The riot was Trump’s last hope, and the next day, he still refused to say the election was over
K A violent mob overran the Capitol after gathering on January 6The January 6 House committee demonstrated in a public hearing Thursday evening that Donald Trump was neither sorry nor worried.
The committee argued that the attack was his last, scant hope of retaining power by delaying the ratification of Joe Biden’s victory. Trump did not want to quell the riots too quickly as Congress met to count the votes.
So, the 45th president watched the fight unfold on Fox News in his dining room outside the Oval Office. His aides came and implored him to make a statement condemning the violence and calling on the rioters to go home. Instead, watch more TV. A senator called on the postponement of the presidential vote count. He contacted his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani. But he did not call up the Pentagon, deploy the National Guard, or mobilize any of the law enforcement agencies needed to quell the riots and allow the transfer of central power to a functioning democracy.
Committee members said this was not an accident or a fit of hesitation on Trump’s part. It was part of a well-thought-out plan.
“Instead of upholding his duty to the Constitution, President Trump allowed the public the delay he hoped would keep him in power,” said Representative Eileen Luria, Virginia, who sits on the committee.
The commission’s initial hearing focused on the 187 minutes between the end of Trump’s Ellipse speech at 1:10 p.m. and the moment at 4:17 p.m. when he sent out a video telling his supporters he loved them and urging them to go home. It was among the most revealing of the eight sessions to date, with a horrific audio recording of Secret Service agents scrambling to lead then Vice President Mike Pence to safety as the mob approached.
While broadcasting excerpts from Trump’s speech the next day, the committee showed that he refuses to state explicitly that the election is over. He insisted on removing the line from his statements.
With more evidence coming in daily, the commission plans to hold additional hearings in September.
Here are some quick takeaways from Thursday night:
Trump had chances to call off the attack, if that’s what he wanted.
A new witness who testified before the committee this week described a conversation between two White House attorneys, Pat Cipollone and Eric Hirschman, about a call arranged with the Pentagon about stopping the attack. Cipollone ended up getting the call because, as Hirschman described it, “The president doesn’t Wants do anything.”
Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has not heard from Trump about the riots. Instead, talk to Pence.
The committee played an audio playback from its interview with Milley, who said of Trump, “You know, you’re the commander in chief. You have an attack going on at the United States Capitol. And there’s nothing? No communication? Nothing? Zero?”
Trump learned that the Capitol was under siege within minutes of finishing his speech that day and returning to the White House, according to witness testimony. At any time, he could walk a short walk from the dining room to the White House press conference room and make a public statement asking his supporters to leave the building. He did not.
Trump supporters stuck to his every word
Trump has an emotional grip on his base that is unique in presidential politics. When he speaks, he pays attention to his constituents. This is one reason why his aides quickly issued a statement condemning the violence and urging the rioters to step down.
“I worked on the campaign, and I’ve traveled across the country to countless gatherings with him,” Sarah Matthews, a former White House press assistant and one of two witnesses who appeared on Thursday, said. “I see the effect his words have on his supporters. They cling to every tweet and every word he says.”
Rather than using his significant influence to end the riots earlier, Trump raised matters by sending a tweet at 2:24 p.m. saying Pence lacked “the guts to do what should have been done,” witnesses told the committee.
Matthews added that at a time when Pence’s life was in danger, that tweet “likely gave the green light to these people.” “Telling them that what they were doing by entering the Capitol is a good thing and that their anger is justified. He should not have done it. He should have asked the people to go home and condemn the violence we are witnessing.”
To demonstrate how his supporters stuck to his every word, the commission played radio broadcasts of oath guards — some of whom were at the Capitol — discussing Trump’s 2:38 p.m. tweet telling them not to attack the police.
Trump just tweeted, ‘Please support our Capitol Police. They are on our side. One of the department guards said to the group.
Another department guard replied, “That says a lot of what he didn’t say: he didn’t say do nothing for members of Congress.”
