say these measures will disadvantage them at the ballot box and are a threat to democracy. Patsy Widakuswara, VOA News, Washington.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

One year later... there are still questions about the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol - and who was ultimately responsible for the worst attack on the seat of Congress in two centuries.

Many of former President Trump's supporters claim the breach was not serious, while critics say Trump directed his supporters to overturn Joe Biden's election victory, effectively undermining the democratic process.

Rioters roamed the halls of the Capitol building, raising security concerns for lawmakers and staffers who were preparing to certify Biden's election victory.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:

I will never forgive the president - the former president of the United States - and his lackeys, his bullies who he sent to the Capitol - and the trauma that was exerted on our staff.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

The U.S. House of Representatives moved swiftly to impeach Trump just days after the riot, alleging he was guilty of inciting the insurrection. But the U.S. Senate acquitted the former president of that charge in February 2021.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy:

He is hereby acquitted.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Lawmakers have held numerous hearings on the security failures of that day. In late June, the U.S. House formed a special select committee to investigate the actions of then-President Trump.

The panel has issued subpoenas to compel former White House officials and Trump campaign staff to testify about the president's actions that day, and the days leading up to the attack.

Rep. Liz Cheney:

Find Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

The committee is expected to release a report on its investigation before the November 2022 mid-term elections, but the findings are not legally binding.

In the U.S. courts, 704 individuals have been charged at the federal level with offenses

ranging from misdemeanor trespassing charges to more serious charges, including

violence against law enforcement and members of the media.

Researchers estimate about 70 to 80 individuals involved in militant networks face even more serious charges of conspiracy.

Jon Lewis, George Washington University Center on Extremism:

These are the hierarchical domestic violent extremist groups, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers. Some "Three Percenters" mixed in there who are alleged to have not just gone to the Capitol to see the speech to protest, to march. But with a concerted conspiracy ranging from the collection of funds, the dispersal of weapons, of marching up the steps to the Capitol in a stack formation, to leaving guns at a Virginia hotel.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Five people present at the January 6 riot died. The question still being debated is whether the chaos developed spontaneously or was part of a planned insurrection directed by the then-president of the United States.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

I'm here on the East front of the US Capitol, and I'm looking down at the walk to work that I take every day, and I've made 1000s of times over the years as I walked to work with lawmakers and legislative aides and their thousands of support staff. We all make this our routine place of work, and I'm usually thinking about the story that I'm going to be writing that day.

Of course, on January 6, 2021 I was instead watching thousands of rioters overwhelm these grounds. and I was thinking about how the most secure building in the world where I've always felt safe, was suddenly the most unsafe place. There were rioters breaking glass, they were overwhelming US Capitol Police that I know personally. And all I could think about was whether or not the colleagues that I see every day would be safe in these hallways.

We're just steps away from the chamber of the US Senate right now.

And in a hallway where I do a lot of my reporting, shouting questions during press conferences with Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer.

But of course on the day of the Capitol riot, this was very different. It's a place where a lot of the most famous images of that day happened - from rioters rappelling down the walls of the US Senate to carrying Confederate flags past some of these paintings.

We're also very close to the spot where Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman directed rioters away from US senators, dramatically changing the course of that day. That's how I'm going to remember this hallway from now on.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Of the 725 people arrested and charged with crimes for the Capitol attack, more than half

work in what are considered "white collar" jobs --- including business owners, architects,

doctors and lawyers.

That analysis by University of Chicago professor Robert Pape also shows that just 13 percent

of those arrested were part of violent militia groups.

So, who are these people?

Our Carolyn Presutti shows us some of them.

CAROLYN PRESUTTI, VOA Correspondent:

Of the thousands of supporters of former President Trump who stormed the Capitol, more than 725 have been arrested and charged with crimes.

Floridian Robert Scott Palmer received the stiffest sentence yet - more than five years for assaulting a police officer with a dangerous weapon.

Palmer is seen here spraying officers with a fire extinguisher, then throwing the cannister at police. VOA was scheduled to interview Palmer, but he is in jail in quarantine after catching COVID.

In a letter to the judge before sentencing, Palmer blamed former President Donald Trump and his advisers, writing:

"They kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was 'our duty' to stand up to tyranny."

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

Another Capitol rioter from Florida, Felipe Marquez, says fake stories about human trafficking led him to join the uprising and invade a senator's office.

Marquez pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a restricted building and received 18 months' probation. He told VOA in an email: "I would like to leave this in my past, as a mistake."

Felipe Marquez, Serving 18 Months' Probation:

I was trying to get more known for conservative content and getting views on YouTube but the way the events of that day [un]folded were terrible.

Jon Lewis, George Washington University Extremism Program:

...name, gender, state...

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

Jon Lewis with George Washington University's Program on Extremism is tracking each case of those who stormed the Capitol.

