She was skeptical of the Jan. 6 hearings – but what she saw left her stunned
Pro-Trump protesters and police clash on top of the Capitol building. (

In an op-ed this Friday, Reason Senior Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown said she thinks the purpose of most congressional hearings is "political grandstanding," but according to her, "last night's (widely-televised and streamed) hearing of the House select committee on January 6 was different."

The House select committee laid out its case Thursday during a prime-time presentation that Donald Trump and his claims of a stolen election were at the heart of what amounted to an "attempted coup" to remain in power.

Brown writes that Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney "displayed a TV prosecutor's command of narrative," allowing her to put forth "a cohesive and disturbing view of the lead-up to the day's events and their aftermath." She also added that the never-before-seen footage of the Capitol riot "presented the day's much more sinister side."

She went on to say that the new details, which included new footage of interviews of former Trump aides and participants of the riot "breathed life into the narrative that we all know well by now—how Trump lobbied the Department of Justice and Pence to help him overturn the 2020 presidential election results."

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"As someone who was skeptical going in that this hearing had any value, I've changed my mind about that," Brown writes.

"I still don't think we're on the verge of democracy dying, or that we need a new war on domestic extremism or anything like that," she continued. "But what went down was frightening, and many of those involved in spreading the lies that led to the riot and to whitewashing it afterward (including but certainly not limited to Trump) are still major political players."

Brown concluded that "it's been easy to look at January 6 through slightly rose-colored glasses to dismiss grave pronunciations as just so much melodrama. Last night's hearing—and hopefully those to come—serves as a powerful antidote to this."

The House select committee aims to demonstrate that the violence was part of a broader -- and ongoing -- drive by Trump and his inner circle to illegitimately cling to or regain power, tearing up the Constitution and more than two centuries of peaceful transitions from one administration to the next.

"I think what happened tonight was historic. I think it's a brilliant, truly brilliant presentation by Benny Thompson and by Liz Cheney. Listen to the detail and the — they have it, they have it cold as best I can tell and from my own reporting," legendary journalist Robert Woodward said after watching Thursday's hearing.

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Five subsequent hearings over the coming weeks will focus on Trump's role in the multi-pronged effort to return him to the Oval Office by disenfranchising millions of voters.

Trump has defiantly dismissed the probe as a baseless "witch hunt" -- but the public hearings were uppermost in his mind Thursday as he fired off a largely false tirade on his social media platform, defending the insurrection as "the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again."

The case the committee wants to make is that Trump laid the groundwork for the insurrection through months of lies about fraud in an election described by his own administration as the most secure ever.

His White House is accused of involvement in several potentially illegal schemes to aid the effort, including a plot to seize voting machines and another to appoint fake "alternative electors" from swing states who would ignore the will of their voters and hand victory to Trump.

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