Jul 27, 2021
Rep. Bennie Thompson Opening Statement Transcript: House Investigation of January 6
Chairman Bennie Thompson’s opening statement during the House investigation on the January 6 attack on July 27, 2021. Read the transcript of the speech remarks here.
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Bennie Thompson: (00:00)
Let me say a few words at the outset about this committee’s work and how, as Chairman, I planned to run things. We’re going to be guided solely by the facts, the facts of what happened on January 6th in the run up to that tragic day and what has taken place since. That’s what we’re charged to do by House resolution 503, there’s no place for politics or partisanship in this investigation. Our only charge is to follow the facts where they lead us. And while we have a lot to uncover, there are a few things we already know. We know that the insurrection on January 6th was a violent attack that involved vicious assault on law enforcement. We know there’s evidence in a coordinated, planned attack. We know that men and women who stormed the Capitol wanted to derail the peaceful transfer of power in this country.
Bennie Thompson: (01:00)
We know that seven people lost their lives, that more than 140 police officers suffered injuries. We know that efforts to subvert our democracy are ongoing and a major part of the select committees work will be to find ways to eliminate that threat. We also know that the rioters came dangerously close to succeeding. If not for the heroism or the United States Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department, many more lives might have been lost and the rioters could have accomplished what they set out to do, upend American democracy. It’s an honor to have four of these heroes sitting before us today. We welcome them for appearing here, and more importantly for your heroism on January 6th. You have the gratitude of this committee and this country. You held the line that day. I can’t overstate what was on the line, our democracy. You held the line.
Bennie Thompson: (02:10)
We’re going to revisit some of those moments today, and it won’t be easy. But history will remember your names and your actions, and it’s important to think about history as this committee starts its work and as we hear from these courageous men and to get answers for the American people, because we need to understand our history if we want to understand the significance of what happened on January 6th and our role as members of the people’s house. I’m talking about the peaceful transfer of power. 200 years ago in 1801, the House of Representatives did one of its jobs laid out in the Constitution. After a deadlock in the electoral college, this body cast 36 ballots and ultimately sealed the contest for president of the United States. What followed was the first peaceful transfer of power in our country’s history. We know that since then, our history has been far from perfect.
Bennie Thompson: (03:16)
We’ve been torn apart and brought back together. We’ve struggled across generations to make our country’s great vision a reality for all Americans. We won victories and we’ve suffered failures, but the peaceful transfer of power has stood as the pillar of our democracy. It’s one of those things we rely on, a safeguard that we hold close because as heated and angry and divided as we may be, whatever victories we celebrate, all upheavals we endure. We can rest easy knowing that when the moment comes, our system guarantees that one party will hand the rings to another if that’s the will of the people. And while our institutions endured and while Joe Biden is the legitimately elected President of the United States, a peaceful transfer of power didn’t happen this year. It did not happen. Let that sink in. Think about it. A violent mob was pointed toward the Capitol and told to win a trial by combat. Some descended on this city with clear plans to disrupt our democracy.
Bennie Thompson: (04:36)
One rioter said that they weren’t there to commit violence, but that, I’m quoting, “We’re there to overthrow the government.” I want to repeat that. I urge everyone to listen to those words and think about what they mean. “We were just there to overthrow the government.” They marched on the Capitol with the clear intentions of stopping the certification of the election. And when they encountered the police sworn to keep us safe, they went on their attack with bear spray, knives, tasers, hockey sticks, even flagpoles fashioned in clubs with the American flag still attached. And those rioters breached the Capitol. They smashed the windows, scaled walls, broke down doors and invaded the halls of Congress. It was a scene of violence in the citadel of our democracy, not seen since 1814 when British soldiers sacked the building. They raced through the hallways chanting, “Hang Mike Pence. Where’s Nancy?”
Bennie Thompson: (05:53)
They stormed onto the Senate floor because they want to stop the Senate from certifying the election. The rioters tried to take over the House floor for the same reason. Thankfully, some astute young staff member had the presence of mind to grab the physical electoral ballots for safekeeping. These rioters were organized. They were ready for a fight and they came close to succeeding. It’s frightening to think about how close we were, a few inches of wood and glass, an officer turning left instead of turning. But just describing that attack doesn’t come close to caption what actually took place that day, so we’re going to see some of what our witnesses saw on January 6th. Let’s see the video, please. But please be advised that it contains graphic images and strong language, which many may find disturbing.