The commission assigned Hawley and McCarthy, and it turns out that they were afraid of troublemakers
One of the most famous photos on January 6 is of Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, pumping his fist in the air in solidarity with Trump supporters who were gathering outside the Capitol before the riots began.
Luria said a Capitol police officer, Hawley testified, told the committee that the senator’s gesture “outraged the crowd.”
“And it bothered her a lot because he was doing it in a safe place, protected by officers and barricades.”
Later that afternoon, Luria said, Hawley was one of the senators who escaped the same rioters who broke into the Capitol and then the Senate Chamber itself.
“Senator Hawley fled after the protesters he helped to stir up stormed the Capitol,” the congresswoman said.
When the committee played a surveillance video of Holly passing through the halls of the Senate to safety, laughter erupted in the hearing room. Hawley, a Trump ally, is often cited as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.
“Think about what we saw,” Lauria said. “The undeniable violence in the Capitol. The Vice President is evacuated to safety by the Secret Service. Senators run the corridors of the Senate to get away from the mob.”
Later in the hearing, the committee played video of witnesses testifying that McCarthy, one of Trump’s most loyal allies on Hill, also feared violent rioters who smashed his office windows and sent his staff to flee. He called Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Pence, his top aide, and others, in an effort to persuade the president to scrap the gang.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, also received calls from McCarthy. Kushner was taking a shower, he said in recorded testimony shown Thursday, but he got close to McCarthy, so he answered it.
“He told me it got really ugly in the Capitol, and he said, ‘Please, you know, anything you can do to help I would appreciate it,’” Kushner recalled to the committee.
“They” mean Chief McCarthy and the people on the hill because of the violence? asked someone from the committee.
“Yeah, he was scared,” Kushner said of McCarthy.
Trump campaign officials criticized their president for not recognizing the death of an officer
The Capitol and Metropolitan Police officers who battled the rioters that day attended each hearing on January 6. They are still waiting for Trump to pay tribute to their fallen comrades.
To this day, Trump has not acknowledged the deaths of Capitol Police Officer Brian Skinnick, who died of his injuries the day after the attack, or the officers who committed suicide in the aftermath of that terrible day.
This point was not lost on the two top Trump aides in the 2020 campaign, who texted each other on January 7 after Skinnick’s death.
Trump’s director of communications, Tim Muto, sent a text message to Vice President Matt Walking: “It’s also stupid not to even acknowledge the death of a Capitol police officer.”
“It pisses me off,” Woolking replied. “Everything he said about supporting law enforcement was a lie.”
Murtaugh explained Trump’s silence this way: If he talked about the deceased officer, he might be self-involved.
“If he admitted the policeman’s death, he would have made a tacit error on the mob. And he wouldn’t, because they are his people. He would also be about to admit that what kindled him in the rally got out of hand.” “It is by no means impossible for him to admit something that might eventually be called his fault. Impossible.”
‘I don’t want to say the election is over’: On January 7, Trump still refuses to admit his loss
The commission broadcast a video of a videotaped speech Trump gave from the White House on January 7 denouncing the attack. It was a difficult speech for him, as the excerpts showed. At one point, he read a line that said, “This election is now over.” He stopped and told his advisers, “I don’t want to say the election is over. I just want to say, ‘Congress has ratified the results without saying the election is over, okay?”
After showing the footage, Luria said, “A day after he incited the rebellion based on a lie, President Trump still cannot say the election is over.”
It took some persuasion to get Trump to ask the rioters to be “peaceful.”
After Trump tweeted that Pence was a coward, Matthews spoke to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, telling her that Trump needed to condemn the violence and tell the rioters to leave.
McEnany agreed and went into the dining room to see Trump, who tweeted at 2:38 p.m. “Keep calm!” McEnany then turned back, lowered her voice, and told Matthews that the president did not want to include any reference to “peace” in the tweet. His advisers suggested a different formulation, and his daughter Ivanka finally convinced him to use the phrase “keep calm.”