Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With
The Jan. 6 select committee held eight public hearings this summer, over the course of which it laid out its findings about the insurrection and the president who fomented it. The presentations were powerful, the recorded interviews compelling, and the rhetoric damning and often electrifying. The theater reviews are in, and the show got raves.
But what’s left after stripping away the set dressing and focusing only on the evidence presented? Specifically, how successful was the committee in proving its case?
In the opening hearing on June 9, Chairman Bennie Thompson described the committee’s ambitions as follows: to provide “a true accounting of what happened [on Jan. 6] and what led to the attack on our Constitution and our democracy.”
Vice Chair Liz Cheney said the committee would present a “seven-part plan overseen by President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election.” Committee members spelled out aspects of this plan in their various presentations.
In other words, the committee’s hearings should—at least in our view—be adjudged a success from an evidentiary point of view to precisely the extent that they would convince a reasonable person of the seven points the committee declared it would prove:
- Trump attempted to convince Americans that significant levels of fraud had stolen the election from him despite knowing that he had, in fact, lost the 2020 election;
- Trump planned to remove and replace the attorney general and other Justice Department officials as part of an effort to pressure the department to spread his allegations of election fraud;
- Trump worked, in Cheney’s words, “to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th”;
- Trump tried to convince state lawmakers and election officials to alter election results;
- Trump’s lawyers and other members of the president’s team directed Republicans in multiple states to produce fake electoral slates and send those slates to Congress and the National Archives;
- Trump assembled a destructive group of rioters in Washington and sent them to the U.S. Capitol; and
- Trump ignored requests to speak out against the violence in real time and failed to act quickly to stop the attack and tell his supporters to depart the Capitol.
To summarize briefly: The first hearing, on June 9, presented an overview of the evidence the committee collected, so it offered a bit of material in several of these baskets and sketched out the evidence members intended to present in a bunch of others.
The second hearing, on June 13, was focused almost entirely on establishing the first point.
The third hearing, on June 16, covered Trump’s pressure campaign directed at Pence.
The fourth hearing, on June 21, outlined Trump’s efforts to push state lawmakers and election officials to change election results and generate fake electoral slates.
The fifth hearing, on June 23, detailed Trump’s initiative to convince senior Justice Department officials to publicly support his claims of election fraud—and his effort to decapitate the Justice Department when they refused.
The sixth hearing, a surprise hearing held on June 28, focused on allegations made by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson—who discussed the behavior of Trump and those close to the president on Jan. 6 and the days surrounding the insurrection.
The seventh hearing, held on July 12, dealt with right-wing extremist groups and President Trump’s role in summoning them to Washington for the Jan. 6 riot.
And the eighth hearing centered on exactly what President Trump was doing—and not doing—in the hours that surrounded his supporters’ attack on the Capitol.
In this piece, we lay out the evidence the committee has presented on each of the seven points that make up its argument.
Note that these seven points are emphatically not the elements of any known crime, though they may overlap with any of several crimes in important respects. Note as well that the committee did not follow the federal rules of criminal or civil procedure in determining the admissibility of evidence. So it would be a mistake to assume that if the committee has established its case, that translates into anything for purposes of either criminal or civil liability.
Rather, the committee in these hearings told a story with the seven points as its chapter headings. The public, in turn, gets to decide just how convincing that story was.
What follows is our effort at a distillation of the material presented and an evaluation of its power.
Point #1: Evidence That Trump Knew He Had Lost the Election and Lied About Voter Fraud
The committee did not present a great deal of evidence that Trump, in fact, knew or had any kind of subject understanding that he had lost the election and intentionally lied about it. There does not seem to be evidence, for example, that he ever confessed to anyone that he was aware that President Biden had defeated him or that he ever acknowledged that his claims of voter fraud were garbage. In other words, it’s still possible, as former Attorney General William Barr suggested in his interview presented during the June 13 hearing, that Trump had “become detached from reality” and had actually convinced himself of the nonsense he was peddling.
The committee did, however, present a great deal of evidence—in the June 9, June 13, and June 23 hearings—that credible actors repeatedly informed Trump that he had lost and that he was torturing reality in his public statements. That is, that he had every opportunity to know the truth, whether he was emotionally capable of internalizing that truth or not. The committee presented evidence, in fact, that Trump received this information from a diverse array of actors: his own campaign operatives, his campaign lawyers, senior Justice Department officials, and federal judges. At a minimum, the committee was persuasive that Trump had every reason to know that he had lost and simply chose not to accede to that reality but to propagate a falsehood instead.
This story begins before Election Day itself, in the committee’s presentation. “As early as April 2020, Mr. Trump claimed that the only way he could lose an election would be as a result of fraud,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren stated during the June 13 hearing, presenting public statements in which Trump explicitly made this claim and criticized the reliability of voting by mail. This fact presents perhaps the most powerful single piece of evidence that Trump’s claims of fraud after the election were a premeditated and preplanned response to defeat cooked up in the former president’s mind long before the election even happened. On April 8, 2020, for example, Trump alleged that fraud would occur with voting by mail, and a few months later, he claimed that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged, remember that.”
Trump took other actions before Election Day that seemed designed to help his later fraud narrative. He actively discouraged mail-in voting, for example, despite the pleas of his campaign staff and senior Republicans. The committee revealed during the June 13 hearing that Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, was so concerned about the president’s discouragement of mail-in voting that he met with the president and Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the summer 2020 and the two “made our case” for why mail-in voting was not a bad thing for Trump’s campaign. Stepien argued that urging voters to vote only on Election Day would leave a lot to chance and that the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and the Republican Party all had the advantage of grassroots workers on the ground who could make mail-in voting work for the president. “But the president’s mind was made up,” Stepien said.
This strategy made no sense from the point of view of actually winning votes. But it made all the sense in the world if the goal was to allow the president to cry foul in the event of a defeat. The more that Democrats voted by mail and Republicans voted in person, explained former Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt, the greater the so-called red mirage—the tendency of vote counting to first favor Republicans and then swing toward Democrats. Because in many states, in-person votes get counted first, the early vote count looks much more heavily Republican than the full vote count. Stirewalt testified that Fox News tried to explain this effect to its viewers on election night because “the Trump campaign and the president had made it clear that they were going to try to exploit this anomaly, and we knew [the effect] was going to be bigger, because the percentage of early votes was higher.”
Other witnesses commented on the effect as well. Barr, for example, testified that the president claimed there was “major fraud” on election night, before there was any evidence of anything of the kind, and that seemed to be based on the dynamic that many Democratic votes came in later. But Barr said that “everyone” knew this would be the case for weeks in advance. Stepien testified that he had personally informed the president prior to election night that many votes would be counted in the days after the election—and that while the early votes would favor Trump, the later ones might favor Biden. Yet Trump nonetheless went on television, after receiving this information from his advisers, stating, “We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”
The committee also presented evidence that Trump’s claim of victory on election night took place in the face of clear warnings from senior staff that he had not, in fact, prevailed. Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller said he was in the Oval Office when the campaign’s lead data expert told President Trump “in pretty blunt terms” that he was going to lose the election. Stepien stated that he advised the president that it was “too early to call the race” and that Trump should acknowledge this, state he was proud of his campaign, and say that they were in a good position.
But Miller and Stepien testified that Trump listened to attorney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was apparently drunk at the time, and claimed victory anyway. Miller stated that Giuliani wanted Trump to make a speech asserting he had won. Stepien stated that the president disagreed with his advice to be careful and said that he conveyed he was going to “go in a different direction.” And, of course, Trump insisted that evening publicly that “we did win this election” and stated that “we want all voting to stop.”
In the days immediately following the election, as the count firmed up, Trump’s campaign operatives again told the president that the numbers just were not there for him to pull out a victory. Stepien described the trajectory of the election as the votes were counted in the week after election night, saying that his view of the election was “very, very, very bleak” at that point—specifically, that Trump’s chances of success were pegged at “five, maybe ten percent.” He conveyed this view to the president, he testified.
The campaign lawyers, at least the respectable ones, also told the president his claims of fraud had no merit. In one case, Stepien and aide Faith McPherson received an email from Trump attorney Alex Cannon—forwarded to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump attorney Justin Clark, and Jason Miller—showing the results from an investigation into Arizona voting records following claims that noncitizens had participated. The email, which showed that there was little to no evidence for this claim, was sent up the chain of leadership. Trump responded by marginalizing the lawyers who gave him the bad news. Stepien stated that the president was “growing increasingly unhappy” with his campaign team, and that at this point, he moved Justin Clark out and put Giuliani in to take the lead on the campaign.
In the Office of White House Counsel, the story was the same. Derek Lyons, an associate counsel, said that a month and a half after the election, there was a meeting that concerned various allegations of fraud, during which the office “told the group, the president included, that none of the allegations had been substantiated to the point where they could be the basis for any litigation challenge to the election.”
And then there was the Justice Department. Barr testified that in three discussions with Trump (Nov. 23, Dec. 1, and Dec. 14), he informed the president that he “did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit.” Barr testified that he “repeatedly told the president in no uncertain terms that I did not see evidence of fraud ... that would have affected the outcome of the election.” Barr also said that these claims were “crazy stuff” and that these arguments were “doing a great, grave disservice to the country.”
Barr stated that he told Trump that the campaign had to raise its claims in state proceedings, because the Justice Department doesn’t take sides in elections and is not an extension of his personal or campaign legal team. He stated that he told the president that the department’s role is to investigate fraud, and that it would look at an allegation that is specific, is credible, and could have affected the outcome of the election. He said he told Trump that the department had been doing that, but the president’s claims were not meritorious and thus were not panning out.
Former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, meanwhile, stated that the president would come to him with allegations, and he would reply that the department already looked into the theories and debunked them.
Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said he tried to “put it in very clear terms to the president,” detailing efforts and findings by the department and telling Trump that he was getting false information. Donoghue stated that he told Trump that his claims about a high rate of ballot error in Michigan were wrong. The actual rate was tiny, which Donoghue explained and which Trump accepted, but Trump then proceeded to just move on to other allegations. “And again, this gets back to the point that there were so many of these allegations that when you gave him a very direct answer on one of them, he wouldn’t fight us on it, but he would move to another allegation,” Donoghue recalled.
Donoghue detailed several other allegations he individually debunked, only to have Trump then start talking about double voting, dead people voting, and claims that “Indians are getting paid to vote.” Donoghue said that he reiterated to Trump that the “information he is getting was false and/or just not supported by the evidence.”
The former U.S. attorney in Georgia, BJay Pak, testified that he was asked in early December by Barr to investigate a videotape Giuliani had shown by way of alleging that Fulton County ballots had been smuggled by suitcase into a counting area: “We found that the suitcase full of ballots … was actually an official lockbox where ballots were kept safe.” Giuliani had only played a clip. Pak said that the FBI interviewed the individuals shown in the video, that nothing irregular happened, and that Giuliani’s allegations were “false.”
In short, the committee is wholly persuasive that Trump was made aware of his defeat and of the meritlessness of his claims of fraud. Its presentation on Point #1 lacks only a smoking gun as to Trump’s subjective state of mind in making the claims he advanced. During the committee’s fifth hearing, Chairman Thompson asserted that “Trump knew he lost.” The evidence on this point largely consists of his having laid the groundwork for the claim before Election Day and the information available to him being so voluminous that any blindness on his part was necessarily willful.
Point #2: Evidence That Trump Tried to Pressure the Justice Department to Spread His Allegations of Election Fraud
Well before the Jan. 6 select committee hearings began, a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation—which resulted in depositions of former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and former U.S. attorney BJay Pak, and a report back in October 2021—already released a lot of evidence on Trump’s near-decapitation of the Justice Department leadership in the run-up to Jan. 6.
As a result, the general outline of this story, and many of its details, were already well known by the time the committee’s hearings began: After Attorney General William Barr resigned, having refused to take up Trump’s bogus allegations, senior Justice Department officials told Trump they could not support his claims of election fraud, and Trump sought to fire these officials and offered the attorney general position to Jeffrey Clark.
Nonetheless, the committee’s presentation on this point is among the most powerful evidence it provided. It focused on the machinations at the upper echelons of the Justice Department during its June 23 hearing, during which it heard witness testimony from Richard Donoghue, Jeffrey Rosen, and former Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel—all of whom provided further detail on the extent of Trump’s pressure campaign at the Justice Department.
At this hearing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger played a montage of video testimony concerning a Jan. 3 meeting in the Oval Office that included senior Justice Department officials, President Trump, White House Counsel Patrick Cipollone, and Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin.The conversation focused on whether the president should replace Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general. Donoghue recalled raising Clark’s incompetence to serve as the attorney general during the meeting. He stated that a letter Clark had written alleging that the Justice Department had identified major concerns about the presidential election results in several states—with a particular focus on Georgia—was “a murder-suicide pact” that would “damage everyone who touches it.”
Rosen stated that the president had continued to demand that the Justice Department investigate his claims of a stolen election after Barr’s resignation in 2020. He said that Trump had “asserted that he thought the Justice Department had not done enough.”
Rosen further testified that between Dec. 23, 2020, and Jan. 23, 2021, the president spoke with him “virtually every day, with one or two exceptions like Christmas Day.” In all of these meetings, Rosen said the president repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the Justice Department’s efforts to investigate election fraud. Trump also requested that Rosen meet with lawyer Rudy Giuliani on numerous occasions and asked whether the department would appoint a special counsel for election fraud. Rosen stated that at one point Trump raised “whether the Justice Department would file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court.”
According to Rosen’s testimony, Trump asked whether the Justice Department would make public statements or hold a press conference and ultimately whether the Justice Department would issue a letter on election fraud to state legislatures in Georgia and other states. Rosen told the committee that the department declined each request, believing that there was no factual or legal basis for the actions proposed by the president.
When discussing his Dec. 15 White House meeting with Rosen and Trump, Donoghue stated that the conversation was primarily focused on Trump’s claims of election fraud, with specific emphasis on a report regarding Antrim County, Michigan—which the president asserted the Justice Department should use “to basically tell the American people that the results were not trustworthy.”
Kinzinger then presented a Fox News clip from Nov. 29, 2020, in which Trump stated that the Justice Department was “missing in action”—a sentiment that Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and Mo Brooks echoed thereafter. Kinzinger played a video montage of the politicians reiterating the president’s claims of election fraud, many of them explicitly calling upon the Justice Department to do more, and calling for a showdown in Congress on Jan. 6.