Speaker 3: (07:09)
Hey brother, we’re boots on the ground here. We’re moving on to Capitol now. I’ll give you a boots on the ground update here in a few.
Speaker 2: (07:16)
Multiple Capitol entry. Multiple Capitol entry.
Speaker 4: (07:17)
F*** you, police.
Speaker 5: (07:36)
50 to JOCC, we are still taking metal, sharpened objects, missiles, to include bottles and rocks and hand-thrown chemical grade fireworks.
Speaker 6: (07:39)
There’s an officer in the crowd.
Speaker 7: (08:09)
This is now effectively a riot.
Speaker 8: (08:10)
1349 hours. Declaring a riot.
Speaker 9: (08:26)
Okay guys, apparently this tip of the spear has entered the Capitol building.
Speaker 10: (08:33)
If I give this up, they’re going to have direct access. At least the scaffold we can defend. We’ve got to hold what we have.
Speaker 11: (09:00)
Take your pins off.
Speaker 12: (09:10)
Yeah. What the f***.
Speaker 13: (09:11)
Take your pins-
Speaker 14: (09:12)
Is this the Senate? Where the f*** are they?
Speaker 15: (09:48)
Cruiser 50. We’re flanked. 10-33. I repeat, 10-33 west front of the Capitol. [inaudible 00:09:48].
Speaker 16: (09:48)
They’re coming baby. They’re coming baby.
Speaker 17: (09:48)
They’re spraying gas.
Speaker 18: (09:48)
Lock the shields. Lock them together. Lock them together.
Speaker 19: (09:48)
We need fresh patriots to the front.
Speaker 20: (10:30)
Back up if you need break.
Speaker 21: (10:30)
He needs a break.
Speaker 20: (10:31)
Jimmy get them to the back. Get them to the back. Get him to the back. Let’s get some fresh faces up front.
Speaker 22: (10:33)
Speaker 23: (10:33)
Pull them out. Pull them out. Pull them out.
Speaker 24: (10:33)
Can I speak to Pelosi? Yeah, we’re coming b***h. Oh Mike Pence? We’re coming for you too, you f***ing traitor.
Speaker 25: (11:07)
Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.
Speaker 26: (11:23)
They’ve got the gallows set up upside this Capitol building. It’s time to start f***ing using them.
Speaker 27: (11:26)
Start making a list, put all those names down, and we start hunting them down one by one.
Speaker 28: (11:34)
Traitors to the guillotine.
Speaker 27: (11:34)
Mobilize in your own cities, in your own counties. Storm your own Capitol buildings and take down every one of these corrupt motherf***ers.
Speaker 29: (11:44)
That’s what we f***ing need to have, 30,000 guns up here.
Speaker 30: (11:48)
Bennie Thompson: (11:58)
He’ll be back. He warns us. It’s just chilling. I thank God for our democracy and our Republic. “Let’s do it, this assault.” That man’s warning reminds us that this threat hasn’t gone away. It looms over a democracy like a dark cloud. Some people are trying to deny what happened, to whitewash it, to turn the insurrectionists into martyrs. But the whole world saw the reality of what happened on January 6th. The hangman’s gallows sitting out there on our nation’s mall. The flag of that first failed in disgrace rebellion against our union being paraded through the Capitol, the hatred, the bigotry, the violence, and all of it for a vile, vile lie. Let’s be clear, the rioters who tried to rob us of our democracy were propelled here by a lie. As Chairman of this committee, I will not give that lie any fertile ground.
Bennie Thompson: (13:11)
We need to understand how and why the big lie fested. We need to know minute by minute, how January 6th unfold. We need to understand how the rotten lie behind January 6th has continued to spread and feed the forces that would undermine American democracy and we need to figure out how to fix the damage. It won’t be easy, but I have tremendous confidence in the colleagues sitting to my left and right. These are men and women of courage and character. We did not ask for this, but the House of Representatives did its job to give this country its first peaceful transfer of power, and we will do our job now to make sure the peaceful transfer of power remains a pillar of our democracy. We cannot allow ourselves to be undone by liars and cheaters. This is the United States of America. My distinguished colleague from Wyoming, Ms. Cheney, is not the ranking member of this select committee. But because this investigation is bipartisan, it’s important that we hear Republican voices as well. I now recognize Representative Cheney for an opening statement.