"When Donald Trump sent out his tweet, he became the first president ever to call for a crowd to descend on the capital city to block the constitutional transfer of power.
“He set off an explosive chain reaction among his followers. But no one mobilized more quickly than the dangerous extremists that we’ve looked at today. Seizing upon his invitation to fight, they assembled their followers for an insurrectionary showdown against Congress and the Vice President.
“On January 6, Trump knew the crowd was angry. He knew the crowd was armed. He sent them to the Capitol anyway.
“You might imagine that our Founders would have been shocked to learn that an American president would one day come to embrace and excuse political violence against our own institutions or knowingly send an armed mob to attack the Capitol to usurp the will of the people.
“But, you know, Mr. Chairman, the Founders were pretty wise about certain things and, at the start of the Republic, they actually warned everyone about Donald Trump—not by name, of course, but in the course of advising about the certain prospect that ambitious politicians would try to mobilize violent mobs to tear down our own institutions in service of their own insatiable ambitions. In the very first Federalist Paper, Alexander Hamilton observed that history teaches that opportunistic politicians who desire to rule at all costs will begin first as “demagogues” pandering to the “angry and malignant passions” of the crowd but then end up as “tyrants” trampling the freedoms and the rights of the people.
“A violent insurrection to overturn an election is not an abstract thing, as we’ve heard—hundreds of people were bloodied, injured and wounded in the process, including more than 150 police officers—some of them sitting in this room today.
“I want to give you an update on one officer who was badly wounded in the attack and is well-known to the members of this Committee because he testified before us last year.
“Sergeant Aquilino Gonell is an Army veteran who spent a year on active combat duty in the Iraq War and then 16 years on the Capitol force. Nothing he ever saw in combat in Iraq, he has said, prepared him for the insurrection where he was “savagely beaten,” “punched, pushed, kicked, shoved, stomped, and sprayed with chemical irritants,” along with other officers, by members of a mob carrying “hammers, knives, batons and police shields taken by force” and wielding the American flag against police officers as a dangerous weapon.
“Last month on June 28th, Sergeant Gonell's team of doctors told him that permanent injuries he has suffered to his left shoulder and right foot now make it impossible for him to continue as a police officer. He must leave policing for good and figure out the rest of his life. Sergeant Gonell, we wish you and your family all the best, we are here for you, and we salute you for your valor, your eloquence, and your beautiful commitment to America.
“I wonder what former President Trump would say to someone like Sergeant Gonell, who must now go about remaking his life. I wonder if he could even understand what motivates a patriot like Sergeant Gonell.
“In his Inaugural Address, Trump introduced one commanding image: “American carnage.” Although that turn of phrase explained little about our country before he took office, it turned out to be an excellent prophecy of what his rage would come to visit on our people.
“Mr. Ayres just described how the trust he placed in President Trump as a camp follower derailed his life and nearly wrecked his reputation and his family.
“A few weeks ago, we heard Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, Speaker Rusty Bowers from Arizona and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger describe how hate-filled intimidation campaigns by Trump and his followers made them prisoners in their homes and drove their stress and anxiety to soaring new heights when they refused to do Trump’s bidding.
“American carnage. That’s Donald Trump’s true legacy. His desire to overthrow the people’s election and seize the presidency interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes for the first time in American history, nearly toppled the constitutional order and brutalized hundreds and hundreds of people. The Watergate break-in was like a Cub Scout meeting compared to this assault on our people and institutions.
“Mr. Chairman, these hearings have been significant for us and for millions of Americans, and our hearing next week will be a profound moment of reckoning for America. But the crucial thing is the next step: what this Committee, what all of us will do to fortify our democracy against coups, political violence, and campaigns to steal elections away from the people.
“Unlike Mr. Ayres and Mr. Van Tatenhove, people who have recovered and evolved from their descent into the hell of fanaticism, Donald Trump has only expanded his Big Lie to cover January 6 itself. He asserts the insurrection was the real election, and the election was the real insurrection. He says his mob greeted our police officers on January 6th with hugs and kisses.
“He threatens to take one of America’s two major political parties with him down the road to authoritarianism, and it is Abraham Lincoln’s party, no less. The political scientists tell us that authoritarian parties have two essential features in common in history and around the world: they do not accept the results of democratic elections when they lose; and they embrace political violence as legitimate. And the problem of incitement to political violence has only grown more serious in the Internet Age as we have just heard.
“But this is not the problem of one party, it is the problem of the whole country now. American democracy, Mr. Chairman, is a precious inheritance, something rare in the history of the world and even on earth today. Constitutional democracy is the silver frame, as Lincoln put it, upon which the golden apple of freedom rests. We need to defend both our democracy and our freedom with everything we have and declare that this American carnage ends here and now. In a world of resurgent authoritarianism and racism and antisemitism, let’s all hang tough for American democracy."