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As The House Investigation Kicks Off, A Look Back At How The Capitol Riot Unfolded

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

I'm Ari Shapiro in Washington, where Congress heard vivid new details today about the events of January 6. We'll learn more about the testimony in a moment. First, let's return to that day. Hours before Congress was set to certify the election of Joe Biden to be president, Donald Trump stood steps from the White House and reiterated falsehoods about the 2020 election. He had yet to concede, and in front of his supporters, the former president claimed the election was rigged.

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DONALD TRUMP: We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Many took his words literally. A swell of his loyalists marched east on Pennsylvania Avenue, where Congress was on the verge of certifying Biden's win. It didn't take long for chaos and violence to consume the United States Capitol.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: We are monitoring a chaotic and potentially dangerous situation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: There are scores of protesters outside this building right now, and we have been told by Capitol Police that the Capitol is in lockdown.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: They have pushed past the barriers. They're now going up the steps to the Capitol. It's absolute pandemonium as far back as the eye can see.

SHAPIRO: The mob numbered well into the thousands. Some were armed with deadly weapons, and they quickly overwhelmed law enforcement. D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges was there trying to quell the insurrectionists, and he shared the experience with member station WAMU.

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DANIEL HODGES: Eventually, they attacked us on our way up - fists, trying to steal our equipment, pushing, hitting, kicking, that kind of thing. Someone on a upper level from where I was threw down something huge and metal and hit me on the head and some other officers.

SHAPIRO: Politico reporter Sarah Ferris was inside the Capitol building and told us what it was like.

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SARAH FERRIS: In front of me, there's three members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Lisa Blunt Rochester from Delaware is just saying this prayer, God help us. She's clutching hands with two other members. And that was it for me. That was when - I had never felt that scared. And that - because they were scared.

CHANG: Doors were broken down, windows shattered. Democratic Representative Cori Bush of Missouri spoke with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED later that day.

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CORI BUSH: Within a matter of minutes, probably before I even made it back to my office, they had already come through the doors. So my team and I, we're safe. I'm just glad we were able to get out.

SHAPIRO: The assault lasted hours. Hundreds were injured, and more than 500 people have been charged with federal crimes. In the days and weeks after the attack, congressional leaders tried to figure out how to grapple with what had happened.

CHANG: An effort to establish an independent commission failed when Republicans blocked the effort. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi created a bipartisan committee but then rejected two of the five nominees offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: It's an egregious abuse of power. Pelosi has broken this institution. Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republicans, we will not participate.

SHAPIRO: Pelosi did not reverse course, but two Republicans are participating - Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Cheney spoke as the hearing began.

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LIZ CHENEY: If those responsible are not held accountable and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.