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The panel investigating Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol holds the first hearings tonight

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

After months of anticipation, the House panel investigating the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, is holding the first of half-a-dozen hearings tonight.

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BENNIE THOMPSON: We can't sweep what happened under the rug. The American people deserve answers. So I come before you this evening not as a Democrat, but as an American who swore an oath to defend the Constitution. The Constitution doesn't protect just Democrats or just Republicans; it protects all of us - we the people.

KELLY: Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson there, chair of the committee, opening tonight's hearing. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh is following the hearing. Hey, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: I want to start with what's new because the committee promised they were going to have new information. Have we gotten new information so far? We're an hour in.

WALSH: We have, indeed, from multiple witnesses that the committee has interviewed over recent months. One of them is former Attorney General Bill Barr. He testified behind closed doors with the committee just last week. And the committee showed a clip tonight where Barr told the committee he pushed back at the president about claims of election fraud. He used an expletive I can't use, but it's - he said that those claims were BS. But here's more of what Bill Barr told the committee behind closed doors in a clip they showed tonight.

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BILL BARR: You can't live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that the election - that there was fraud in the election.

WALSH: The committee also showed a clip of the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump. She was another, you know, one of those witnesses who testified on a videotaped deposition. And here's what she said about, you know, Bill Barr.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: How did that affect your perspective about the election when Attorney General Barr made that statement?

IVANKA TRUMP: It affected my perspective. I respect Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he was saying.

WALSH: There was also a clip from Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, who was asked about those in the White House who were threatening to resign after January 6, and he dismissed that as, quote, "whining."

KELLY: What about Trump himself? So many of the questions have centered on those hours during the riot and what exactly Trump was doing. Have we learned anything there?

WALSH: We got some previews about what we're going to hear. The vice chair of the panel, Liz Cheney, sort of walked through, in a very methodical opening statement, what we're going to hear from witnesses in the coming hearings. Here's what she talked about when she said that there's testimony from half-a-dozen White House aides who were working in the West Wing on the day of the attack and what Trump was doing. Here's Cheney.

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LIZ CHENEY: You will hear that President Trump was yelling and, quote, "really angry" at advisers who told him he needed to be doing something more. And aware of the rioters' chants to hang Mike Pence, the president responded with this sentiment - quote, "maybe our supporters have the right idea" - Mike Pence, quote, "deserves it."

WALSH: That was striking. And Cheney also mentioned that Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry, who the committee subpoenaed, asked the president for a pardon after January 6.

KELLY: And briefly, Deirdre, this was the first of six hearings. What else are we watching for?

WALSH: Yeah. Cheney laid out the themes for the upcoming hearings that we're going to hear. On Monday, they're going to talk about Trump and his allies and what they knew about this election fraud. Next Wednesday, we're going to hear about this plan to install a Trump loyalist at the Justice Department. And then after that, we're going to hear more about what happened with Mike Pence and his allies.

KELLY: All right. NPR's Deirdre Walsh tracking the action on Capitol Hill tonight. Thanks, Deirdre.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.