Donoghue described his Dec. 27 conversation with Rosen and the president concerning a set of election-related allegations. Donoghue called the discussion “an escalation of the earlier conversations,” because as December drew to a close, “the president’s entreaties became more urgent.” Donoghue said he told the president, conspiracy by conspiracy, that the Justice Department “had concluded, based on actual investigations, actual witness interviews, actual reviews of documents that these allegations simply had no merit.” Donoghue detailed that there was not a single credible allegation of systemic fraud validated by the Justice Department’s investigations. Kinzinger then presented handwritten notes taken by Donoghue during the Dec. 27 call, including exact quotations, several of which Kinzinger read aloud:
- (Trump) “Judges keep saying – where is the DOJ? Why are they not filing in these cases?”
- (Rosen) “DOJ can’t and won’t snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election.”
- (Trump) “just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”
- (Trump) “We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election.”
Donoghue testified that he and Rosen tried to explain to Trump that supervising state elections is not generally within the Justice Department’s domain and, further, that the Justice Department cannot determine the result of an election. He stated that the president responded, “[T]hat’s not what I’m asking you to do. What I’m asking you to do is to say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”
Rosen testified that during a call with the president on Dec. 24 (Rosen’s first day as acting attorney general), the two had an “extended discussion … with [Trump] urging that the Department of Justice should be doing more with regard to election fraud.” He also stated that Trump asked whether he knew Jeffrey Clark—a question that Rosen claimed to have found “quizzical.” Clark, after all, would have had “no prior involvement of any kind” with regard to investigations of election fraud, and there was no reason President Trump should even know who he was, let alone be asking after him.
The committee, through Kinzinger, presented the following theory regarding how Trump initially became aware of Clark. On Dec. 21, a tweet by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows established that Trump had met with a group of congressional leaders that day to discuss overturning the election. The same day, Trump spoke at a conservative political convention, stating that he needed Justice Department backing for his fight against voter fraud. Kinzinger presented a document showing that Clark had visited the White House the next day, on Dec. 22 at 5:30 pm, along with Rep. Scott Perry. Later, on Jan. 25, Perry told a local news station that he had introduced Clark and Trump at the president’s behest.
Kinzinger played a video in which Giuliani said to investigators that he recalled telling people, including the president, “that somebody should be put in charge of the Justice Department who isn’t frightened of what’s going to be done to their reputation, because [sic] Justice Department was filled with people like that.”
Rosen testified that after Trump had raised Clark’s name on Dec. 24, Rosen called Clark, who acknowledged that he had met with the president in the Oval Office. During that conversation, Rosen stated that Clark was “defensive” and that he had unexpectedly “found himself at the Oval Office” after talking to Perry. Further, Rosen stated, Clark was apologetic, given that the meeting was unauthorized and entirely inappropriate per a policy that restricts contacts between the White House and the Justice Department. This policy is important, Engel testified, because “it’s critical that the Department of Justice conducts its criminal investigations free from either the reality or any appearance of political interference."
Kinzinger said that in an informal interview with Cipollone and his deputy Philbin, Cipollone told the select committee that he told Clark to stop talking to the White House on Dec. 26. On the same day, however, Perry texted Meadows urging him to “call Jeff [Clark]” and “get going” with efforts to overturn the results of the election prior to Jan. 6 and inauguration, according to records presented by Kinzinger.
On Dec. 27, Donoghue testified, Rep. Perry called him “at the behest of the president” to discuss voter fraud allegations specific to Pennsylvania. Donoghue stated that, on the same phone call, Perry raised the possibility of Clark playing a significant role in the effort to overturn the results of the election. Perry proceeded to send Donoghue a report detailing the exact accusations at hand, which Donoghue said he forwarded to the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania—who soon debunked the report.
Donoghue stated that when he received Clark’s Georgia letter and the email to which it was attached, he read Clark’s proposal twice “because it was so extreme” that Donoghue “had a hard time getting [his] head around it initially.” Donoghue detailed his rationale for rejecting the claims made in the letter, stating that not only was it not within the department’s purview to “dictate to state legislatures how they should select their electors, but more importantly, [the letter] was not based on fact.” Donoghue testified that he, Rosen, and Clark had a “very contentious” meeting shortly thereafter, during which he told Clark that the letter was “nothing less than the United States Justice Department meddling in the outcome of a presidential election.”
Nonetheless, Donoghue stated, Clark stayed the course, and even “began calling witnesses and apparently conducting investigations of his own.”
Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney asserted that the Georgia letter’s co-author, Ken Klukowski, had worked with Trump lawyer John Eastman in the past and maintained a relationship with him even after joining the Justice Department. She said that the document specifically referenced Eastman’s theory about contending electoral slates. She also presented an email from Ken Blackwell, a conservative activist who served on Trump’s transition team, recommending that Vice President Pence and his staff meet with Klukowski and Eastman; the email claimed that “the VP and his staff would benefit greatly from a briefing by John and Ken.”
The committee presented an email sent on behalf of President Trump that included a draft lawsuit that the president wanted the Justice Department to file. The committee also presented Engel’s talking points related to his analysis of this lawsuit, which Rosen had asked him to draft in preparation for a meeting with the president. In that document, Engel asserted that there was “no legal basis to bring this lawsuit. Anyone who thinks otherwise simply does not know the law, much less the Supreme Court.”
Engel said at the hearing, “[I]t was a meritless lawsuit that was not something that the department could or … would bring.” Engel also stated that “the Department of Justice … doesn’t have any standing to bring such a lawsuit. The lawsuit would have been untimely. … Neither Georgia nor any of the other states on Dec. 28 or whenever this was was in a position to change those votes.” Engel said Trump’s request for the department to file this lawsuit was an “unusual” one.
Engel recounted that Trump asked Barr to explore whether a special counsel could be appointed to examine issues of election fraud. Specifically, Engel said that Barr asked him to analyze whether the attorney general could appoint a state attorney general as a special counsel to lead an investigation. Engel found that Louisiana state law—which was at issue in this case—prohibited the state’s attorney general from working in any official capacity on behalf of the U.S. government, which meant Barr could not appoint the Louisiana attorney general as the special counsel. Engel noted that neither Attorneys General Barr nor Rosen ever believed it was “appropriate or necessary” to appoint a special counsel to examine Trump’s claims of election fraud.
The committee played a video clip from Dec. 21, in which Barr said that any investigation related to Trump’s election fraud claims was “being handled responsibly and professionally currently within the … department and to this point, I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel, and I have no plan to do so before I leave.” The committee showed that on the night of Dec. 23, Trump tweeted, “After seeing the massive Voter Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election, I disagree with anyone that thinks a strong, fast, and fair Special Counsel is not needed, IMMEDIATELY.”
In an interview, attorney Sidney Powell described her conversation with Trump during which the president offered her the role of special counsel: “[O]n Friday [Dec. 18], he had asked me to be special counsel to address the election issues and to collect evidence. And he was extremely frustrated with the lack of, I would call it law enforcement, by any of the government agencies that are supposed to act to protect the rule of law in our republic.” Trump expressed similar displeasure with the Justice Department specifically on Dec. 27, when he said to Donoghue of the department’s skepticism about voter fraud allegations, “[Y]ou guys may not be following the Internet the way I do.”
Donoghue described in a video deposition the president’s conduct during an unplanned meeting with Justice Department leadership. Donoghue said the president was “a little more agitated than he had been” in a previous meeting covering the same set of issues. According to Donoghue, Trump said, “[T]his sounds like the kind of thing that would warrant appointment of a special counsel.” Donoghue continued, “There was a point at which the president said something about why don’t you guys [at the Justice Department] seize machines?”
Rosen said that in response to the president asking the department to seize voting machines, he said the department “had seen nothing improper with regard to the voting machines. And I told him that the … real experts that had been at [the Department of Homeland Security] … had briefed us, that they had looked at it and that there was nothing wrong with the … voting machines. And so that was not something that was appropriate to do.” Rosen added that he did not believe there was legal authority to seize the voting machines.
Donoghue stated that after Rosen told Trump that the Justice Department would not seize voting machines and that it was the Department of Homeland Security that had expertise related to the security of these machines, the president became “very agitated” and called Ken Cuccinelli, the de facto deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Paraphrasing the president on that call with Cuccinelli, Donoghue recounted what Trump said: “Ken, I’m sitting here with the acting attorney general. He just told me it's your job to seize machines and you’re not doing your job.” Rosen noted that he had never told Trump that the Department of Homeland Security could take voting machines or that the department wasn’t doing its job.
Donoghue stated that during this same meeting, Trump said to Donoghue and Rosen, “[P]eople tell me I should just get rid of both of you. I should just remove you and make a change in the leadership. Put Jeff Clark in, maybe something will finally get done.” In response, Donoghue told Trump that he should choose his leadership, but that “the United States Justice Department functions on facts, evidence, and law, and those are not going to change. … [T]he Department's position is not going to change.”
Kinzinger said that on Jan. 1, Meadows sent several emails to Rosen, requesting that the Justice Department investigate novel allegations. The committee presented emails written by Meadows to Rosen, asking Rosen to send Clark to Fulton County to examine “signature match anomalies” there. Rosen said that he did not send Clark to Fulton County, and he explained that these emails contained the first evidence Rosen had seen up to this point corroborating Clark’s claim that Trump was considering replacing Rosen with Clark before Jan. 4. According to Rosen, he had not been informed about these discussions.
The emails also addressed concerns related to the administration of the election in New Mexico. Rosen said he saw two potential issues regarding the New Mexico claims. First, he thought that this request to investigate may have come “from a campaign or political party.” This was problematic because, as Rosen explained, it is not the Justice Department’s role to support campaigns or parties. What also concerned Rosen about the New Mexico request was that he believed the claims being made on this front had already been examined and debunked.
Kinzinger said that Perry informed Meadows on Dec. 31 about a conspiracy theory that “an Italian defense contractor uploaded software to a satellite that switched votes from Trump to Biden.” Along with a link to a video outlining the theory, Perry wrote to Meadows, “Why can’t we just work with the Italian government?” The following day, Meadows sent that link to Rosen, and Rosen passed it along to Donoghue. Donoghue told Rosen at the time that he thought the video was “pure insanity.”
After Meadows asked Rosen to meet with Bradley Johnson, the man who laid out the conspiracy theory in the video, Rosen said that theory had been debunked, and Rosen would not meet with Johnson. After Meadows appeared to accept Rosen’s answer, the president’s chief of staff contacted Rosen again and said that Johnson had been working with Giuliani, and Giuliani was offended by Rosen’s response. Meadows again asked Rosen if someone at the FBI could meet with Johnson, to which Rosen replied: “[T]here was no way on Earth that I was going to do that. I wasn’t going to meet with Mr. Johnson.” Rosen also said that he “certainly wasn’t going to meet with Giuliani,” which he had “made … clear repeatedly.” Rosen testified that he sent an email to Meadows explaining these views.
Donoghue said he received a follow-up call related to this theory from Kash Patel, a Defense Department official. During this call, Donoghue told Patel that Meadows had raised concerns related to this theory on Dec. 29. Donoghue told Patel that the Justice Department had “looked into [the theory] a little bit,” and that it “was very, very murky at best, and the video was absurd.” Donoghue added that the Justice Department was “not going to have anything to do with [the theory],” and that he “didn’t think it was anything worth pursuing.”
According to Kinzinger, Meadows spoke about the Italian defense contractor theory frequently at the White House, and the request to examine the theory made its way to Christopher Miller, the acting secretary of defense. The committee presented an audio recording of a call placed by Miller to the Italian defense attache inquiring about this conspiracy theory.
Rosen testified that by Jan. 2, Clark told him that Trump had asked him to consider his willingness to assume the position of acting attorney general by Jan. 4. Rosen had told Clark that he believed Clark was misguided, and Rosen said he implored Clark to “be more rational” and understand the lack of factual basis for the claims being made by the president and his supporters. During a Jan. 2 meeting, attended by Rosen, Clark, and Donoghue, Rosen said that Clark continued to make baseless claims of election fraud despite the fact that Clark was not involved in the department’s investigation of these claims. Clark also expressed that he was not convinced that Rosen and Donoghue were capable of conducting these investigations. During this meeting, Rosen said that Clark acknowledged that he had spoken again with Trump without informing Rosen or Donoghue that he was going to do so, despite saying a week prior that he would tell them if the president asked Clark to speak with him.
According to Rosen, Clark said again that the Georgia letter should be sent out; Rosen said that he and Donoghue “were not receptive to that.” Rosen also testified that Clark asked Rosen and Donoghue to sign the Georgia letter during this meeting, and he said he would refuse the acting attorney general position if Rosen and Donoghue signed the letter. But Rosen and Donoghue rejected Clark’s offer.
Rosen stated that on Jan. 3, Clark told him that Trump had informed Clark that “the timeline had moved up and that the president had offered him the job and that he was accepting it.” According to Rosen, Clark also asked him during this meeting if he would stay on as Clark’s deputy—which Rosen emphatically declined.
Kinzinger stated that on Jan. 3, “Jeff Clark and the president were in constant communication beginning at 7:00 a.m.” Notably, the committee also presented White House call logs that show the White House referring to Clark as the acting attorney general by 4:19 p.m. on Jan. 3.
Rosen testified that he took four steps when he heard that Trump would be offering the job to Clark:
- First, he set up a meeting with the president for that evening.
- Second, Rosen called Cipollone to ensure he would attend the meeting and support the position of the department.
- Third, he called Engel to ask if he would go to the meeting.
- Fourth, Rosen asked Donoghue and Patrick Hovakimian—the former associate deputy attorney general—to set up a call with the Justice Department senior leadership to inform them of the recent developments.
Rosen stated that White House lawyer Eric Herschmann then called him to tell him that he would also be attending the meeting and supporting Rosen and the department.
Donoghue said that within the department before the afternoon of Jan. 3, only Rosen, Donoghue, Engel, and Hovakimian were aware of Clark’s persistent effort to spread false election claims and Trump’s plans to appoint Clark as the attorney general. On Jan. 3, Rosen instructed Donoghue to meet with the assistant attorneys general to discuss the situation within the department. During this meeting among department officials, Donoghue asked the assistant attorneys general what they would do if Trump made Clark the acting attorney general. Donoghue testified that all of the assistant attorneys general on the call said they would resign their positions if Trump followed through. (Donoghue noted that John Demers, the assistant attorney general of the National Security Division, expressed willingness to resign along with the others, but that Donoghue asked him to stay in place because “[n]ational security is too important.”)