Jon Lewis, George Washington University Extremism Program:

You have defendants from 18 to 80 years old. You have individuals from every walk of life, from a salon owner to other business owners, to firemen, to law enforcement to military.

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

More than 80 percent were charged based on evidence gathered from social media posts, often their own.

Like Texan Jennifer Ryan, who gained notoriety after tweeting this photo in front of a broken window, along with a tweet that read:

Jennifer Ryan, Sentenced to 60 days in Jail:

We just stormed the Capitol. It was one of the best days of my life.

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

Ryan later tweeted she was not going to jail because she is blonde and white.

Here's what she said as she left the courthouse after pleading guilty to demonstrating inside the Capitol and receiving a 60-day sentence.

Jennifer Ryan, Sentenced to 60 days in Jail:

I walked into the Capitol for two minutes and I'm remorseful of that.

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

Ryan claimed her tweets, not her actions at the Capitol, got her in trouble.

Jennifer Ryan, Sentenced to 60 days in Jail:

I regret ever tweeting. But, you know, it's a free country.

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

Some of those charged, like Yvonne St Cyr, are unrepentant.

Yvonne St Cyr, Facing Charges:

I own what I do. But I still believe in what I did was the right thing.

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

Others are not commenting on their case, including the man who propped his feet onto House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk and allegedly stole some of her mail. Instead, Richard Barnett, who faces seven charges, is complaining about jail conditions, including solitary confinement.

Richard Barnett, Facing Seven Charges:

You can love me or hate me. You can love me and hate what I did. You could not like anything about me but you have to put that aside because this isn't about me. This is about our federal prison system in America and what they are doing to people.

CAROLYN PRESUTTI:

Trials have been avoided so far as defendants have accepted plea bargains, sometimes for a lesser charge. Court observers say hundreds of remaining cases will take years to adjudicate.

Carolyn Presutti, VOA News, Washington.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Investigations by both the Justice Department and Congress will try to uncover the extent

political extremist groups participated in the planning and execution of the Capitol attack.

Shamus Hughes is the Deputy Director of George Washington University's Program on

Extremism. We spoke about the spike in U.S. political radicalism.

Shamus Hughes, Deputy Director of George Washington University's Program on

Extremism:

So, January 6th was a unique moment. It was the perfect storm, right? So, it had the mainstream politicians advocating for it, you had social media that was asleep at the wheel, you had a, a extremism movement online that was kind of very united on this idea, and conspiracy theories that all walked around January 6 being the moment.

Since January 6, we've had about 700 people who have been charged and arrested related to that event. The vast majority are kind of pedestrian in nature, almost typical profile-- yoga instructor, construction work, realtor in Texas. Like you said, they range in charges from misdemeanors to felonies. The vast majority actually weren't part of organized groups. The organized groups are the most concerning for law enforcement's perspective.

So those groups are the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys for the most part and a few Three Percenters.

So, the Oath Keepers are an organized militia group that had been planning and organizing for a number of years, this idea of pushing back on what they saw as government overreach. The Proud Boys is kind of a very interesting group, think about a very misogynistic, aggressive pack of men, mostly men, who go around the room kind of attacking other groups. And then the Three Percenters who believe that they're the only ones who are standing up against the Republic. So why is law enforcement so concerned about them?

Because if you look at them, the images on January 6, think of the guys who were walking up in stack formation in camouflage up the steps of the Capitol. So they're organized, they're know what they're doing. There is some early reporting that says that they may not have been the first ones to breach the Capitol, but they encouraged others to do so. And once they saw the opportunity they seized it.

So, about three years ago, the FBI Director was asked about how many active investigations he has in all 50 states for domestic terrorism. He said 850. He was asked three months ago, and he said 2700. So we've seen a very large rise in domestic extremism groups. And that is a coalescing of the use of social media, so going down a rabbit hole of algorithms that gets you down the path where you don't want to go. You have these groups that have been operating with relative impunity for a number of years. The US government, the intelligence community, law enforcement has largely been focused on foreign threats: ISIS, Al Qaeda, and taking their eyes off these domestic groups and allowed them to recruit radicalize in a clip they haven't had since Oklahoma City.

I think we're all to blame for this. If you look at not only social media, but kind of mainstream sites. The idea that the election was a fraud, that election doesn't have any integrity upon it, that plays into a larger conspiracy theory, in the sense of -and we also can't discount what happened the last three years for COVID. You know, everyone locked down, on their computers, not able to interact, feeling like the government's restricting their ability to do something. and so this gave them a rise to do something. And so they just kind of fed into that rabbit hole, they kept going down and down where you're in a normal group on Facebook and before you know it, you're in a QAnon group, and then you're going to a rally and then you're going to January 6th. It's not that hard of a jump.

