Jul 22, 2022 - Podcasts

Jan. 6th committee drives home its case against Trump

In its last summer hearing, the House Select Committee made the case last night that President Trump’s actions on January 6th and the days following were indefensible. Almost three hours of testimony, texts and video argued that the former president chose not to act to protect the Capitol, despite the pleas of almost all those around him.

  • Plus, Jonathan Swan’s exclusive new look into Trump’s planning for a second term

Guests: Axios' Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, July 22nd.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: Jonathan Swan’s exclusive new look into Trump’s planning for a second term.

But first, our one big thing:

SARAH MATTHEWS: January 6, 2021 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history, and President Trump was treating it as a celebratory occasion.

NIALA: The House January 6th Committee sums up its case.

NIALA: President Trump’s actions on January 6th and the days following were indefensible. That was the argument from the House Select Committee in its prime time hearing last night. Almost 3 hours of testimony, texts and video made the case that the former president chose not to act to protect the Capitol, despite the pleas of almost all those around him.

Axios co-founder Mike Allen is here to help us put this most recent hearing into context and look at what comes next – hey Mike.

MIKE ALLEN: Hello Niala.

NIALA: Mike, here's what we heard from Congressman Adam Kinzinger at the beginning of the hearing.

ADAM KINZINGER: Here's what'll be clear by the end of this hearing: President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the ellipse and telling the mob to go home. He chose not to act.

NIALA: So Mike was that clear?

MIKE: Well, Niala in a hallmark of how this committee's been doing these hearings. We saw that case made not by the words of the committee, which is kind of acting as the prosecutors or by Democrats. We heard it told through the voices, video, text messages, testimony of Trump officials, allies at the time. And no question the moment from this hearing that's gonna live in history, outtakes of President Trump the day after. January 7th, 2021 taping an address, stumbling over his words, and not wanting to say to the rioters if you broke the law. “You can't say that,” Trump said, then the script said “this election is now over.”

DONALD TRUMP: I don't wanna say the election's over. I just wanna say Congress has certified the results without saying the election's over. Okay.

NIALA: Mike, that certainly, there were so many moments from yesterday evening. How do you think last night was different from the other hearings that we've heard?

MIKE: Niala we heard something you never hear: secret service radio transmissions.

SECRET SERVICE: We have a clear shot if we move quickly. We got smoke downstairs step by. Unknown smoke set downstairs by protestors. Is, is that route compromised?

MIKE: Agents protecting Vice President Pence saying goodbye to their families. Niala was riveting, it was real, it was stunning even to people who followed every twist and turn in this case, even if you read everything about January 6th, so much of this hearing was brand new to you, including Niala photos behind the scenes, congressional leaders, huddling in a secure location after losing control of the Capitol.

NIALA: Mike, you have followed all of these twists and turns. What impression did all of this leave you with?

MIKE: Niala once again, we had a cliffhanger ending. This was supposed to be the season finale, or at least the summer finale. The committee now says it will be back in the fall. Representative Liz Chaney, the committee's Vice Chair is off to her own uphill, Republican primary back home in Wyoming next month. But she said after her impassioned closing statement, really a closing argument that the committee has much work yet to do. And she said, see you all in September.

NIALA: Mike Allen is the author of Axios AM newsletter and an Axios co-founder. Thanks, Mike.

NIKE: Niala thank you for your coverage.

NIALA: In a moment: Jonathan Swan’s exclusive reporting on Trump’s plans for 2025.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today!

While the House Select Committee, and the nation, has been looking back at January 6th, President Trump and his allies have been looking ahead.

Exclusive reporting from Axios’ Jonathan Swan shows that team Trump has a detailed plan in the works for a potential win in the 2024 presidential election. A plan which could result in a dramatically reshaped U.S. government.

Jonathan Swan’s new series is called Inside Trump ‘25, and part one is out today – Jonathan, thanks so much for sharing this with us.