Kinzinger quoted Cipollone’s statement to the committee that he was “unmistakably angry” during the meeting and that he, Herschmann, and Donoghue “forcefully challenged Mr. Clark to produce evidence of his election fraud theories.”
Rosen described the beginning of the Jan. 3 meeting with the president in the Oval Office. According to Rosen, Trump began the meeting by turning to Rosen and saying, “[O]ne thing we know is you, Rosen, you aren’t gonna do anything. You don’t even agree with the … claims of election fraud, and this other guy [referring to Jeff Clark] at least might do something.”
Mr. President, you’re right that I’m not going to allow the Justice Department to do anything to try to overturn the election. … But the reason for that is because that’s what’s consistent with the facts and the law, and that’s what’s required under the Constitution. So, that’s the right answer and a good thing for the country, and therefore I submit it’s the right thing for you, Mr. President.
Rosen testified that this exchange initiated an hours-long conversation in which all of the Justice Department officials present at the meeting except Clark backed Rosen and expressed criticism of Clark. Rosen testified that his opposition to Trump’s plan “wasn’t about me”; it was purely grounded in concerns over the institutional posture of the department and promoting the rule of law in the United States.
Donoghue testified that when he entered the room, approximately 10 minutes into the meeting, the discussion was focused primarily on whether the president should replace Rosen with Clark. Donoghue said he believed everyone present at the meeting understood that if Clark were appointed as attorney general, the Georgia letter would be circulated.
According to Donoghue, the president asked what he had to lose, a question that triggered an extended conversation about the severely damaging implications—institutionally for the department, more broadly for the country, and politically for Trump—of firing Rosen and hiring Clark. Donoghue also said that he expressed his view during the meeting that Clark wasn’t qualified to run the Justice Department, which Clark countered. Donoghue said that no Justice Department officials supported Clark.
Donoghue stated that during the part of the conversation when the president was asking what he had to lose by hiring Clark, Donoghue told Trump that he would resign immediately. Donoghue said that Trump then asked Engel if he would resign, and Engel said he “absolutely” would. Donoghue then told the president that he would “lose [his] entire department leadership … within hours.” Donoghue said to the president, “[Y]ou could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions. What’s that going to say about you?”
Engel described what he said to the president when Trump asked him whether he would resign:
Mr. President, I’ve been with you through four attorneys general, including two acting as attorney general, but I couldn’t be part of this. … [N]o one is going to read this letter. All anyone is going to think is that you went through two attorneys general in two weeks until you found the environmental guy to sign this thing. And so, the story is not going to be that the Department of Justice has found massive corruption that would have changed the result of the election. It’s going to be the disaster of Jeff Clark. And I think at that point Pat Cipollone said, yeah, this is a murder suicide pact, this letter.
Donoghue added that Engel had said to the president during the meeting that “Jeff Clark would be left leading a graveyard, and that … comment clearly had an impact on the president.”
Engel called it an “absurd premise” that Clark could assume the attorney general position and shift the department’s efforts related to its investigation of election fraud claims. Cipollone told the committee in his interview that Engel’s response to the president appeared to meaningfully impact Trump’s decision-making.
Donoghue noted that Cipollone backed the Justice Department throughout Trump’s conversations with Donoghue and Rosen about the role of the department in overturning the election. Kinzinger asserted that Cipollone “left the meeting convinced the president would not appoint Mr. Clark, but he didn't think the president had actually accepted the truth about the election.”
Donoghue testified that after the president announced his decision not to fire Rosen, Clark pushed back, but Trump doubled down. Donoghue said the president then asked him whether he would fire Clark, to which Donoghue responded that he did not have the authority to do so. Trump then asked Donoghue who could fire Clark, and Donoghue said only the president has that authority. Trump said he would not fire Clark.
Donoghue testified that he received a call from the president approximately 90 minutes after the Jan. 3 meeting concluded. According to Donoghue, the president said on the call that “he had information about a truck supposedly full of shredded ballots in Georgia that was in the custody of an [Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)] agent whose name he had.” Donoghue then told Trump that he had not heard about this theory, and ICE operated within the Department of Homeland Security, but if Homeland Security needed the assistance of the Justice Department, the Justice Department would certainly help. Trump said he understood what Donoghue had explained and asked Donoghue to make sure that Cuccinelli was made aware of the shredded ballot theory. Donoghue reached Cuccinelli later that day and relayed the message.
In the committee’s sixth hearing, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, added color to Trump’s rage at Barr after the attorney general refused to endorse Trump’s claims of a stolen election.
Hutchinson testified that on Dec. 1, 2020, Trump became so furious about Barr’s interview with the Associated Press that he threw his lunch off the table, leaving staff to pick up shards of the porcelain plate and clean ketchup off of the wall. This was not unprecedented behavior—according to Hutchinson, the president had ripped off the table cloth and shattered plates in the White House on several other occasions as well.
During this same hearing, the committee presented Barr’s description during a committee deposition of the president “pound[ing] the table very hard” as he accepted Barr’s offer to resign his position.
The bottom line is that the committee’s presentation on this point is wholly persuasive and has not been meaningfully contested. There appears to be no question that the president sought to persuade the Justice Department, both before Barr’s departure and after, to make false claims about election fraud. There similarly seems to be no question that the president, in the face of the Justice Department’s refusal to do this, seriously contemplated replacing the department’s acting leadership with Clark—knowing that Clark would send the letter to Georgia if installed. There is similarly uncontested testimony that Trump backed down only in the face of certain threatened resignations from virtually the entire Justice Department senior leadership.
Point #3: Evidence That Trump Pressured Pence to Refuse to Count Electoral Votes
The Jan. 6 select committee’s presentation on the pressure President Trump put on Vice President Pence is one of its strongest and most dramatic presentations.
Members cited statements from Trump’s legal advisers and his chief of staff indicating that they recognized the baselessness of the president’s claims that Pence could unilaterally overturn the results of the election. Members also showed that Pence and his team repeatedly expressed the view to Trump that the vice president had no authority to refuse to count electoral votes. The committee laid out further evidence suggesting that even those advancing the legal claims didn’t believe them.
Despite all of this, the committee showed that Trump persistently pressured Pence in private and in public to refuse to count electoral votes during the joint session. The committee set forth the evidence relevant to this point in its June 9, June 13, June 16, and July 12 hearings.
As with Point #2, a considerable amount of evidence on this point had already emerged before the committee addressed it in its third hearing—in this instance from the committee’s litigation with Trump lawyer John Eastman. In this case, Judge David O. Carter laid out the facts in some detail in his opinion on March 28.
Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney said that as Pence’s staff began to “get a sense” of Trump’s plan for Jan. 6, staffers asked for a comprehensive briefing on the election from the campaign team, and “on Jan. 2, the general counsel of the Trump campaign, Matthew Morgan—the campaign’s chief lawyer—summarized what the campaign had concluded weeks earlier, that none of the arguments about fraud, or anything else, could actually change the outcome of the election.”
The committee presented video evidence of a rioter reading aloud a tweet from Trump during the insurrection itself. The tweet says: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
The select committee provided considerable evidence supporting the notion that the legal theory espoused by Trump and Eastman in the days leading up to Jan. 6 was not a good-faith legal argument. Rather, it was the product of an extended search for a legal means to justify overturning the election results.
On Dec. 13, 2020, the day before the Electoral College met to cast its votes, a lawyer named Kenneth Chesebro sent a memorandum to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. In it, Chesebro argued that during the joint session of Congress, the vice president has the authority to “mak[e] judgments about what to do if there are conflicting votes.” Chesebro contended that Pence should not count Arizona’s electoral votes because there were two conflicting slates of electors—citing a group of Trump voters who claimed to be the legitimate electors for the state. (These groups also emerged in other states whose electoral votes were disputed by the Trump campaign.)
Cheney highlighted Judge Carter’s assertion that Chesebro’s memo “pushed a strategy that knowingly violated the Electoral Count Act,” and stated that it was “both intimately related to and clearly advanced the plan to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
Soon after Chesebro sent this memo to Giuliani, Eastman began making similar claims. On Dec. 23, Eastman composed a memo in which he argued that the vice president had the power to determine the outcome of the presidential election as the presiding officer of the joint session of Congress. He wrote, “Seven states have transmitted dual slates of electors to the President of the Senate.” These dual slates, Eastman said, gave Pence the authority to declare that Trump had won the election.
Eastman followed this up with another memo. In it, he alleged that Pence could simply reject electoral votes from “disputed” states and deem Trump the winner of the election without considering the vote totals from the certified electoral slates. Testifying before the committee, Pence lawyer Greg Jacob stated that there were, in fact, no dual slates from these seven states. Judge J. Michael Luttig explained that Eastman’s claims set forth in these memorandums lacked any legitimate historical or legal justification.
Evidence presented by the committee demonstrated that those closest to Trump believed these legal claims were bogus.
Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel, testified during a committee deposition that he believed Pence had no authority to refuse to count the electoral votes during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress and that his view on this issue would have been informed by the views of Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin and Pence’s chief lawyer, Jacob. Cipollone testified that he said to someone in Pence’s office that the vice president could blame him for Pence’s view about his lack of authority to overturn the results of the election. Cipollone also said that he thought the vice president “did the right thing … [and] did the courageous thing.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy said that Cipollone “expressed his view repeatedly that the vice president was right” that he did not have the authority to refuse to count the electoral votes. Cipollone also did not refute prior testimony from others who said Cipollone believed Eastman’s theory was “nutty,” and that Cipollone conveyed this view to Eastman. When asked why he did not attend a Jan. 4 meeting between Eastman, Trump, and Pence, Cipollone said he had gone to the Oval Office with the intention of attending the meeting, but he did not end up going to the meeting for “reasons … that are privileged.”
Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann agreed that Eastman was dead wrong. According to Herschmann, it was not conceivable that the vice president would have the authority to choose the president. After hearing Eastman explain his legal theory, Herschmann responded, “Are you out of your effing mind … you’re going to turn around and tell 78-plus million people in this country … this is how you’re going to invalidate their votes, because you think the election was stolen? And I said they’re not going to tolerate that. I said you’re going to cause riots in the streets.” Herschmann paraphrased Eastman’s reply: “There’s been violence in the history of our country … to protect the democracy or protect the republic.”
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller testified that Trump lawyers Justin Clark and Matt Morgan also believed Eastman was “crazy.” Before Jan. 6, they both expressed their belief that Eastman’s theories were completely meritless. Pence’s former Chief of Staff Marc Short testified that he believed Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also agreed with the view that Pence did not have the authority to refuse to count electoral votes.
Even Giuliani and Eastman himself acknowledged the baselessness of Eastman’s theory. Herschmann described a call he had with Giuliani on the morning of Jan. 6, in which Giuliani admitted that Herschmann and those who maintained that Pence could not refuse the electoral votes were “probably right.” The committee also presented a draft letter to the president—the author of which is not specified—which proposed that the vice president could choose which electors to count during the joint session of Congress. Rep. Pete Aguilar then stated that Eastman himself had “eviscerated” that idea on Oct. 11, 2020, in a comment shown on the document, writing: “The 12th Amendment only says that the President of the Senate opens the ballots in the joint session and then, in the passive voice, that the votes shall then be counted. … Nowhere does it suggest that the President of the Senate gets to make the determination on his own.” Further, on Dec. 19, Eastman stated in an email that the fake electors were wholly illegitimate under the law and that these electors would be “dead on arrival in Congress.”
Jacob testified that when he questioned Eastman about Democratic vice presidents refusing to count electoral votes, Eastman said, “Al Gore did not have a basis to do it in 2000, Kamala Harris shouldn’t be able to do it in 2024, but I think you should do it today.”
Despite these acknowledgments, Eastman successfully urged this theory on Trump, who invited him and Giuliani to ardently defend it at the Ellipse on Jan. 6. Giuliani said, “Every single thing that has been outlined as the plan for today is perfectly legal.” Eastman followed: “All we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at 1:00, let the legislatures of the state look into this so we get to the bottom of it and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not.”
Herschmann told the committee that the day after the Capitol breach, Eastman called him to speak about “something dealing with Georgia,” at which point Herschmann reported that he asked Eastman if he was “out of [his] effing mind” and advised him to “get a great effing criminal defense lawyer.”
A few days later, according to records released by the committee, Eastman emailed Giuliani to request inclusion on a list of potential presidential pardon recipients: “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works.” He did not receive a pardon, Aguilar stated, and when deposed by the select committee, Eastman asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 100 times.
Jacob, Pence’s chief legal counsel, testified at the June 16 hearing that the vice president “never budged” from his commitment to properly execute the counting of the electoral votes—which Pence’s legal team determined was the only lawful course of action for the vice president. In a video interview, Short affirmed Jacobs’s description. When Short was asked whether Pence had informed the president of his view that he had no right to overturn the election, Short said the vice president had done so “many times” and in a “very consistent” manner. Short also added that he had clearly conveyed the vice president’s position on the issue to Meadows.
Despite Pence presenting his views clearly to the president, the committee’s evidence illustrates Trump’s persistent campaign beginning in December 2020 to convince Pence to unilaterally seek to overturn the election. On Dec. 23, the president retweeted a memorandum that sought to convince Pence to reject the electoral votes. On Jan. 4, Trump’s efforts to pressure Pence became more direct. At a rally in Georgia on that day, Trump said, “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us. … I hope that our great vice president … comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.” Meanwhile, a conflict between the president and his vice president was beginning to escalate internally. After the Georgia rally on Jan. 4, Trump arranged a meeting with Pence to discuss the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.
According to Jacob, Eastman described the two legal theories underlying Trump’s pressure campaign during that Jan. 4 meeting. Eastman said Pence could either “reject electoral votes outright” or “declare … a 10-day recess during which … the vice president could sort of issue a demand to the state legislatures in those states to reexamine the election and declare who had won each of those states.” Eastman said both paths were viable, but he did not recommend the outright rejection option because he believed it would not deliver the necessary public acceptance of a Trump victory, according to Jacob.