Social media has not done a very good job when it comes to domestic extremism. They tend to have not police their own sites, they haven't trained their content moderators on doing what they need to do. To be fair, they haven't been pressured do so. Every time they go up to Congress, they get very random questions, not targeted. There's no bills that have any real real legs in order to regulate them. So they're under no pressure to do so. And in order to do so, we're gonna have to, as a society, say enough is enough. We can't allow this to happen. We have to figure out a way to rein this in. All while understanding this is kind of a private company, it can set its own terms and services. But there's something to be said about shaming, right? There's something to be said about: listen, you know what's going on on your platform, you've got to step up and do something. You saw what happened on January 6th. And there's some culpability there.

It's clearly a growing problem. We also need to put it in context. January 6 happened but two weeks later, the President's inaugurated, there's no rally in DC. The justice for J6 rally in the fall, very few people showed up. And in many ways, we've hopefully learned the lessons in terms of getting better security, better intelligence, better information sharing at the national level. My concern is at the state level. We clearly are not on the same page in all 50 states on how to address this issue.

And we're seeing these groups, whether it be the Proud Boys or others, move back away from a national model to a state local model, and they're able to recruit people in their neighborhoods.

I don't think this is gonna be a problem that is going to go away. If you look at the threat in the US, it's basically fractured. You have ISIS, you have al Qaeda, you have white supremacists, you have militia groups, you have QAnon, you have incels, you have everybody on the map. It makes law enforcement's job a lot harder, and it's gonna be quite frankly, a mess for the next few years.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Political dividing lines are being hardened as former President Donald Trump continues to

falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen from him.

His influence on the Republican Party is evident, as several key states are changing election

laws to make it easier to reject results.

VOA White House Correspondent Anita Powell examines Trump's political influence ahead.

ANITA POWELL, VOA White House Correspondent:

This is the face that launched thousands of angry people on the U.S. Capitol in one of the most stunning days in American history.

The few thousand protesters who ended up entering the Capitol that January day sought out lawmakers - in particular, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Mike Pence - as they attempted to formalize Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. The mob erected gallows, assaulted police and journalists, vandalized and looted offices.

The violence and chaos left five people dead, wounded 138 police officers, resulted in charges against more than 720 participants and landed Trump a last-minute impeachment - his second - just days before he left office.

Trump maintains the poll was rigged, in the face of overwhelming evidence that there was no election fraud - as do some of his supporters, who continue to attend his post-presidential rallies.

Beth Turbey, Trump supporter:

I'm here to see our rightful President that actually won this election, and I just want to hear what he has to say.

ANITA POWELL:

Trump was planning to address his followers again on January 6, but he canceled the event and says he'll instead address his followers at a rally planned for January 15 in Arizona.

Observers say he's been busy all year trying to influence sympathetic lawmakers.

Jeremi Suri, University of Texas-Austin:

He's trying to limit voting access in states that have diverse populations or ever-more diverse populations, like Georgia and Texas. He's trying to get people like Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene, two members of Congress, to get more of their own kind of people elected who will do things such as pursue policies designed to keep immigrants out of the United States, policies designed to take the United States out of its international alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. So he has an America-first agenda. He has an ego agenda, and he has an agenda about trying to rewrite history to match his false narrative. And he's pursuing that every day.

ANITA POWELL

If anything, says analyst Suzanne Spaulding, who leads the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, this galvanizing event has only further divided the United States politically.

Republicans who spoke out against Trump right after January 6 seem to have gone silent in the past year. More troubling, she said, polls show that one in three Americans believes violence against the government is justified. This seems to have given Trump fuel.

Suzanne Spaulding, Center for Strategic and International Studies:

I suspect in that sense he has felt emboldened. I think there was, again, in the very first hours after those events, a sense among some of the Republican members of Congress that perhaps this had - he had - gone too far. And that they thought they had some breathing room to distance themselves. And unfortunately, what seems to have happened is that he has not lost his grip on the Republican Party.

ANITA POWELL

Without naming him, Biden laid blame at Trump's feet in a speech at the Capitol on the attack's anniversary:

U.S. President Joe Biden:

He has done what no president in American history - the history of this country - has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.

ANITA POWELL:

Trump will likely reference Biden's words during the January 15 rally.

But Spaulding says the American people, not politicians, deserve the last word here.

Suzanne Spaulding, Center for Strategic and International Studies:

I'm always struck by our national anthem, the words that we sing at ballparks and sports arenas, all around the country. It starts with a question and answers the question. It starts with the question of: is the flag still flying? We saw it through the night through the battle, but now it's the morning and the question is, does that flag still wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave? That's how it ends, with a question mark. And all of us must be part of making sure that that answer every day is yes.

ANITA POWELL

So, a year later, which flag is it going to be? Anita Powell, VOA News, Washington.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

That's all for now.

Follow me on Twitter at Kgyp.

Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook at VOANews and stay up to date online at VOANews.com.

See you next week for The Inside Story.

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