Jul 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Final Jan. 6 summer hearing turns Trump's favorite mediums against him

A video of former President Donald Trump played on a screen during a hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

A video of former President Donald Trump played during the Jan. 6 committee. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 committee, through testimony from top White House officials and Donald Trump's twitter feed, showed how the former president watched in real time as a violent mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol but resisted calls to act.

Why it matters: Without the major revelations of past hearings, Thursday's primetime presentation, the last of the summer, was about driving home how many top Trump officials, members of Congress and allies were appalled by Trump's inaction on Jan. 6, and the former president's unabashed decision to let the insurrection play out for hours.

  • The committee aimed to put the totality of its eight hearings in context: that Trump and his team knew the election wasn’t stolen early on, was aware that his supporters on Jan. 6 were armed and told them to march to the Capitol anyway, and then sat back and watched as the mob descended.
  • The panel showed how many of Trump's allies, including top Republicans in the House and Senate, were united in their opposition to how he handled the insurrection. Expect the spotlight on those members to follow them through the next months.
  • The committee also used Trump's favorite mediums, Twitter and TV, against him — showing raw footage of his addresses on Jan. 6 and 7 to demonstrate how he rebuffed his team in insisting on downplaying the attack and refusing to concede he lost the election.

Attack on Capitol

Retired D.C. Metropolitan police Sgt. Mark Robinson said the presidential motorcade was on standby for more than 45 minutes after they returned to the White House against Trump's wishes.

  • Trump still wanted to be taken to the Capitol, Robinson said, and described how angry Trump was for being told he couldn't march with his supporters.

Several top officials, from former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to top aide Cassidy Hutchinson, detailed how top officials — including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, Ivanka Trump and lawyer Eric Herschmann, later pleaded with Trump to issue a statement telling the mob to leave the Capitol.

  • Multiple senior aides told the committee Trump was glued to Fox News, watching the attack unfold in real time.
  • Repeated witnesses from Trump's inner circle also testified Trump did not call Department of Defense, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security or any other agency to activate as the Capitol was under siege.

Gaps in White House phone log

The White House phone logs and presidential daily diary were left blank during the "critical period" when the Capitol was under attack, the committee said.

  • The chief White House photographer told the committee that she was denied access to Trump from 1:25 p.m. to 4 p.m., while Trump was in the White House dining room, where he watched Fox News for more than two and a half hours, according to committee member Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.).
  • As Axios reported in March, Trump's then-executive assistant, Molly Michael — who detailed all of the president's conversations and actions on a daily basis — was absent for most of the day.

Concerns for Pence

Cipollone described in taped testimony how he felt the calls to hang former Vice President Mike Pence were "outrageous" and "wrong" and urged Meadows to talk to Trump. Meadows told him the president did not want to act.

  • Members of Pence's Secret Service detail later told the committee they were so afraid for their own lives that they asked over the radio if they could call their families for them and say their goodbyes.
  • "We need to kill the narrative that the vice president is making all the decisions," Trump told his team on Jan. 6. "We need to establish the narrative that, you know, that the president is still in charge," said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Trump's tweets

While Trump sat in the White House dining room, watching the Capitol attack unfold, he sent two tweets — neither of which called on the mob to disperse.

  • They instead called on the rioters to "Stay peaceful" and "Remain peaceful."
  • Former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, who was in the West Wing on Jan. 6 and was in constant conversation with then-press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, testified that it took some convincing for Trump to tweet anything — he didn't want to call for Peace, she said — and Ivanka Trump ultimately succeeded in getting him to send the two tweets.

Kevin McCarthy's pleas

  • Top officials and GOP lawmakers testified how House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called Trump in a panic asking him to get involved.
  • "Well Kevin, I guess they're just more upset about the election than you are," Trump told McCarthy, according to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.).
  • “I got the sense that they were scared…that he was scared,” Jared Kushner told the committee.
  • McCarthy, later that night, called Jan. 6 "the saddest day" he's ever had as a member of Congress.

Trump refused to follow video script

  • Multiple White House officials said they were "disturbed" by Trump's video message calling the mob off.
  • "I thought it was the bare minimum," former deputy press secretary Judd Deere told the committee.
  • "I would loved if the 'go home' message would have happened earlier in the day," McEnany said in taped testimony.
  • "He called the mob great patriots. He told people to remember the day forever. He showed absolutely no remorse," Kinzinger said Thursday.

Jan. 7 speech

  • Outtakes from Trump's Jan. 7 speech showed the president, despite what was written in his prepared speech, refuse to say "the election is over" as he insisted on only admitting that Congress certified the 2020 election results.

What's next: Cheney announced Thursday the committee expects to hold more hearings in September, after their August recess.

  • The committee is simultaneously working on its final report, which it plans to share in the coming months. The committee said they may issue more than one report detailing their case against Trump and his officials.
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