In that same meeting, Jacob challenged the legality of Eastman’s proposals—arguing that both violated the Electoral Count Act of 1887. Eastman acknowledged this was true but argued that the Electoral Count Act was unconstitutional insofar as it interfered with the vice president’s supposedly plenary power to reject electoral vote slates and that his argument was thus still viable. When Jacob then said this constitutional argument would fail in court, Eastman said courts would not get involved in the dispute because of the political question doctrine.
Jacob told the committee that after the Jan. 4 meeting, Trump had requested that Pence’s staff meet with Eastman again the following day to learn more about his position. On Jan. 5 at 11:06 a.m., around the time the next meeting was scheduled to begin, Trump tweeted, “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.”
Jacob testified that what had “most surprised” him about the meeting was that, upon arrival, Eastman said, “I’m here to request that you reject the electors”—a request Jacob recorded on a notepad: “requesting VP reject.” Eastman had only the previous day “recommended against” that exact approach in the Oval Office meeting with the president, Jacob said, a move that Pence’s team had seen “as one of the key concessions that we had secured the night before.”
Jacob stated that because Eastman was “pushing the robust unilateral power theory” in this meeting on the morning of Jan. 5—which he noted was simpler to dispute than the proposal to return the slates of electors to the states—they discussed the textual and historical foundations of Eastman’s argument at length. According to Jacob, Eastman in fact “conceded in that meeting that [founding era practice] did not at all support his position” and further “acknowledged, by the end, that there was no historical practice whatsoever that supported his position.” Notwithstanding these concessions, the committee showed footage of Eastman standing on stage on Jan. 6, claiming that Thomas Jefferson would have supported his position.
Jacob also described Eastman’s acknowledgement during the same Jan. 5 meeting that both of Eastman’s proposals for Pence to refuse to count the electoral votes would lose nine-to-zero in the Supreme Court. (Eastman initially contended he might get two justices to support his theory.) Jacob then testified that Eastman, during this meeting, “again tried to say, but ‘I don’t think the courts will get involved in this, they’ll invoke the political question doctrine, and so, if the courts stay out of it … the [states] will send back the Trump slates of electors and the people will be able to accept that.’”
Jacob testified that he protested against this idea, stating that without resolution from the courts, there would be an unprecedented political standoff—and ultimately, he told Eastman, such a standoff “might well then have to be decided in the streets.”
According to Jacob, he and Eastman had another conversation on Jan. 5, during which Eastman doubled back to the “more prudent course” of sending the electoral slates back to the states, rather than rejecting them altogether. It was at this point that Eastman brought up their shared alma mater—the University of Chicago Law School—to concede that “just between us Chicago chickens, we will understand, as lawyers who have studied the Constitution, that the underlying basis [of the two approaches] really is the same.”
Jacob testified that shortly thereafter, while Pence’s staff felt like they had “sort of defeated” Eastman, the vice president was called into the Oval Office alone. Here, Rep. Aguilar cited “Peril” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who describe this meeting—which included Trump saying to Pence, among other things, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this”—meaning refuse to count electoral votes during the joint session. When asked about this interaction during deposition, Short confirmed that the vice president did not want absolute authority over the vote-counting bestowed on any individual.
Jacob told the committee that around 5 p.m. on Jan. 5, he took part in another phone call with Short, Pence, Trump, and Eastman, during which Eastman affirmed his understanding that Pence would not reject electors but nonetheless asked if he would be open to suspending the vote count. That same day, Aguilar stated, the New York Times ran an article describing disagreement within the Trump White House over the vice president’s authority to determine the outcome of the election. Trump denied this story, publishing his own statement in response, which declared that “the Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act.” Jacob said Pence’s team was “shocked and disappointed” to see Trump’s statement, “because it was categorically untrue.”
The committee proceeded to play clips from depositions with Short and Miller regarding a heated phone call they had concerning the statement. In his deposition, Miller confirmed that the president dictated “most of” the released statement. At this point, Short told the committee that he was so concerned about the situation that he spoke with the head of Pence’s Secret Service detail to convey his belief that it was “likely, as these disagreements became more public, that the president would lash out in some way” at his vice president.
Miller explained that on Jan. 5 and 6, all of the president’s focus was on “what Mike would do or what Mike wouldn’t do.” Jacob testified that on the morning of Jan. 6, while Pence’s staff was finalizing his “Dear Colleague” statement in which he declared that he did not have the power to reject duly submitted electoral votes, the vice president stepped out to take a call from Trump, which White House records reflect happened around 11:20 a.m. Here, the committee presented photos of Trump in the Oval Office during that conversation, along with interview footage of Ivanka Trump and Eric Herschmann both stating that the conversation was “heated.”
Nicholas Luna, former assistant to the president, said he remembered hearing Trump call Pence a “wimp” in some fashion. “It was a different tone than I’d heard him take with the vice president before,” Ivanka Trump stated—and her chief of staff, Julie Radford, told the committee that she believed Trump had called Pence “the ‘P’ word.”
Finally, the committee set out to demonstrate that Trump on Jan. 6 itself was fully aware of the escalating danger to Pence yet continued to hurl inflammatory criticisms at him by way of pushing his supporters to storm the Capitol and pressure the vice president to suspend the vote count.
Aguilar stated that the committee “received testimony that the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was notified of the violence at the Capitol by 2 p.m., and likely earlier.”
“The testimony further establishes that Mr. Meadows quickly informed the president, and that he did so before the president then issued his 2:24 p.m. tweet criticizing Vice President Pence for not having ‘the courage’ to do what needed to be done,” Aguilar said. He then played a video of rioters stating that Pence betrayed the president and the country, with one rioter saying that Pence is “nothing but a traitor, and he deserves to burn with the rest of them” because “Pence voted against Trump.”
Sarah Matthews, former White House deputy press secretary, stated that she and another staff member were conferring and “thought that the president needed to tweet something, and tweet something immediately” to deescalate the situation, as by around 2 p.m., it was clear that things were “bad” and “getting out of hand.” They reported this to their superiors, Kayleigh McEnany and Mark Meadows. Shortly thereafter, Matthews described seeing a tweet pop up from the president, criticizing Mike Pence—a move akin to “pouring gasoline on the fire” in Matthews’s account. Aguilar stated that the committee’s investigation showed that “immediately after” Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet, crowds inside and outside the Capitol surged. He played a simulation of the invasion, indicating that rioters opened the East Rotunda door and breached the crypt within one minute of the president’s tweet.
The committee also detailed Pence and his staff’s move to a secure location in the Capitol, showing that at one point, the vice president was only 40 feet away from a violent mob. Aguilar asked Jacob whether, at any point during that time, the president called Pence to check on his safety—to which Jacob responded, “He did not.” Citing a recent Justice Department court filing, Aguilar stated that a confidential witness from the Proud Boys told the FBI that members of the group “said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance.”
The committee also released an email exchange between Jacob and Eastman during Pence’s evacuation on Jan. 6, during which Jacob said: “[T]hanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.” Eastman replied that the siege was Pence’s own fault for not complying with what the president had said was necessary. Later that day, Jacob explicitly asked Eastman whether he had advised Trump that the vice president cannot unilaterally decide an election, to which Eastman responded that he had advised Trump of this, “but you know him. Once he gets something in his head, it’s hard to get him to change course.”
Even after the insurrection had been quelled, Eastman did not back down: Jacob testified that later that evening, at 11:44 p.m., Eastman “implored me, now that we have established that the Electoral Count Act isn’t so sacrosanct as you have made it out to be, I implore you one last time, can the vice president please do what we have been asking him to do these last two days?”
The bottom line here is that the committee’s evidence that Trump pressured Pence to violate his oath and reject the electors is overpowering. He did this advised by lawyers who appear to have been aware that their legal theory was garbage. Trump actively lied in public about what Pence believed about his own authority. And he pushed Pence on Jan. 6 itself, knowing he was potentially putting the vice president in danger.
Point #4: Evidence That Trump Tried to Convince State Lawmakers and Election Officials to Alter Election Results
The Jan. 6 select committee sought to lay out evidence showing that President Trump worked to ensure state election officials faced consequences—including direct threats of violence—when they refused to support his claims of electoral victory. The committee’s evidence on this point is strong and unambiguous.
Committee members argued that (1) the pressure imposed on officials stemmed from Trump’s willful dishonesty; (2) people who continue to believe Trump’s declarations the election was stolen are now seeking positions of public trust; and (3) the integrity of American institutions relies on people in power adhering to their oaths of office. The committee advanced this argument exclusively in its fourth hearing.
At the June 21 hearing, Rep. Adam Schiff showed a video highlighting Trump’s disclosures of state and local officials’ personal information as part of his pressure campaign against them. For example, on Jan. 3, Trump retweeted a tweet that disclosed Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s phone number—followed by deposition footage of Shirkey stating that he received “just shy of 4,000 text messages over a short period of time” from people urging him to change Michigan’s electoral votes.
Another state official impacted by the president’s attempted power grab, Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, testifed at the June 21 hearing. A “self-described conservative Republican,” Bowers was first asked about a recent Trump statement claiming that Bowers had told him the election was rigged and that Trump had won Arizona. Bowers testified in response that this was false, saying that if “anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true.”
In his testimony, Bowers described a call with attorney Rudy Giuliani and Trump after the election, during which Bowers asked Giuliani for proof of the campaign’s allegations concerning voter fraud in Arizona. Giuliani promised to provide details, including the names of thousands of allegedly dead voters and evidence that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants had voted, but he never did. Bowers further stated that the president and Giuliani made a series of requests during the call, including for Bowers to “allow an official committee at the Arizona State Capitol” to hear evidence of electoral fraud and take responsive action. Bowers testified that he refused because he did not trust the evidence and “didn’t want to be used as a pawn.” Bowers stated that on the same call, Giuliani and Trump also proposed that Arizona’s legislature had a legal ability to remove the electors of Joe Biden and replace them with electors for Trump—a proposition that he claims he rejected, saying that such an act would be “counter to my oath … and I will not break my oath.” Bowers testified that Giuliani tried to appeal to their shared political affiliation multiple times, asking, “[A]ren’t we all Republicans here?”
Bowers stated that, on several occasions after this call, he was asked to approve holding an official hearing of the state legislature, which he declined to do each time. He described numerous incidents in which the Trump team failed to provide evidence for their allegations. And he testified that at one point, Giuliani appeared to acknowledge that he had no basis for his claims. “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence,” Giuliani reportedly said to Bowers.
Schiff then played a video depicting protesters illegally entering the Arizona Capitol, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman known for his prominent role in the Jan. 6 siege, and asked Bowers to verify that the protesters were calling for him by name. Bowers confirmed that they were.
Bowers testified that Trump called him again in December, and that he told the president that he had supported him and voted for him but would not do anything illegal for him. Nonetheless, Bowers stated that Eastman called him several days later, asking the Arizona speaker to initiate a vote to decertify the electors, using the legislature’s supposed “plenary authority to do so.” When he protested that the legislature did not have this authority, Eastman told him to “just do it, and let the courts sort it out.” Incredulous at this demand, Bowers testified that he declined the request.
Prompted by Schiff, Bowers confirmed that in his view, what the president’s team was asking him to do was counter to his oath to the United States and to the state of Arizona.
Bowers additionally stated that on the morning of Jan. 6, Rep. Andy Biggs asked him to sign a letter sent from Arizona to support the decertification of the electors, which Bowers declined to do. Further, Bowers released a statement asserting that “[t]he rule of law forbids us” to take decertification action as requested by the president and his team.
The committee presented a video of a press conference on Dec. 1, which took place while the review of the election in Georgia was still ongoing, in which Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling stated that Trump “likely lost the state of Georgia.” Sterling implored the president to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.” In response to Sterling’s statement, Trump tweeted, “Rigged election. Show signatures and envelops [sic]. Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia. What is Secretary of State and @briankempGA afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Sterling emphasized several times during the hearing that the election in Georgia had been executed effectively, and the outcome reflected the will of Georgia voters. Raffensperger described the election administration as proceeding “remarkably smooth[ly].” And Sterling said the outcome of the election had been confirmed with “a thorough review and audit process.” Raffensperger also offered an explanation as to why the former president had received fewer votes than Republican down ballot candidates: “Twenty-eight thousand Georgians skipped the presidential race, and yet they voted down ballot in other races. And the Republican congressman ended up getting 33,000 more votes than President Trump, and that’s why President Trump came up short.”
The testimony given by Raffensperger and Sterling described Trump’s persistent efforts to compel Georgia election officials to change the outcome of the election in that state despite these officials repeatedly informing the president that his claims lacked any support.
The committee showed that Trump and his allies repeated several false allegations about the administration of the election in Georgia. On Dec. 2, Trump said, “They found thousands and thousands of votes that were out of whack. All against me.”
Schiff said those close to Trump appeared in Georgia the next day and started peddling an election conspiracy theory, according to which Fulton County election workers at State Farm Arena kicked out poll observers during election night and subsequently brought out suitcases of ballots from under a table and ran these ballots through voting machines multiple times. Trump and his allies said there were 18,000 ballots in these suitcases—purportedly all for Biden. Trump cited this suitcase conspiracy theory during a speech in Georgia on Dec. 5, claiming that “[e]vidence of fraud is overwhelming.”
Giuliani went before the Georgia State Senate and presented a video, which, he said, confirmed this conspiracy theory. According to Giuliani, the video was “powerful smoking gun” evidence that the workers had processed illegitimate votes. He said the workers threw out the opposition and counted the votes in the middle of the night, and the Trump campaign shared Giuliani’s false claims on social media.
According to Sterling, who reviewed 48 hours of surveillance footage from election night and the period surrounding it at State Farm Arena, the tape showed “Fulton County election workers engaging in normal ballot processing,” and no evidence of fraud. Sterling explained that election workers were putting on their coats and beginning to store ballots under the table for the evening—as is typical. However, after an elections director instructed the workers to continue counting the ballots, the workers removed them from under the table to continue their work. He also said that running ballots through the scanner multiple times is normal procedure and that a hand tally confirmed that the election administration in Fulton County was “essentially dead-on accurate.”
