The Jan. 6 committee eighth hearing focused on what former President Donald Trump was doing — or, more accurately, what he wasn’t doing — during the 187 minutes that elapsed between his speech at the rally that preceded the Capitol attack and when he finally tweeted, and tweeted affectionately, for his supporters who had ransacked the halls of Congress to “go home.”
The biggest takeaway wasn’t simply that Trump didn’t do anything to stop the attack, it was, as Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) put it at the top of the hearing, he chose to not do anything. Instead, Trump holed up in the White House dining room, watching the attack unfold on Fox News and rebuffing efforts from everyone around him — from administration officials to family members — to call off his supporters. He even encouraged them, attacking Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter for refusing to illegally stop the certification of the 2020 election results, and, according to a White House security official, leading Pence’s security detail to fear for their lives.
Matthew Pottinger and Sarah Matthews, two administration figures who were in the White House on Jan. 6 and resigned later that day, testified during the hearing. “I thought that Jan. 6, 2021 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Matthews said, “and President Trump was treating it as a celebratory occasion.”
Here are the biggest revelations from the hearing:
Pence’s security detail feared for their lives
A White House security official testified to the Jan. 6 committee that members of former Vice President Pence’s security detail were calling their families to “say goodbye” during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“The members of the VP detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives,” the security official said, his voice distorted to protect his identity. “There was a lot of yelling. There was a lot of very personal calls over the radio. It was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it. There were calls to say goodbye to family members.”
Trump ignored a call from the Pentagon while calling senators to convince them to help overturn the election
President Trump ignored a Jan. 6 call from Pentagon officials seeking a coordinated response to the Capitol attack. He instead spent his time calling Republican senators to ask them to delay certification of the 2020 election.
In testimony to the committee, a former White House employee described a conversation between White House lawyer Eric Hershmann and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone regarding a pending call from the Pentagon seeking to “coordinate on the response to the attack.” Herschman allegedly turned to Cipollone and said “the president didn’t want anything done.” Cipollone ended up taking the call himself.
Trump knew the Capitol was under attack 15 minutes after finishing his speech at the Ellipse
Trump was well aware of the situation at the Capitol almost immediately. The committee established that he and his White House team knew within 15 minutes of leaving the stage at the Ellipse that “the Capitol was besieged and under attack.” The police barrier around the Capitol was stormed by an initial wave of protesters at around 1 p.m., and by 2 p.m. rioters were breaking through windows and flooding into the Capitol building. President Trump waited until 4:17 p.m. to address the violence, through a short video released on his Twitter account.
Sen. Josh Hawley frantically fled the Capitol after raising a fist in solidarity with the mob
The committee released security footage of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) fleeing from violent protesters during the Jan. 6 riot inside the Capitol. Hawley, one of the Republican senators who led the effort to vote against certifying the election results, famously raised a fist in solidarity with the mob as it stormed the building.
Hawley can be seen sprinting down a hallway and rushing down a set of escalators to exit the Capitol after an armed mob entered the building to interrupt the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote that would certify Joe Biden as president elect.
Earlier that day Hawley had saluted the gathering crowd of protesters while entering the Capitol. A Capitol Police Officer testified that Hawley’s gesture “riled up the crowd” and that the move “bothered her” as Hawley was doing so from the safety of an area protected by a police barricade.
Gen. Mark Milley, and plenty of others, couldn’t believe Trump wasn’t taking action
The hearing was jam-packed with footage of testimony from Trump administration figures and others expressing dismay at the President’s reluctance to aid in quelling the violence at the Capitol.
In an interview with the committee, Gen. Mark Milley expressed his frustration with the president. “You’re the commander in chief, you’ve got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America, and there’s nothing? No call? Nothing? Zero?” Milley told the committee in an interview.
Other high-level White House advisers, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Senior Advisor Eric Herschmann, and Ivanka Trump all pushed Trump to condemn the rioters, but he stubbornly refused.
“Yesterday is a hard word for me” — Trump struggled mightily to film a Jan. 7 address condemning the violence
Trump was allegedly loath to call off the dogs on Jan. 6, and only agreed to do so after staff reminded him that Congress was considering invoking the 25th Amendment against him. The committee revealed on Thursday that Trump also had trouble condemning the violence during a video address on Jan. 7, playing a previously unseen blooper reel of Trump’s attempts to film a statement addressing the riot.
In the compilation, which was filmed over the course of an hour, Trump is reluctant to call the actions of the rioters criminal, refuses to admit that “the election is over,” and admits that “yesterday” is a hard word for him.
In the final version of the video, Trump admits that Biden would be inaugurated as president, but a source with direct knowledge of the matter tells Rolling Stone that Trump told aides who were sticking by him that he wanted to deliver another speech to the nation, one in which he would double-down on the lie that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” via “fraud.”
The re-do speech, which Trump envisioned as a primetime address, would have been a tonal 180 from the video the White House posted the day following the Trump-inspired mob assault. The source adds that the president would have directly attacked the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s incoming administration, and vowed to supporters that he would continue “fighting” for them.
“Mike Pence let me down” were Trump’s final words to a White House employee on Jan. 6
Rep. Kinzinger pointed out that as Trump retired for the day, the last words he said to a White House employee were not about the attack — they were about how upset he was with Pence for not illegally overturning the election results.
The committee earlier in the day played testimony of former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson recounting that Chief of Staff Mark Meadows saying Trump felt Pence “deserved” to be hung on Jan. 6.
There will be more hearings in September
The primetime hearing on Thursday was supposed to be the committee’s last, but Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) announced at the top of the proceedings that more hearings will be held in September. It’s unclear what the hearings will cover or when they will be held. What is clear is that the committee’s work is not done, and that there’s still plenty more to reveal about Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results and the deadly attack that resulted.
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