The Select Committee on Jan. 6 introduced new footage of the Capitol riot Thursday night featuring Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley fleeing the complex as members of Congress were evacuated from the chambers.
“Earlier that afternoon before the joint session started, he walked across the east front of the Capitol,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who played the clip after airing an image of the senator cheering demonstrators hours before the riot. “As you can see in this photo, he raised his fist in solidarity with the protesters.”
Luria proceeded to show Hawley running out of the Capitol as peaceful protests turned into violent trespassing and shut down congressional proceedings. The committee played the clip twice, once in real time, and then in slow motion to drive home the point, as if an active 42-year-old jogging down a hallway or a flight of steps was a rare sight (the average age in the Senate is 64).
The committee sought to smear Hawley as a coward who was complicit in the violence by raising his fist to the same crowd that would later obstruct the joint session of Congress. The image of the senator’s fist, however, which Hawley promoted on a campaign mug Friday morning, was captured hours before rioters would breach the first barriers of the Capitol. There is no proof Hawley knew protesters were preparing to riot, or that the senator’s single raised hand incited the turmoil. By the Jan. 6 Committee’s standards, however, objections to certification of the electoral votes are synonymous with incitement — never mind that Democrats tried to halt the process in 2001, 2005, and 2017. Meanwhile, it wasn’t just Hawley who was forced to leave the Capitol. Every lawmaker was either evacuated or forced to hunker down.
The committee’s deceptive footage of the senator is a telling reveal of the panel’s true intentions. Initially established in pursuit of a third impeachment of President Donald Trump, the probe has widened its targets as the former Republican president is no longer the only conceivable contender to be the nominee in 2024. The committee weaponized to persecute political opponents ahead of the upcoming elections has now taken the opportunity to pivot its smears toward other potential White House rivals, Hawley included.
In what was supposed to be the final hearing, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney opened the summer finale with the announcement of season two coming in September.
“We have far more evidence to share with the American people and more to gather,” said Cheney.
The committee placing a target on Hawley also showcases how little panel members appointed to investigate the Capitol security failures actually care about those Capitol security failures. What does a spotlight on a single Republican senator evacuating with his colleagues have to do with the fact that Capitol Police were half-staffed, under-trained, ill-equipped, and unprepared to fend off a horde of demonstrators storming barricades? Out of eight hearings theatrically produced for national television by a former ABC News executive, the committee devoted a fraction of its time to legitimate oversight of the lapses in Capitol security. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s repeated refusal to dispatch the National Guard in the run-up to the riot offers far more probative value to a legitimate investigation than a clip of Sen. Hawley doing what virtually every other member of the legislature was instructed to do.