BJay Pak, the former U.S. attorney in Georgia, said that after watching the video and interviewing witnesses, he found “that there’s nothing there. Giuliani was wrong in representing that this was a suitcase full of ballots.” Barr expressed a similar sentiment: “[B]ased on our review of [the State Farm Arena video], including the interviews of the key witnesses, the Fulton county allegations had no merit.” Donoghue agreed that the suitcase theory was completely baseless. During a press conference on Dec. 7, Sterling explained that the president’s attorneys had the same State Farm Arena video and “chose to mislead state senators and the public about what was on that video.”
According to Schiff, Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reached out to Raffensperger’s office about 18 times to arrange a call between Raffensperger and Trump. By the time Trump reached Raffensperger by phone on Jan. 2, Georgia had certified its electoral votes. Trump said during that call, “[The votes] weren’t in an official voter box [at the State Farm Arena location]; they were in what looked to be suitcases or trunks, suitcases. But they weren’t in voter boxes. The minimum number it could be … was 18,000 ballots, all for Biden.”
Sterling noted that only 8,900 ballots had been scanned at the State Farm location, not 18,000. Raffensperger testified during the June 21 hearing that these allegations had all been repeatedly debunked by several components of the Georgia election administration apparatus. Trump also asserted on the call with Raffensperger, “I heard it was close, so I said there’s no way. But they dropped a lot of votes in there late at night. You know that, Brad.” Raffensperger maintained this was false as well.
Trump also claimed during the call that “close to 5,000” ballots had been cast on behalf of dead people. As with the previous claims, Raffensperger said this was false too. Georgia election officials found that there had only been four votes cast under the identity of dead individuals. Trump said to Raffensperger, “[T]here’s nothing wrong with saying that … you’ve recalculated because it’s 2,236 in absentee ballots.” Trump went on to say that this recalculation would produce many more votes than he would need to win the state. Raffensperger noted, however, that there was no way to recalculate the votes because the Georgia election officials had “checked every single allegation.”
After Raffensperger told Trump that he would send a link to the unedited State Farm Arena video, Trump said, “I don’t care about a link. I don’t need it. … [W]e’re gonna have a much better link.” Raffensperger then told Trump about the investigations debunking this claim, among others, after which Trump called the officials who conducted the investigations “incompetent” or “dishonest.”
On the same call, Trump warned Raffensperger that it was “very dangerous” for the secretary to be rejecting the claims of election fraud. The former president then asked Raffensperger, “Why wouldn’t you want to find the right answer … instead of keep saying that the numbers are right?” Trump also alleged that he won by at least 400,000 votes, repeating, “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” After making false allegations about the shredding of ballots, Trump insinuated that Raffensperger could be criminally liable for his actions. After this, Trump said to Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”
The committee also presented evidence that showed that Trump directly pressured another Georgia election official to change the results of the state’s election. After Meadows visited an election audit site in Georgia to meet with Raffensperger’s chief investigator, Frances Watson, Meadows arranged a call on Dec. 23 between Watson and Trump. On that call, Trump said, “You have the most important job in the country right now … the people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me. They know I won. Won by hundreds of thousands of votes; it wasn’t close.” Trump went on to say, “Hopefully, when the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised.” Trump then told Watson to do “whatever you can do, Frances … You have no idea, it’s so important … And I very much appreciate it.” Finally, Trump asked Watson if she would continue working after Christmas to “keep it going fast” before reminding Watson, “we have that date of the sixth, which is a very important date.”
The committee also explored the harmful effects of Trump’s Georgia election allegations on the lives of election workers. Fulton County election worker Shaye Moss described the threats she faced from supporters of President Trump after Giuliani and the Trump campaign circulated the State Farm Arena video, in which Moss is shown working. And the committee showed deposition testimony of another election worker, Ruby Freeman, relating similar experiences. Giuliani said on Dec. 10 in front of Georgia state legislators that Moss and her mother had been “surreptitiously passing around USB ports” on the night of the election, and that they should have been questioned about their behavior and had their houses searched. Moss testified that what Giuliani described as a USB port was, in fact, a ginger mint. Moss said that threats against her have “turned her life upside down.”
Trump asserted that there were “at least 18,000 … voters having to do with Ruby Freeman,” and called Freeman “a professional vote scammer and hustler.” Freeman said that as a result of the attacks leveled against her, she does not feel that she can introduce herself by name anymore, and she was instructed by the FBI to leave her home for several weeks due to threats related to her work during the 2020 election.
Again, the committee’s evidence on this point is not ambiguous or subtle. It involves the sworn testimony of a large number of state officials, actions taken in public, and public statements by the president and others.
Point #5: Evidence That Trump’s Campaign Team Directed Republicans in Multiple States to Produce and Officially Submit Fake Electoral Slates
The Jan. 6 select committee members presented statements from Donald Trump and his subordinates directed at Republican officials in battleground states that pressured these individuals to overturn the results of the election in their states by submitting alternate electoral slates. They also illustrated that Trump and his staff continued to make these statements despite both resistance from state officials and clear guidance from certain Trump lawyers that submitting alternate slates was illegal. The committee presented deposition testimony from its investigative counsel that showed that these coordinated efforts resulted in the actual submission of fake electors in several battleground states. The committee presented all of its evidence related to this point in its June 21 hearing. As with the previous point, the evidence presented here was not ambiguous or subject to innocent interpretation.
Much of the June 21 hearing consisted of the committee’s evidence illustrating Trump’s persistent effort to convince state legislatures to support his bid to overturn the election—including by submitting fake electoral slates. Josh Roselman, investigative counsel for the committee, presented an email showing that just two days after the election, Trump campaign lawyer Cleta Mitchell asked John Eastman to write a memo “outlining the constitutional role of state legislatures in designating electors.” Eastman did so, distributing the memo to senior officials at the White House and professing the argument publicly by Dec. 3, 2020.
The committee showed that Republican state officials protested against the proposal, calling it unlawful. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, for example, stated that “[a]ny attempt by the legislature to retroactively change that process for the Nov. 3 election would be unconstitutional.” Roselman then detailed that as officials pushed back against the president’s demands, his pressure campaign intensified, sometimes calling officials out by name on social media and urging his supporters to reach out to them and “demand a vote on decertification.”
The committee also displayed a Trump campaign script and corresponding voice-over showing that campaign workers told Republican legislators, “You have the power to reclaim your authority to send a slate of Electors that will support President Trump and Vice President Pence.”
Roselman further detailed that the president and his advisers sometimes directly contacted state officials themselves. For example, he said, Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler “received daily voicemails from Trump’s lawyers in the last week of November.” The committee presented voicemails from Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis on Nov. 26, 27, and 28. After Cutler asked his lawyers to tell Giuliani to stop calling, Trump’s former lawyer nonetheless continued to reach out, saying on Nov. 30, “I understand that you don’t want to talk to me now. I just want to bring some facts to your attention and talk to you as a fellow Republican.” And on Nov. 30, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon urged people to take part in a protest outside Cutler’s home, where Trump supporters later gathered, pushing the speaker to “decertify” the electors’ votes. During the first protest, Cutler told the committee, his 15-year-old son was home alone—and his family had to disconnect their home phone line for a period of three days “because it would ring all hours of the night.”
Rolselman additionally stated that the committee spent millions of dollars publishing ads that placed mounting pressure on election officials. The committee played a montage of protests and threats made against state lawmakers in the lead-up to Jan. 6, with one protester stating that “the punishment for treason is death.”
Rep. Adam Schiff said that the Trump electors and those involved were told that fake slates would be used only if Trump won his legal challenges to the election. For example, Andrew Hitt, former Wisconsin Republican Party chairman, said that he was informed that the electors’ votes “would only count if a court ruled in our favor.”
Committee Investigative Counsel Casey Lucier presented a Nov. 18 memo from Trump campaign lawyer Kenneth Chesebro arguing that the campaign should organize its own electors in the swing states that Joe Biden had won. Chesebro wrote, “Prudence dictates that the ten electors pledged to Trump and Pence meet and cast their votes on December 13 (unless by then the race has been conceded).” Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified that “Mr. Giuliani, several of Mr. Giuliani’s associates, Mr. Meadows, [and] members of Congress” were involved in discussions concerning alternate electors in the weeks preceding the election.
Trump also directly enlisted the help of the Republican National Committee (RNC) to coordinate his effort. Ronna Romney McDaniel, RNC chair, stated during deposition that the president had contacted her and “turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states.”
The committee played footage of Trump campaign lawyers Matt Morgan and Justin Clark stating that they had felt that the plan to convene electors in states that Trump lost was inappropriate. Additionally, Hutchinson confirmed that the White House counsel’s office had told Meadows, Giuliani, and a few of Giuliani’s associates that the plan to have alternate electors meet and cast votes for Trump was “not legally sound.”
The select committee also played footage from an interview with Robert Sinners, a former Trump campaign staffer, who stated that “[w]e were just kind of, kind of useful idiots or rubes at that point. … I’m angry because I think, I think in a sense, you know, no one really cared if, if people were potentially putting themselves in jeopardy.” He further told the committee that he “absolutely would not have” participated in the plan to replace electors had he known that the president’s own legal team was not on board.
Lucier further stated that “documents obtained by the select committee indicate that instructions were given to the electors in several states that they needed to cast their ballots in complete secrecy.” Laura Cox, the former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman, testified that a Trump campaign worker had informed her “that the Michigan Republican electors were planning to meet in the Capitol and hide overnight so that they could fulfill the role of casting their vote … per law in the Michigan chambers.” Cox told the committee she had rejected the idea, telling the worker “in no uncertain terms that that was insane and inappropriate.”
Lucier then asserted that the Trump campaign’s scheme was in fact translated into action:
In one state, the fake electors even asked for a promise that the campaign would pay their legal fees if they got sued or charged with a crime. Ultimately, fake electors did meet on December 14th, 2020 in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin. At the request of the Trump campaign, the electors from these battleground states signed documents falsely asserting that they were the quote, “duly elected electors,” from their state and submitted them to the National Archives and to Vice President Pence in his capacity as President of the Senate.
The committee then presented photos of the fake electoral certificates as compared to their authentic counterparts, noting that the fraudulent documents were legally meaningless. However, Eastman wrote in an email that it didn’t matter that the electors lacked state authority, claiming that “the fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrates the uncertainty of either. That should be enough. … Better for [Pence] just to act boldly and be challenged.”
The committee further displayed text messages showing that the Trump campaign had attempted “to ensure that the physical copies of the fake electors’ electoral votes from two states were delivered to Washington for January 6th.” For example, a staffer for Sen. Ron Johnson texted a Pence staffer minutes prior to the joint session, stating that Johnson wished to hand-deliver the fake electors’ votes from Michigan and Wisconsin to the vice president, to which Pence’s staffer replied, “Do not give that to him.”
The evidence the committee presented on this point is dispositive. There doesn’t seem to be much, if any, dispute about what happened. The question is whether the conduct in question was illegal or whether the conduct in question was so outlandish that it could be seen as something closer to a political protest. Regardless, that it happened seems beyond dispute.
Point #6: Evidence That Trump Assembled a Destructive Group of Rioters in Washington and Sent Them to the Capitol
This is a key point for the Jan. 6 select committee, as it was for the impeachment managers last year in President Trump’s second impeachment trial. The committee presented evidence on this point in the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth hearings—during which the committee set out to argue that Jan. 6 was the result of a months-long chain of actions perpetrated by Trump and supported by his allies. This story predates the election, as the committee claims that in the run-up to November, Trump intended to contest the results in the event of his own electoral defeat. This plan, the committee argues, was the basis of the so-called Big Lie, which incensed Trump’s supporters and brought them to the Capitol on Jan. 6. The committee sought to prove that at each turn, the events that preceded the storming of the Capitol were either Trump’s own doing, or the direct result of his actions.
In the first hearing, the committee laid out a narrative beginning during the presidential debate in September 2020, in which Trump addressed the Proud Boys directly, telling the far-right extremist group to “stand back and stand by.” The committee presented Proud Boys member Jeremy Bertino saying that recruitment skyrocketed after this comment. It further presented several tweets by Trump in December 2020, encouraging his supporters to come and “stop the steal”—or, in the committee’s telling, block the peaceful transfer of power—on Jan. 6. One of Trump’s tweets reads, for example: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C., will take place at 11:00A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”
The committee showed the infamous clip of Trump’s speech on the day of the Capitol breach itself, in which he stated: “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.” It also previewed the argument that Trump’s rhetoric against Vice President Pence on Jan. 6 incensed the rioters, including video of the president stating at 12:05 p.m.:
I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. … All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people. … And if he doesn’t, that will be a, a sad day for our country, because you’ll never, ever take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
The committee argued that Trump’s supporters were moved by his words, displaying footage of one Jan. 6 attendee reading aloud a tweet by Trump alleging that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
The committee also played a montage of Proud Boy interviews in which rioters declared that they had come to Washington because Trump had called them.
The committee presented video footage during the June 23 hearing of President Trump speaking at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, reiterating his allegations:
In the state of Arizona, over 36,000 ballots were illegally cast by non-citizens. 11,600 more ballots than votes were counted, more than there were actual voters. You see that? In Wisconsin, corrupt Democrat-run cities deployed more than 500 illegal, unmanned, unsecured drop boxes, which collected a minimum of 91,000 unlawful votes.
In these hearings, at least, it was unclear whether the committee is in a position to move the evidentiary ball on whether Trump intended to provoke a riot or merely behaved recklessly.
In the June 28 hearing, by contrast, the committee began in earnest to provide the details specifically about the days surrounding Jan. 6 that really do establish a degree of intentionality and planning on Trump’s part.
This hearing featured Cassidy Hutchinson, a special assistant to the president in the White House chief of staff’s office, who began her testimony by recounting a conversation she had with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on the night of Jan. 2. Hutchinson, paraphrasing Giuliani, said he asked her if she was excited for Jan. 6, saying it would “be a great day.” Giuliani then said, “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president’s going to be there. He’s going to look powerful. He’s gonna be with the members. He’s going to be with the senators. Talk to [Meadows] about it …. He knows about it.”
Hutchinson testified that when she discussed with Meadows the conversation she had with Giuliani about Trump going to the Capitol on Jan. 6, the chief of staff said “something to the effect of there’s a lot going on … I don’t know. Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.” Hutchinson stated that in the days leading up to Jan. 2, she “had heard general plans for a rally.” She also said that before Jan. 2, she had “heard tentative movements to potentially go to the Capitol.”