JONATHAN SWAN: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Jonathan back in 2017, Trump didn't have the kind of infrastructure most traditional candidates have when entering the presidency. How is it different this time?

JONATHAN: Well let me just pull back for a second. The big picture is there are a few well funded groups who have been blessed by former President Trump. Not just blessed by him, he's wired them money, two of the groups he's wired a million dollars each to. He's talked to them privately. He's held fundraisers for them. And what they're doing is building effectively an administration in waiting for 2025. That means developing large, I'm talking thousands upon thousands of names, extensive databases of people who've been vetted as being loyal to former President Trump and his America-first ideology. I'm talking about action plans, policies, and this is all done on the assumption that not only does President Trump run for reelection, which most people expect he will, but that he wins the White House.

NIALA: So Jonathan at the heart of this is a little noticed executive order that happened during the first Trump administration called schedule F. Can you explain why this is so important?

JONATHAN: The idea is this. Every time a new president comes into power, they can typically replace around 4,000 so-called political appointees. These are a rotating cast of senior administration officials at the top of every administration. And they're subbed out effectively when a new president comes in. And what happened in strict secrecy throughout the first half of the Trump administration was a small team, developed this idea that became known as schedule F. And effectively what it was was it was an executive order where whereby the president would reclassify, recategorize a whole category of federal government employees and call them schedule F. And the bottom line is what they wrote in this executive order was they said anyone who's got any role in policy advocating for policy influencing policy whatever, they can be reclassified as schedule F. Immediately these federal workers lose their employment protections, their rights to appeal. The president can fire and replace them. And the internal Trump administration estimates was that this could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers. Effectively, turn what has been a nonpartisan, federal civil service into something that he can replace with loyalists not just at the political layer, but at the career level. It's a mass politicization of the federal government. Now Trump's people will argue that you know, the government is already sort of cluttered with activists democrats obstructing Republicans. And they're only finally sort of getting even and rebalancing that. But nonetheless, these are career employees that are potentially on the firing line um, if Trump gets reelected.

NIALA: When we're talking about the federal government, are we talking about agencies like the EPA or the IRS or Health and Human Services?

JONATHAN: All of the above, but I'll tell you what I've learned from the reporting is that Trump and his closest allies are very focused on the Justice Department, including the FBI and going after the national security apparatus, the intelligence community, the State Department, the Pentagon. Trump actually had his deepest animus towards the intelligence community, which he was convinced were out to get him. So, based on my reporting, I would expect them to spend a lot of energy thinking about who they need to fire and who they need to hire across these departments.

NIALA: Jonathan, we just heard about last night’s January 6th hearing. How are revelations from the house select committee investigation factoring into team Trump's plans? Are they?

JONATHAN: No, not really. I mean, to the extent that they are, it's just reinforcing stuff that Trump already believes such as Mike Pence is a, is an enemy. I need people around me who are going to be unquestioningly loyal, who won't ever testify against me, who will do whatever is required. These are all instincts that Trump already had to the extent anything's happening with the Jan 6 committee. It's just reinforcing those preexisting instincts.

NIALA: Jonathan Swan’s new series is called ‘Inside Trump 25.’ Part one is out today. We will include a link in our show notes. You can also find it at axios.com. Thanks, Jonathan.

JONATHAN: Thank you.

NIALA: One last thing before we end: yesterday the White House announced president Biden had tested positive for COVID-19, and was experiencing mild symptoms like fatigue, congestion, and a cough. Biden is taking the antiviral Paxlovid, and is continuing to work in isolation. The BA.5 Omicron variant is now rampant across the U.S., as it continues to evade vaccines. However: vaccines and boosters are still keeping severe illness and deaths down relative to the surge in cases. President Biden noted yesterday that he’s double vaxxed and double boosted.

And that’s all for this week.

Axios Today is produced by Nuria Marquez Martinez and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, have a great weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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