House Jan. 6 committee looks at Trump’s actions
The House Jan. 6 committee on Thursday held its final public hearing this summer, this time focusing on former President Donald Trump’s inaction for 187 minutes as rioters descended on the Capitol – and showed stunning footage from the assault as attackers searched for former Vice President Mike Pence.
“The mob was accomplishing President Trump’s purpose, and he did not intervene,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was one of the committee members leading Thursday’s hearing.
The committee also showed never-before-seen outtakes of Trump practicing a statement the day after the attack. In the footage, Trump, in a run-through of the remarks, objects to a phrase written for him: “I don’t want to say the election is over,” he said, showing some irritation.
Thursday’s hearing also featured two witnesses who both resigned in the aftermath of the attack: Matthew Pottinger, a former national security council official, and Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary.
As violence erupted at the Capitol, Matthews said she “couldn’t believe” that they were arguing over Trump’s response and seemed taken aback that a colleague didn’t want to condemn the rioting because doing so would be “handing a win to the media.”
“I couldn’t believe that we were arguing over this in the middle of the West Wing .. And so, I motioned up at the TV and said, ‘Do you think it looks like we’re f’ing winning? Because I don’t think it does,'” Matthews said.
The committee also showed testimony from other White House aides and members of Trump’s inner circle saying Trump had to take action. When Trump finally issued a statement from the Rose Garden, he refused to deliver the remarks as prepared, said Rep. Elaine Luria, one of the committee members who led Thursday’s meeting. He instead gave the remarks off-the-cuff, saying “we had an election that was stolen,” it was a “fraudulent election” and he called the rioters “very special” while telling them to go home.
Other never-before-seen footage showed congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller when they could get back to certifying the electoral votes.
“We’re not going to let these people keep us from finishing our business,” McConnell said. “So we need you to get the building cleared, give us the OK so we can go back in session and finish up the people’s business as soon as possible.”
As the rioters descended on the Capitol, Trump tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence did not have the “courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” The committee showed footage that suggested many of the rioters took this as a call to arms against the vice president.
Pottinger said the tweet “poured fuel on the fire,” and it inspired him to resign.
An anonymous security professional who spoke to the committee, in recorded testimony, described the dire situation among Pence’s Secret Service detail after that tweet. Members of Pence’s detail, the official said, feared for their own lives, and had even begun making calls to family members to say goodbye.
“The members of the VP detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives,” the anonymous official testified. “There were a lot of – there was a lot of yelling, a lot of – I don’t know – a lot of very personal calls over the radio,” the person testified. “So – it was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it, but there were calls to say good-bye to family members and so forth. It was getting – for whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.”
Secret Service at the Capitol were “running out of options” and “getting nervous,” the official continued.
Thursday’s hearing was the eighth public hearing this summer, and committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney indicated there could be more hearings in the fall, when the committee is expected to wrap its investigation and issue a report.
The previous public hearings have focused on the mobilization of the rioters at the Capitol and Trump’s speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 ahead of the riot, as well as Trump’s pressure campaigns after Election Day on Pence, the Justice Department, state lawmakers and local elections officials.