Hutchinson said in an interview with the committee that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe “didn’t want much to do with the post-election period.” Hutchinson stated that Ratcliffe opposed the White House’s various efforts to challenge the results of the election. And he believed these efforts were “dangerous for the president’s legacy” and that they “could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous either for our democracy or the way that things were going for” Jan. 6.” According to Hutchinson, Ratcliffe also expressed concerns about the precedential effects of the White House’s postelection conduct.
The committee showed video footage of former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying that Trump “wanted to be a part of the march [to the Capitol] in some fashion.” Hutchinson stated that the president was “unhappy” because Mark Meadows did not work hard enough to get his motorcade to the Capitol.
Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney presented photos showing Trump confidant Roger Stone surrounded by a “security detail” of members from the Oath Keepers far-right anti-government group on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, noting that multiple members of the extremist organization have been charged with or pleaded guilty to crimes associated with the Capitol riot over the past year. According to Hutchinson’s testimony, Trump had instructed Meadows to contact both Stone and former Trump adviser Michael Flynn on the eve of Jan. 6 regarding the next day’s events, which Meadows did. Further, Hutchinson stated with respect to the so-called war room that Giuliani, attorney John Eastman, and others had set up at the Willard Hotel on the same evening, that Meadows had made transportation plans to attend a meeting there. Hutchinson stated that she “had made it clear” to Meadows that she “didn’t believe it was a smart idea for him to go to the Willard Hotel” because she “knew enough about what Mr. Giuliani and his associates were pushing during this period.” Meadows ultimately “dropped the subject … and said that he would dial in instead.”
Cheney then presented footage from an interview with Flynn, during which she asked him whether he believed that the violence on Jan. 6 was justified, both in a moral and in a legal sense. Flynn pleaded the Fifth. She also asked Flynn whether he believed in the peaceful transition of power in the U.S., to which Flynn responded, again, “the Fifth.”
Hutchinson testified that both Giuliani and Meadows suggested that they were interested in receiving a presidential pardon related to Jan. 6.
This point follows evidence presented in the June 23 hearing, when the committee also presented evidence detailing requests made by Republican congressmen for presidential pardons related to their roles in the insurrection. The committee displayed an email sent by Rep. Mo Brooks to the White House on Jan. 11, which requested “all purpose” pardons for all members of Congress who objected to the certification of the electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona.
Further, Rep. Adam Kinzinger asserted that witnesses informed the committee that Trump “considered offering pardons to a wide range of individuals connected to the president.” Former White House lawyer Herschmann testified during a video deposition that Rep. Matt Gaetz requested a pardon from the president that covered all actions “from the beginning of time up until today.” Herschmann said the “general tone was we may get prosecuted because we were defensive of … the president’s positions on these things.”
Hutchinson testified that Gaetz and Brooks pushed for blanket pardons for all members who participated in a Dec. 21 meeting with the president related to overturning the election, in addition to for other members who were not at that meeting. Hutchinson said Gaetz had been advocating for a pardon since early December 2020, and that he reached out to Hutchinson to inquire about setting up a meeting with Meadows to discuss a pardon.
Hutchinson stated that several other members of Congress contacted her about pardons too. In addition to Gaetz and Brooks, Hutchinson said that Reps. Louie Gohmert, Scott Perry, and Andy Biggs asked about receiving presidential pardons, and Rep. Jim Jordan spoke about pardons for members of Congress generally but did not request one for himself specifically. Hutchinson also noted that although Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene did not contact her, Hutchinson heard that she had asked the White House counsel’s office about receiving a pardon.
John McEntee, the former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, testified that Gaetz told him that he asked Meadows for a presidential pardon. McEntee also said that he had heard references to a blanket pardon for all people involved in the activities on Jan. 6, and he also said that Trump floated the idea of pardoning all members of his staff before leaving office.
Rep. Jamie Raskin said that on Dec. 18, Trump’s outside advisers met with him to discuss extraordinary steps Trump could take toward his objective of overturning the election results—a meeting that has since “been called unhinged, not normal, and the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency.” In it, Trump’s advisers brought a draft executive order that “proposed the immediate mass seizure of state election machines by the U.S. military”—an idea that was apparently rejected by the end of the meeting. Trump was dissatisfied with his options, Raskin stated, and decided shortly thereafter that he would “call for a large and wild crowd” to come to Washington on Jan. 6. The result was a 1:42 a.m. tweet:
Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK. A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!
The committee presented extensive evidence about this meeting and how it led to the tweet calling for the Jan. 6 rally. The bottom line is that, at the meeting, Trump was presented with a set of wildly unlawful options for overturning the election by his outside advisers, each of which was derailed by the White House counsel’s office. After the meeting broke up, his conventional options cut off, Trump sent the tweet summoning the crowd.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy stated that after Dec. 14, it was clear to members of Trump’s Cabinet and his White House staff that Joe Biden was the rightful president-elect. For example, then-Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia described calling Trump in mid-December and “convey[ing] to [the president] that [he] thought that it was time for him to acknowledge that President Biden had prevailed in the election” and explicitly communicating that the legal process had been exhausted. Murphy additionally played video from the committee’s interviews with former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and former Attorney General William Barr to show that both men had testified that Trump should have conceded after the Electoral College vote certification on Dec. 14. Cipollone also testified that Meadows had repeatedly assured him and Barr, beginning in late November and continuing into December, that Trump would eventually agree to a graceful exit. The committee showed footage of Kayleigh McEnany and Ivanka Trump confirming that they understood by Dec. 14 that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election should have stopped. Judd Deere, former White House deputy press secretary, additionally described telling the president that at that point, “the means for him to pursue litigation was probably closed.”
Hutchinson testified about conversations she had with John Ratcliffe, Trump’s director of national intelligence, during which Ratcliffe expressed concern that Trump’s denial “could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous, either for our democracy or the way that things were going for the sixth.”
Cipollone testified that he “agreed with Attorney General Barr’s conclusion on December 1st,” in reference to Barr’s public statement that there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.
Raskin presented footage of Barr testifying that Trump suggested that he have the Department of Justice seize voting machines, which Barr informed Trump he would not do given the lack of probable cause. However, Raskin stated, Barr’s rejection was not the end of the matter. Displaying a draft executive order dated Dec. 16, 2020, Raskin explained that on the evening of Dec. 18, a group including attorney Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn arrived at the White House for an unplanned meeting with Trump. The document in question read, “Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines,” and was drafted, Raskin claimed, by the president’s outside advisers. Raskin stated that the order detailed a specific plan, in which Trump would name Powell as special counsel, affording her the power to seize voting machines and institute criminal and civil proceedings in line with the operation. Raskin then played footage of Cipollone stating that he was “vehemently opposed” to appointing Powell “to anything.” Cipollone said that the federal government’s seizure of voting machines was “a terrible idea for the country.”
“For all of its absurdity,” Raskin asserted, “the December 18th meeting was critically important because President Trump got to watch up close for several hours as his White House counsel and other White House lawyers destroyed the baseless factual claims and ridiculous legal arguments” that Powell and Flynn presented.
According to Raskin, the “heated and profane” Dec. 18 meeting went on for more than six hours, beginning in the Oval Office, moving around in the West Wing, and eventually ending up in the president’s private residence. He stated that the select committee spoke with “six of the participants, as well as staffers who could hear the screaming from outside the Oval Office.”
Raskin played a montage of interview clips from participants who described the meeting. Powell told the committee that her group had “probably no more than 10 or 15 minutes” alone with the president before White House advisers arrived that evening, stating, “I bet Pat Cipollone set a new land speed record” in getting there. Cipollone testified that when he opened the door to the Oval Office, he “was not happy” to see Flynn and Powell inside because he thought they were providing the president with bad advice. Cipollone didn’t understand how they had gained entry into the White House.
Powell said that the president had been “very interested” in the group’s presentation in the time they had alone. Herschmann stated that he prodded the outside advisers on their conspiracies, and Flynn “took out a diagram that supposedly showed IP addresses all over the world” to make a point about voting machines. Derek Lyons, former White House staff secretary, testified that “at times, there were people shouting at each other” and “hurling insults at each other.” Cipollone said that he, Herschmann, and Lyons were asking “one simple question, as a general matter: Where is the evidence?”
The group responded with, in Cipollone’s words, “a general disregard for the importance of actually backing up what you say with facts.”
Lyons stated the outside advisers had also said that they didn’t have the evidence at that moment but would have it later. For her part, Powell asserted, “If it had been me sitting in his chair, I would have fired all of them [Trump’s advisers who rejected the claims of election fraud] that night.”
Herschmann testified that when Powell said that the judges who had ruled against them were corrupt, he responded to the effect of, “Every one? Every single case that you’ve done in the country you guys lost, every one of them is corrupt? Even the ones we appointed?”
Giuliani said he called the lawyers “a bunch of pussies.” Herschmann stated that Flynn was screaming at him, calling him a “quitter.”
Lyons confirmed that Trump told the White House lawyers that they weren’t offering him any solutions, while Powell and the others were, and therefore it was worth considering what the outside advisers were proposing. Powell stated that Trump had named her special counsel and had given her security clearance that evening, but the White House lawyers had responded, “[Y]ou can name her whatever you want to name her, and no one’s going to pay any attention to it.”
Trump replied something along the lines of, “You see what I deal with? I deal with this all the time.” In Cipollone’s view, Powell “hadn’t been appointed to anything, because there had to be other steps taken.” However, Cipollone conceded, it did seem that Powell may have believed in the days that followed that she had been appointed special counsel in that meeting. Raskin reminded viewers that Powell “was ultimately sanctioned by a federal court and sued by Dominion Voting Systems for defamation.” He presented excerpts from Dominion Voting Systems v. Powell, stating that Powell had defended herself by arguing that “no reasonable person would concede that the statements were truly statements of fact.”
The committee displayed a Dec. 28 email from Trump adviser Bernard Kerik to Meadows, which stated: “We can do all the investigations we want later. But if the president plans on winning, it’s the legislators that have to be moved, and this will do just that.” Later, Kerik’s lawyer told the select committee that “it was impossible for Mr. Kerik and his team to determine conclusively whether there was widespread fraud or whether that widespread fraud would have altered the outcome of the election.”
When asked about the evidence that Giuliani’s team provided, former Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller stated, “[T]o say that it was thin is probably an understatement.”
Hutchinson told the committee that after Meadows began to acknowledge that there wasn’t enough voter fraud to overturn the election result, she witnessed him “start to explore potential constitutional loopholes more extensively.”
The meeting with Trump’s outside advisers ended after midnight, Raskin stated, displaying text messages sent by Hutchinson calling it “unhinged” and showing a photo of Meadows “escorting Rudy off-campus to make sure he didn’t wander back to the mansion.”
It was shortly after the meeting ended, apparently in response to his failure to get from the legal team what he wanted, that Trump tweeted to call for a “big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” repeating the Big Lie, and urging his followers to “be there” and “be wild.”
The committee’s presentation did not present overwhelming evidence that the Jan. 6 protests were planned by the White House, the Trump campaign, or by Trump himself. It did, however, present overwhelming evidence that the protests were planned specifically in response to the president’s tweet and with ongoing engagement with senior White House aides, some of them discomfited, and Trump allies.
Raskin showed evidence supporting the point that Trump’s followers began mobilizing immediately in response to the tweet. For example, just hours after Trump sent this tweet, a pro-Trump organizing group requested to change their rally permit for Jan. 22-Jan. 23 to Jan. 6 instead. On Dec. 19, Ali Alexander, the leader of the “Stop the Steal” organization, registered Wildprotest.com, a site providing information for times, speakers, and transportation details for the protest on Jan. 6.
Immediately after Trump sent his tweet, moreover, numerous other far-right figures, including Alex Jones, called upon people to come to D.C. on Jan. 6 to show up for the president and take action to protest the election results. “We’re going to only be saved by millions of Americans moving to Washington, occupying the entire area if — if necessary storming right into the Capitol …. If you have enough people, you can push down any kind of a fence or a wall,” said right-wing commentator Matt Bracken.
Raskin then introduced testimony from a Twitter employee on the team managing the platform’s content moderation policies throughout 2020 and 2021. The anonymous former employee stated that after Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” on Sept. 29, the platform considered taking stricter measures but ultimately chose not to act. “If former President Donald Trump were any other user on Twitter, he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago,” the former employee stated.
Raskin presented more of the online responses to the president’s invitation, including one post that read, “It ‘will be wild’ means we need volunteers for the firing squad.” Another stated, “I’m ready to die for my beliefs. are you ready to die police?” Jim Watkins, the founder and owner of the anonymous message board 8kun, testified that he decided to go to D.C. on Jan. 6 directly because of Trump’s tweet. Jody Williams, founder of the openly racist and anti-Semitic forum thedonald.win, stated that the content on the site shifted to focus on Jan. 6 after the president’s Dec. 19 tweet. Raskin asserted that “thedonald.win featured discussions of the tunnels beneath the Capitol complex, suggestions for targeting members of Congress, and encouragement to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event.”
The committee presented a statement from Donell Harvin, the former chief of homeland security and intelligence for the District of Columbia, in which he said that the Department of Homeland Security had received open source intelligence information suggesting that violent individuals were making arrangements to come to Washington, and that nonaligned groups were forming together. He described this coordination as “armed militia … collaborating with white supremacy groups, collaborating with conspiracy theory groups online, all toward a common goal.” Harvin said these groups were “coordinating” across multiple platforms and asking one another questions related to Jan. 6 such as, “What are you bringing?” “What are you wearing?” “Where do we meet up?” and “Do you have plans for the Capitol?”
The committee presented evidence from a chat that included former Trump adviser Roger Stone, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and Ali Alexander. The chat included discussion of pro-Trump events that took place in November and December 2020, in addition to the activities of Jan. 6. For example, Rhodes urged members of the chat to try to push people to go to their state capitols if they were unable to attend the first Million MAGA March, which was to take place on Nov. 14. According to Raskin, members of this chat “had a significant presence at multiple pro-Trump events after the election, including in Washington on December the 12th.”
The committee presented video footage of Rhodes giving a speech to a pro-Trump crowd in Washington on Dec. 12, in which he said, “We need to know from you that you are with [Trump], that he does not do it now while he is commander in chief, we're going to have to do it ourselves later in a much more desperate, much more bloody war.” Raskin notes that on the evening of Dec. 12, after Rhodes had given this speech, members of the Proud Boys conducted violent activities in Washington and “hurled aggressive insults at the police.” The committee displayed video footage illustrating this violent rhetoric.
