Several Arizona officials in the mix, as January 6 committee hearings begin

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Tracy Abiaka

Cronkite News

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol began presenting evidence Thursday night from more than 1,000 witnesses, including a number of prominent Arizona Republicans.

In addition to the nine Arizonans charged in the capitol breach, at least five state GOP officials are among 100 people who have reportedly been subpoenaed over the past year by the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The committee began its work last year with dramatic testimony from police officers injured in the attack, and it was due to resume Thursday with a prime-time hearing that will be the first of at least eight sessions that describe “a coordinated multi-stage effort to overturn the 2020 election results.”

Thursday’s hearing featured testimony from a United States Capitol Police officer who was injured in the attack and a documentary filmmaker who followed members of the Proud Boys.

It was not likely to include the participation of Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, one of five House GOP members who refused to cooperate with committee subpoenas. Biggs called the committee and its work “a baseless witch hunt” and “pure political theater”.

“The illegitimate January 6 hearing this week is a distraction from the colossal domestic and international failures of the Biden administration,” Biggs said. in a tweet Tuesday.

That was echoed Thursday by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other House GOP leaders who called the committee “the most political and least legitimate committee in the world.” American history”.

“He used congressional subpoenas to attack Republicans, violate due process and infringe on private citizen political speech,” McCarthy said of the committee.

McCarthy, who also ignored a subpoena, called the hearings “a smokescreen for Democrats to advance their radical agenda,” and said Republicans would release their own alternative report on the hearings.

But Democrats like Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said the hearings were needed to “shed light on the dark actions of that day,” which he called a “fascist attempt to, forcibly and lies, to nullify a legitimate election”. .”

“These hearings are in the public domain so that we never forget what happened,” Grijalva said in a statement Wednesday.

The committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans was formed last summer to investigate the violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that left seven people dead, including three police officers, according to a June Senate report that day. the.

The assault followed a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally outside the White House where then-President Donald Trump urged the crowd to march to the Capitol where Congress was set to certify the election that took place. makes Joe Biden president.

Thousands of people marched through the National Mall and quickly overwhelmed Capitol Police to enter the building. It sent lawmakers, including Vice President Mike Pence, scrambling for security and disrupting election certification for hours until authorities could regain control.

Numerous investigations have found little evidence that the 2020 election was fraudulent, including an investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s office which found that although there were voting irregularities, there were no no indication of widespread fraud in the report.

The committee asked Biggs on May 2 to discuss his attendance at White House planning meetings for Jan. 6, his efforts to encourage state lawmakers to void the election, and an alleged pardon request. of Trump before he left office. He subpoenaed him on May 12, after he failed to respond to requests to discuss his involvement.

Biggs was just one of many Arizonans targeted for questioning by the committee, which also issued subpoenas to Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward, Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem , R-Tucson, and to Loraine Pellegrino and Nancy Cottle, Arizona officers. Federation of Republican Women.

Finchem, who was at the Jan. 6 rally and continues to insist the election was stolen from Trump, is currently running for secretary of state. He argued that the election had been “rigged” and the American people had been “robbed”.

The committee wants to talk to Finchem about his involvement in planning Jan. 6 as well as creating a set of “substitute voters,” a list that was sent to Washington in an effort to secure the 11 electoral votes of the state for Trump.

Ward was also subpoenaed to appear on the alternate voters list, as were Pellegrino and Cottle, who claimed to be alternate voters. Others on the list who have not been subpoenaed include Arizona Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek and Jim Lamon, a candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate.

It is unclear whether the others have complied with the subpoenas. Neither Finchem nor Ward returned calls seeking comment, but Ward and her husband went to court to block the committee’s access to their phone records as part of the subpoena.

The committee searched Ward’s phone records after it was reported that she spoke to Trump and his staff about voter certification issues. In addition to signing as a surrogate voter, along with her husband, Ward also reportedly texted “stop counting” after Biden was declared the winner.

Aaron Marquez, executive director of Vets Forward, said subpoenas “certainly” have a Fifth Amendment right not to testify, “but we should hold our members of Congress to higher standards.”

“If you’re an elected official, if you’re pleading the fifth, there’s probably something he wouldn’t want to criminalize himself for,” he said of Biggs.

Marquez also said it was important to watch the hearing and hold people accountable for the activities that led to the attack and the conspiracy in our country to try to overthrow the will of voters.

Independent of the committee’s investigation, the Justice Department’s probe into the insurgency, which has so far led to 840 arrests in all 50 states, on charges ranging from “marching, demonstrating or picketing in a capitol building” to assault and seditious conspiracy.

Nine of those charged are from Arizona, the most notable being Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as QAnon Shaman, easily recognizable for his face paint and horn and fur outfit. He pleaded guilty to obstructing an official process and was sentenced in November to 41 months in prison and three years probation.

Another Arizona resident, Edward Vallejo, a member of the Oath Keepers, was arrested Jan. 13 and charged with seditious conspiracy to violate the Capitol. He pleaded not guilty.

Donald Sherman, vice president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, agreed with Grijalva that the hearings are necessary to uphold the country’s democratic principles and to remind Americans “how close we came to having our democracy overthrown.”

This is why Grijalva said the hearings are important.

“I urge Arizonans to watch these hearings and remember that our democracy is at stake in the upcoming election,” he said.

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