Former US President Donald Trump orchestrated last year’s Capitol riot in an “attempted coup”, a congressional inquiry has been heard as a hearing opened into the raid.
Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the committee, said Mr Trump had “lit the flame of this attack”.
Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, said the riot endangered American democracy.
Trump supporters stormed Congress on 6 January 2021 as lawmakers met to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.
After almost a year of investigation, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives select committee opened on Thursday evening by showing clips from interviews it conducted with members of Mr Trump’s inner circle.
The timing was geared to reach huge evening TV audiences across the US.
Footage was aired of testimony by former US Attorney General Bill Barr saying he had repeatedly told the former president that he had lost the election and his claims of fraud were wrong.
“We can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election,” said the former attorney general.
The hearing also featured a recording of testimony by Ivanka Trump, the ex-president’s daughter, saying she “accepted” Mr Barr’s rejection of her father’s conspiracy theory.
And there was an audible gasp in the committee room as Ms Cheney read an account that claimed Mr Trump, when told the rioters were chanting for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged for refusing to block the election results, suggested that he “deserves it”.
Before the House inquiry opened on Thursday evening – the first of six hearings expected this month – Mr Trump dismissed it as a “political HOAX”.
The former president has been publicly hinting about another White House run in 2024. He continues to peddle unsubstantiated claims that the last election was rigged by mass voter fraud.
The congressional committee is led by Democrats, who formed the panel after Republicans blocked attempts to set up a full independent inquiry. Just two Republicans – the staunchly anti-Trump Reps Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney – are taking part.
The goal of the committee is to provide a comprehensive account of not only the 6 January riot but the “coordinated, multi-step effort” to “overturn” the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Members plan to produce a report and possibly hold another hearing in September to outline their findings and offer suggestions for reforms to the US electoral process.
Mr Thompson, the committee’s chairman and a Mississippi lawmaker, told the hearing: “Jan 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one writer put it shortly after Jan 6, to overthrow the government.
“The violence was no accident. It was Trump’s last stand.”
Ms Cheney, the vice-chair of the committee and a Wyoming congresswoman, said: “Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen and that he was the rightful president.
“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”