Raskin asserted that Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet motivated the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, which Raskin says have historically not collaborated, “to coordinate their activities.” The committee presented a tweet sent by Kelly Meggs, the indicted leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, hours after Trump sent his Dec. 19 tweet, in which Meggs wrote, “[W]e are ready for the rioters, this week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys. We have decided to work together and shut this shit down.” Raskin said that phone records reveal that later that day, Meggs called and spoke with Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader.
The committee showed a video taken on Dec. 11, in which Owen Shroyer, the co-host of the alt-right news show InfoWars, said that Trump supporters would “be back in January”—as he stood alongside Roger Stone and Tarrio.
Raskin said that high-level figures in the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers collaborated with Trump allies, such as Michael Flynn. The committee presented a photograph from Dec. 12 of Flynn and Patrick Byrne, the Trump ally and former CEO of Overstock.com, walking with Roberto Minuta, an indicted member of the Oath Keepers. Another photo from that same day shows Flynn walking with Stewart Rhodes.
Raskin stated that between the time of the election and Jan. 6, Roger Stone communicated with members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on a regular basis. Kellye SoRelle, a lawyer who represents the Oath Keepers and who worked on a voluntary basis for the Trump administration, said that Stone, Alexander, and Alex Jones, the creator of InfoWars, “became the center point for everything” having to do with the “Stop the Steal” rallies.
Raskin stated that the Proud Boys created an encrypted chat, called the Ministry of Self Defense, in which participants discussed “strategic and tactical planning about January the sixth—including maps of Washington, D.C., that pinpoint the location of police.” Raskin also detailed Stone’s connections to the Proud Boys, showing that Stone has taken the group’s “fraternity creed required for the first level of initiation to the group.”
The committee displayed encrypted chat messages between Meggs and Stone regarding security on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. The committee also presented a photograph of Stone on Jan. 6 being guarded by two members of the Oath Keepers who have since been indicted for seditious conspiracy. Raskin said that one of Stone’s guards on Jan. 6, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges, stated that the Oath Keepers were prepared to use “lethal force, if necessary, against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard.”
Rep. Murphy said that Katrina Pierson, an organizer of the Jan. 6 rally and former campaign spokeswoman for Trump, became apprehensive about the planned lineup of speakers at the Jan. 6 rally. This lineup included Stone, Jones, and Alexander. According to Murphy, Pierson communicated with another rally organizer on Dec. 30 about why these people were speaking at the rally. Pierson wrote in this text exchange that the president was driving this selection of speakers, stating, “[Trump] likes the crazies.” When speaking with the committee during a deposition about Trump’s desire for these “crazies” to speak, Pierson said, “He loved people who viciously defended him in public.”
Murphy stated that on Jan. 2, Pierson contacted Meadows, writing about Jan. 6, “Things have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction, please.” Meadows then called Pierson eight minutes later. Pierson said she told Meadows on that call that “[s]ome [of the speakers] were very suspect, but they’re going to be on other … stages, some on other days.” Pierson said she gave Meadows “[a] very, very brief overview of what was actually happening and why I raised the red flags.” Pierson said she described the nature of some of her concerns to Meadows:
I think I even texted him some of my concerns, but I did briefly go over some of the concerns that I had raised to everybody with Alex Jones or Ali Alexander and some of the rhetoric that they were doing. I probably mentioned to him that they had already caused trouble at other capitols—or at the previous event, the previous march that they did for protesting. And I just had a concern about it.
Murphy noted that Pierson was particularly concerned about Jones and Alexander because in November 2020, the two men had entered the Georgia capitol building along with their supporters to protest the outcome of the 2020 election. According to Murphy, Pierson believed she referenced this specific concern in her conversation with Meadows during this call. Murphy said that after Pierson’s call with Meadows, Pierson sent an email to other organizers of the rally, in which she wrote that the president was expecting to have a small gathering at the Ellipse and that he would urge the crowd to march to the Capitol.
The committee presented an undated draft tweet, which was never sent, which would have presumably come from the president’s account. The draft tweet read, “I will be making a Big Speech at 10AM on January 6th at the Ellipse (South of the White House). Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!” The document depicting the tweet contains a stamp noting that the president had seen the tweet.
The committee also presented a text message sent by a rally organizer to Mike Lindell, the outspoken Trump supporter and CEO of MyPillow, which noted:
This stays only between us, we are having a second stage at the Supreme Court again after the ellipse. POTUS is going to have us march there/the Capitol. It cannot get out about the second stage because people will try and set up another and Sabotage it. It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it “unexpectedly.”
The committee showed that Alexander texted a conservative journalist on the morning of Jan. 5, writing that the plan was: “Ellipse then US capitol. Trump is supposed to order us to capitol at the end of his speech but we will see.”
Murphy said that in the weeks after the election, the White House worked closely with Trump’s supporters in Congress to spread false claims of election fraud and to galvanize the public to “fight the outcome on January 6.” Specifically, Murphy stated that “the president met with various members to discuss January 6 well before the joint session.” The committee showed an image of the president’s private schedule for Dec. 21, 2020, which included a meeting with Republican members of Congress. Murphy said that Pence, Meadows, and Giuliani also attended that meeting.
The committee also presented an email sent by Rep. Brooks to Meadows, setting up that Dec. 21 meeting. In the email, Brooks noted that he had not requested that anyone assist him in the “January 6 effort,” because he believed “only citizens can exert the necessary influence on Senators and Congressmen to join this fight against massive voter fraud and election theft.” Murphy noted that White House visitor logs show that the following Republican members of Congress visited the White House on Dec. 21: Reps. Brian Babin, Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Andy Harris, Jody Hice, Jim Jordan, and Scott Perry, and Representative-Elect Marjorie Taylor Greene. Murphy said that part of this meeting covered Pence’s role in counting the electoral votes on Jan. 6—including discussion of Trump lawyer John Eastman’s theory that Pence had the unilateral authority to overturn the results of the election.
Murphy stated that Rep. Cheney, the then-chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, sent a memorandum to House Republicans in the days preceding Jan. 6 explaining some of the legal rulings that had rejected the claims of election fraud and the baseless nature of the objections to the electoral count.
The committee displayed White House phone logs that show the president spoke with his former adviser Steve Bannon at least two times on Jan. 5—first at 8:57 a.m. and again at 9:46 p.m. The committee also played video footage of Bannon speaking on Jan. 5 after his first call with Trump. Bannon said during this clip, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s all converging and now we’re on, as they say, the point of attack, right, the point of attack tomorrow. I’ll tell you this, it’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen, Okay? It’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in.”
Murphy said that Trump asked White House staff to come to the Oval Office on the evening of Jan. 5—while Trump supporters held a rally at Freedom Plaza. Trump aide Nicholas Luna testified during a committee deposition that Trump asked him to open the door of the Oval Office so that he could hear, apparently referring to the noise coming from his supporters’ rally. Luna also said that there was “a lot of energy” in the Oval Office at that time. Sarah Matthews, another aide present in the Oval Office during that time, said that “the president was dictating a tweet that he wanted [Deputy Chief of Staff Dan] Scavino to send out. Then the president started talking about the rally the next day. He had the door of the Oval open to the Rose Garden because you could hear the crowd already assembled outside on the Ellipse.” Matthews said that it seemed Trump “was in a fantastic mood that evening.”
Judd Deere, the former deputy press secretary, said that Trump asked whether members of Congress would vote not to certify the results of the election. Deere said he told the president that he believed the president’s speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 “should focus on policy accomplishments,” to which Trump responded by acknowledging that the administration had a significant number of accomplishments before moving quickly “to how fired up the crowd … was going to be.”
Deere noted that Trump also said the crowd would be angry and that “[t]hey feel like the election’s been stolen, the election was rigged.” According to Deere, Trump repeatedly referenced the loudness of the crowd on the evening of Jan. 5. Matthews stated that during that evening in the Oval Office, Trump asked the staff how he could convince the Republican members of Congress who were likely to certify the electoral votes to change their minds. According to Matthews, “[N]o one spoke up initially, because I think everyone was trying to process what … he meant by that.” Shealah Craighead, a former White House photographer, testified that during this time in the Oval Office, Trump was discussing when and how to go to the Capitol, apparently on Jan. 6.
The committee presented video footage of Trump supporters at the Freedom Plaza rally on Jan. 5, including statements from Stone, Flynn, Alexander, and Jones. Stone called the fight to overturn the election “nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of this country, between dark and light, between the godly and the godless, between good and evil. And we will win this fight or America would step off into a thousand years of darkness.” Flynn said that “tomorrow we the people are going to be here. And we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.” Alexander said, “I want them to know that 1776 is always an option. These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want or we are going to shut this country down.”
The committee displayed a tweet sent by Trump at 5:05 p.m. on Jan. 5, as the Freedom Plaza rally was underway. The tweet read, “Washington is being inundated with people who don’t want to see an election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats. Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore! We hear you (and love you) from the Oval Office. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Murphy stated that on the evening of Jan. 5 and into the morning of Jan. 6 (when the president spoke with his chief speechwriter Stephen Miller for more than 25 minutes), Trump edited his Ellipse speech to incorporate the sentiment of his 5:05 p.m. tweet. Trump added to the speech, “all of us are here today, do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.” Trump also added, “together we will stop the steal.” The president also revised his speech to include reference to Pence, adding, “we will see whether Mike Pence enters history as a truly great and courageous leader. All he has to do is refer the illegally submitted electoral votes back to the states that were given false and fraudulent information where they want to recertify.”
Miller testified in a committee deposition that Trump lawyer Herschmann objected to including this language regarding the vice president in the Ellipse speech, and Murphy said the speechwriters initially heeded this advice and removed the discussion of Pence from the speech. But Murphy stated that after a phone call on the morning of Jan. 6 between Trump and Pence in which Pence said that he would not unilaterally refuse to count the electoral votes, one of the president’s staffers, Robert Gabriel, instructed the speechwriters in an email to “REINSERT THE MIKE PENCE LINES. Confirm receipt.” Trump speechwriter Vincent Haley described this change to the speech in a deposition: “[A]s I recall, there was a very tough, a tough sentence about the vice president that was … added.”
Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford, testified that it appeared that Ivanka recognized that the president was angry following his call with Pence and that Ivanka “felt like she might be able to help calm the situation down at least before [the president] went on to stage.” Ivanka disputed this characterization.
Murphy noted that Trump’s Ellipse speech included the Pence-related revisions he had requested, in addition to other significant ad-libbed additions. The written speech, for example, made only one reference to Pence. But Trump mentioned the vice president eight times. Trump also made the ad-libbed addition that he would be joining his supporters at the Capitol. The committee presented video clips of ad-libbed sections of Trump’s Ellipse speech. Included was this statement: “[Y]ou’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.” Trump said, “I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do.” Trump also added this incendiary language: “We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.” Finally, Trump said to his supporters, “So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Murphy stated that there were significant concerns at Twitter on Jan. 5 about the potential for violence on Jan. 6. An unidentified witness from Twitter testified during a deposition with the committee that he had been trying for months to convince Twitter to act to stem violence related to claims made by Trump supporters and violent extremist groups. The individual stated that he believed violence related to these claims would result in people dying. The witness said that “on January 5th, [he] realized no intervention was coming” and that Twitter was “at the whims and the mercy of a violent crowd that was locked and loaded.”
The committee presented a Jan. 5 statement from Rep. Debbie Lasko—who propagated baseless claims of election fraud. Lasko said she “asked leadership to come up with a safety plan for members” and that she was very concerned about the potential for violence because of the “hundreds of thousands of people coming [to the Capitol].” Lasko clarified that in addition to being concerned about Antifa, she was also fearful of what Trump supporters would do: “We also have, quite honestly, Trump supporters who actually believe that we are going to overturn the election. And when that doesn’t happen, most likely will not happen, they are going to go nuts.”
The committee presented a text exchange between Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson that took place during the evening of Jan. 6. Parscale wrote, “This is about trump pushing for uncertainty in our country.” He continued, “A sitting president asking for civil war.”
Parscale then wrote, “This week I feel guilty for helping him win,” to which Pierson responded, “You did what you felt right at the time and therefore it was right.” Parscale wrote, “Yeah. But a woman is dead.”
Pierson replied, “You do realize this was going to happen.” Parscale then wrote, “Yeah. If I was trump and knew my rhetoric killed someone.”
When Pierson responded, “It wasn’t the rhetoric,” Parscale said, “Katrina.” “Yes it was.”
Former Trump supporter and participant in the Jan. 6 riot Stephen Ayres testified that he was deeply engaged with social media in the period preceding Jan. 6, and that he followed Trump on these platforms. Ayres said that when Trump wrote that his supporters should come to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, he felt he needed to come support Trump and protest the results of the election—which Ayres viewed as fraudulent at the time. Ayres also noted that he had friends who he knew were going to the rally, and he decided that he would come with them.
When asked whether he still believes the election was stolen, Ayres said, “Not so much now,” and noted that the failure of Trump’s lawsuits are what eventually convinced him that the claims of election fraud were baseless. Ayres testified that knowing the president had no evidence for his allegations of election fraud would have had a significant impact on his views regarding overturning the election, and Ayres said he “may not have come” to Washington on Jan. 6 if he had known at the time that Trump’s claims lacked merit.
Ayres testified that when he arrived at the Ellipse rally on the morning of Jan.6, he had not planned to go to the Capitol. When Murphy asked Ayres why he ended up going to the Capitol, Ayres said, “Well, basically, you know, the president got everybody riled up and told everybody to head on down. So we basically was [sic] just following what he said.” Ayres testified that on Jan. 6, he viewed the organized extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers favorably, and he thought their presence “was a good thing.”
Ayres said that when he began marching from the Ellipse to the Capitol, he still believed the election might be overturned. Ayres noted that members of the marching crowd were hopeful that Pence would refuse to certify the electoral votes. And he said there was discussion among the crowd of a “big reveal”—which Ayres and others suspected might be the revelation that Pence had decided not to count the electoral votes. Ayres added that “everybody thought [the president] was going to be coming down [to the Capitol].”
