Jun 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump’s third impeachment trial

Illustration of Trump with scales of justice.
Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

The Jan. 6 committee has obtained new information to connect the dots on some well-known aspects of Jan. 6 — including former President Trump's tweets — Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The committee is giving Americans the most palpable and detailed sense yet of how close the nation came to a full-blown constitutional crisis, producing consistent bombshell revelations, with more likely to come.

The big picture: The select committee is making the same case House Democrats made during Trump's second impeachment a year and a half ago: that Trump incited the violence that day at the Capitol.

  • But the panel's seven Democrats and two Republicans have far greater access to key evidence than the impeachment managers did — including subpoenaed documents and closed-door testimony, in some cases provided unwillingly by those close to Trump.

Some of the most compelling presentations have rested on materials that were already public, contextualized with new evidence.

  • An upcoming hearing may include new details surrounding Trump's "Be there, will be wild!" tweet on Dec. 19, 2020, which urged supporters to converge on D.C. on Jan. 6 — and how it spurred organizing on far-right message boards, according to a source close to the committee.
  • The committee's most recent hearing delved into a Jan. 5 statement, dictated by Trump, that claimed Vice President Mike Pence believed he had the authority to overturn the election results.

Details: The hearings have developed more detail about some extremists’ intent to harm or kill lawmakers. They've shown how close they came to potentially harming Pence.

  • They've shown much more than was previously known about how close Trump came to making coup supporter Jeffrey Clark the attorney general.
  • They've yielded much more about Trump’s own state of mind, demonstrated absence of remorse, callousness about Pence’s safety, and more details about pardon requests.

Between the lines: The committee has consistently invoked a key impeachment tactic to synthesize its evidence: drawing a connection between Trump’s public comments and the actions of rioters.

  • The most recent hearing featured video of Trump calling for Pence to “come through for us,” followed by clips of rioters making violent threats toward Pence.
  • The first hearing included a nearly 10-minute long, chronological montage of Jan. 6, which spliced together videos of the Capitol violence with Trump’s inflammatory tweets at the time of each clip.
  • The second hearing, which focused on Trump's baseless election fraud claims, concluded with clips of Jan. 6 rioters echoing his claims.

Zoom in: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who was the lead House manager in Trump's second impeachment, is also a member of the Jan. 6 committee.

  • He told Axios' Alayna Treene his focus in the investigation has been on "the activation and the mobilization of the mob and the domestic violent extremist groups."
  • That aspect of Jan. 6 — how Trump assembled the mob and directed them to the Capitol — will be at the center of the committee's penultimate hearing, according to Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

"Imagine if we had an ounce of what the Jan. 6 committee has now," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), one of the House impeachment managers, told Axios' Margaret Talev.

  • "When we tried Trump in the Senate, many of the windows at the Capitol were literally still shattered," he recalled. "The impeachment trial team approached dozens of Trumpworld witnesses. No one wanted to cooperate. Everyone said, 'See you in court,' which would have taken years.
  • "So we relied on Trump's public statements, tweets, rallies, to prove his intent — and the footage on the ground on the 6th to show the carnage. But there were a lot of gaps as to what Trump knew and what he did or didn't do to stop the insurrection.
  • "With the passage of time — and the stench of Trump becoming more, not less, pungent — witnesses came forward. Over 1,000. And now there's a clear picture of what Trump knew and did. Without any of that, we still managed to convince seven GOP senators that Trump was guilty."

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) another one of the House managers, told Axios that, "What I've learned is ... the level of planning and the sophistication of this scheme." He said it "demonstrates unequivocally the president was responsible for the events of Jan. 6."

The bottom line: The Jan. 6 committee wants to succeed where the impeachment managers fell short.

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