Ayres testified that he and others decided to leave the Capitol “[b]asically, when President Trump put his tweet out. We literally left right after that came out. You know, to me if he would have done that earlier in the day, 1:30, I—you know, we wouldn't be in this—maybe we wouldn't be in this bad of a situation or something.” Ayres said that as soon as Trump sent out this tweet, “everybody started talking about it and … it seemed like [the crowd] started to disperse …. [The president’s tweet] definitely dispersed a lot of the crowd.”
Ayres testified that since he participated in the insurrection on Jan. 6, he lost his job and dealt with other challenges—including his prosecution. Ayres also said Trump’s continued peddling of the Big Lie makes him angry.
The former Oath Keepers spokesman and committee witness Jason Van Tatenhove testified that an invocation of the Insurrection Act provided Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, with “a sense of legitimacy” and “a path forward to move forward with his goals and agendas.” Van Tatenhove said that Rhodes “was always looking for ways to legitimize what he was doing.” According to Van Tatenhove, Rhodes’s attempts at legitimacy included mischaracterizing and whitewashing his intentions and the activities of the Oath Keepers.
He said that Rhodes “had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader, and the Insurrection Act would have given him a path forward with that.” Van Tatenhove added, “the fact that the President was communicating, whether directly or indirectly messaging, you know, kind of that gave him the nod. And all I can do is thank the gods that things did not go any worse that day.” Van Tatenhove said that in Trump, the Oath Keepers “saw a path forward that would have legitimacy. They saw opportunity, I think, in my opinion, to become a paramilitary force.”
Raskin stated that the Justice Department indicated the previous week that it has evidence that in addition to firearms, the Oath Keepers brought explosives to Washington before Jan. 6. Raskin also said the committee has discovered that Rhodes stopped to purchase weapons on his way to Washington and before Jan. 6 sent approximately $7,000 worth of tactical gear to an individual in Virginia helping to plan the Jan. 6 rally.
Van Tatenhove testified that he had experienced Rhodes discussing executing violent acts against political leaders in the past. Specifically, Van Tatenhove stated that when he was still a member of the Oath Keepers, Rhodes asked Van Tatenhove to create “a deck of cards,” that represented different political leaders whom Rhodes, in theory, wanted to kill. Van Tatenhove noted that he refused this request. Van Tatenhove said, “There was always the … push for military training, including there were … courses in that community that went over explosives training.” The former Oath Keeper spokesman said that “as tragic as it is that we saw on January 6th, the potential was so much more. Again, all we have to look at is the iconic images of that day with the gallows set up for Mike Pence, for the Vice President of the United States.”
In the eighth hearing, Cheney presented a Feb. 13, 2021, video that showed Sen. Mitch McConnell stating that “[a] mob was assaulting the Capitol in [Trump’s] name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. He was the only one.” Later in the hearing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger played additional footage from this statement, with McConnell asserting:
There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.
Rep. Elaine Luria presented footage from 1:10 p.m. on Jan. 6, the closing of Trump’s Ellipse speech, during which the president repeated, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.” In recorded testimony, an anonymous security official described being in “a state of shock” while working in the White House on Jan. 6 because it was clear that “the president wanted to lead tens of thousands of people to the Capitol” and they “all knew that this would move from a normal, democratic, you know, public event into something else.”
In short, while the committee did not present evidence that Trump or the White House organized the rally, it did present substantial evidence that the rally was organized in response to Trump’s call, that Trump intended from the beginning that the rally would result in a march to the Capitol, that he intended to participate in that rally, and that he called for the rally in response to the failure of his efforts to subvert the election results. It presented evidence that he was aware of, and content with, the possibility of violence and that there were at least contacts between his White House staff and extremist groups.
Point #7: Evidence That During the Attack, Trump Ignored Requests to Speak Out and Failed to Act Quickly
The evidence on this point begins with a fact that was already obvious to the public since Jan. 6 itself: that Trump was missing in action for hours, from the time he returned to the White House from the Ellipse at 1:19 p.m. to the time he finally went to the Rose Garden and filmed a video telling his supporters to go home at 4:03 p.m.
The committee, however, significantly amplified the point by delivering specific evidence that (1) Trump’s own family, White House staff, high-level administration officials, and political allies pushed him to do more to condemn the attack both as violence escalated on Jan. 6 and after it had occurred, and that (2) the situation had in fact been an incredibly dangerous national emergency—which Trump was aware of in the critical hours of the riot, yet did not seek to impede.
In the June 9 hearing, Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney quoted a document written by a White House staff member seeking to advise Trump on how to act amid the riot. The document says, “Anyone who entered the Capitol without proper authority should leave immediately.” Despite this guidance, Trump did not tell the rioters to leave the Capitol, and the president did not “call … any element of the United States government to instruct that the Capitol be defended.” Specifically, Cheney noted, Trump did not call the secretary of defense, and he did not speak to the acting attorney general or the Department of Homeland Security. Trump also did not order the deployment of the National Guard, and he did not attempt to work with the Justice Department to deploy law enforcement personnel. Cheney noted that Trump said to his staff that his supporters “were doing what they should be doing.”
During the fifth hearing, the committee presented evidence that President Trump did not speak with Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen or Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue on Jan. 6. Rosen testified that in addition to speaking with Justice Department officials, he communicated with senior White House officials and members of Congress on the day of the insurrection. And Rosen said he spoke twice with Vice President Pence on Jan. 6. On the first call, Rosen updated the vice president about the Justice Department’s efforts related to the attack. The second conversation was a conference call regarding what time Congress would be able to reassemble to finish counting the electoral votes. Rosen also noted that the department sent more than 500 agents and officers from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service to support the effort to secure the Capitol.
Donoghue testified that he assisted in the effort to reconvene the joint session of Congress on the evening of Jan. 6. He said that he participated in a briefing for Pence on Jan. 6, and Donoghue noted that, like Rosen, he spoke with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and the congressional leadership.
The Capitol Police distributed “a special event assessment” on Jan. 3, which noted that the Proud Boys and other pro-Trump groups planned to come to Washington and appeared to identify Congress as their target on Jan. 6. Additionally, the Justice Department’s National Security Division identified plans among Trump supporters to “occupy federal buildings” and “invad[e] the capitol building” and notified Donoghue by email on Jan. 4.
Donoghue said in audio testimony, “We knew that if you have tens of thousands of very upset people showing up in Washington, D.C., that there was potential for violence.” The U.S. Secret Service’s Intelligence Division also emailed White House personnel several times with evidence of Trump supporters’ plans to come to Washington and invade the Capitol building.
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Meadows, stated in an interview with the committee that during a call she received from National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Jan. 4, O’Brien requested to speak with Meadows about “words of violence that he was hearing that were potentially going to happen on the Hill on January 6.” Hutchinson said she then asked O’Brien if he had communicated with Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Tony Ornato. O’Brien responded that he would speak with Ornato.
Cheney stated that in the days preceding Jan. 6, “[t]he White House continued to receive updates about planned demonstrations, including information regarding the Proud Boys organizing and planning to attend events on January 6th.” Hutchinson testified that she “recall[ed] hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boys closer to the planning of the January 6 rally, when Mr. Giuliani would be around.”
Hutchinson also asserted that on Jan. 4, Ornato had informed Meadows about intelligence reports indicating “that there could potentially be violence on the sixth.” Hutchinson said that the Secret Service received reports about violence and the presence of weapons on the night of Jan. 5 and consistently during the day on Jan. 6. These reports included the arrests of individuals who possessed firearms or ammunition after a pro-Trump rally in Freedom Plaza on the night of Jan. 5.
Cheney stated that the committee has found that people who entered an enclosed space for Trump’s Ellipse speech were screened with metal detectors. A Secret Service intelligence report presented by the committee stated that certain individuals waiting to pass through the magnetometers to access the enclosed area where Trump spoke at the Ellipse were found “wearing ballistic helmets, body armor, and carrying radio equipment and military grade backpacks.” This report was circulated between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on Jan. 6. Cheney said there were also several thousand individuals who refused to pass through the metal detectors and remained outside of the enclosed area where Trump spoke.
The committee obtained police radio transmissions that indicated that individuals with firearms, including AR-15s, were near the Ellipse on the morning of the riot. In one such recording, an officer describes a man who had climbed a tree and possessed an AR-15 and others “who had Glock-style pistols in their waistbands.” Another officer said she saw “three men walking down the street [near the intersection of 14th Street and Independence Avenue] in fatigues. One’s carrying an AR-15.” The committee displayed another Secret Service intelligence report that said the Metropolitan Police Department was “responding to the area of 15th [Street] & Constitution [Avenue] for a report of a man with a rifle.” This report was distributed between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. on Jan. 6.
Hutchinson stated that she attended a meeting on the morning of Jan. 6 that included Meadows and Ornato. Hutchinson said she and Ornato spoke with Meadows at approximately 10:00 a.m. During that conversation, according to Hutchinson, Ornato said individuals near the Ellipse had “knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles. Spears were one item, flagpoles were one item. But then [Ornato] had related to me something to the effect of … these effing people are fastening spears onto the ends of flagpoles.” Hutchinson said Meadows did not look up from his phone while Ornato described the weapons these individuals possessed.
Meadows then asked Ornato whether he had spoken with Trump, and Ornato said the president was aware of the information Ornato had just relayed to Meadows. In response, Meadows said, “Alright, good.” Hutchinson testified that Ornato communicated to her that he had informed the president that there were individuals with weapons at the Ellipse rally on the morning of Jan. 6. Hutchinson said in an interview with the committee that Meadows “did not act on … concerns” related to the potential for violence on Jan. 6 even though other people had raised them with him.
Hutchinson and Ornato also exchanged texts during Trump’s Ellipse speech: Hutchinson wrote, “[T]he crowd looks good from this vanish [sic] point. As long as we get the shot. [Trump] was fucking furious” about the apparently small size of the crowd.
Ornato responded, “[Trump] doesn’t get it that the people on the monument side don’t want to come in. They can see from there and don’t have to go through the mags.”
Cheney said the texts also reveal that Trump repeatedly mentioned wanting to go to the Capitol with the crowd. Hutchinson testified that even though the security team said that the metal detectors were “free flowing,” and everybody who wanted to enter the rally area had been able to do so, Trump was furious because the area was not filled. In a committee interview, Hutchinson stated that while backstage before the Ellipse speech, Trump expressed concern about the photograph of the rally that would be taken because the area was not full. According to Hutchinson, Trump thought the metal detectors were “at fault for not letting everybody in.” She stated that Trump did not want people to feel excluded from the rally because they had traveled from far away to watch him.
Hutchinson stated that she believed the primary reason for Trump’s frustration was “because he wanted [the rally area to be] full, and he was angry that we weren't letting people through the mags with weapons.” Hutchinson also said that she heard Trump “say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away.’”
Hutchinson stated in a committee interview that Ornato had tried to explain to Trump that the amount of space available for the rally was not limiting the number of people who were in the official rally area. Ornato said that many of Trump’s supporters did not want to enter the area because they did not want their weapons to be confiscated by the Secret Service, they could see Trump from the Mall, and they wanted to march to the Capitol from the Mall. During the same conversation, according to Hutchinson, Ornato told Trump that his supporters could not enter the official rally area through the metal detectors because they had weapons.
Trump responded to this by saying, essentially for the second time, “[s]omething to the effect of ‘Take the effing mags away. They’re not here to hurt me. Let them in. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol after the rallies are over … they can march from the Ellipse. Take the effing mags away. Then they can march to the Capitol.’” Hutchinson said that these conversations related to the metal detectors and his supporters’ access to the official rally area occurred “two to three minutes before [Trump] took the stage that morning.”
The committee presented a video of Trump speaking at the Ellipse, in which he said, “We’re gonna walk down, and I’ll be there with you …. We’re gonna walk down to the Capitol.” Trump aide Max Miller testified during a committee deposition that Trump told him he wanted to “go down to the Capitol” after his Ellipse speech. Miller also said Trump discussed speaking at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Another aide, Nicholas Luna, stated during a deposition that he heard about the idea of the president going to the Capitol after Trump’s Ellipse speech.
Hutchinson said during an interview with the committee that Meadows had conversations with Rep. Scott Perry and attorney Rudy Giuliani about what Trump might do were he to go to the Capitol. Hutchinson stated that she knew of “discussions about [Trump] having another speech outside of the Capitol before going in. I know that there was a conversation about him going into the House chamber at one point.”
Cheney said that according to committee witnesses, the Secret Service, and conversations among individuals on the National Security Council, after Trump pledged to go to the Capitol during his Ellipse speech, “the Secret Service scrambled to find a way for him to go.” The committee presented a National Security Council chat log, which included acknowledgement that Trump was going to the Capitol and that the Secret Service was searching for “the best route” for him to travel there. According to Cheney, the National Security Council staff “knew that rioters had invaded the inaugural stage and Capitol Police were calling for all available officers to respond.”
Hutchinson stated during an interview with the committee that she received a phone call from Ornato while Trump’s supporters were advancing on the Capitol, in which Ornato instructed Hutchinson to make sure Meadows knew that the rioters were “getting close to the Capitol.” Ornato also said the law enforcement at the Capitol did not have a sufficient number of officers.
According to Hutchinson, “[i]t was becoming clear to us and to the Secret Service that Capitol Police officers were getting overrun at the security barricades outside of the Capitol building. And … they were short [on] people to defend the building against the rioters.” Hutchinson testified that after speaking with Ornato, she attempted to alert Meadows—who was in a secure vehicle at the time—to this new information. But when Hutchinson tried to open the car door to relay the information, Meadows was speaking on the phone with an unspecified person and quickly shut the door. Hutchinson said she tried to open the door again a little while later, but Meadows closed it again. Hutchinson testified that she was not able to give the information related to the security at the Capitol to Meadows until Meadows got out of the car approximately 20 to 25 minutes after Hutchinson had spoken with Ornato. Hutchinson said this delay created “a backlog of information that [Meadows] should have been made aware of.”
Hutchinson stated that Meadows “almost had a lack of reaction” when he heard this information about the developments at the Capitol. He asked “something to the effect of how much longer does the president have left in this speech?”
Hutchinson testified that there had been many conversations on the morning of Jan. 6 related to the rhetoric in Trump’s Ellipse speech. Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann said he believed it “would be foolish to include language that had been included at the President's request, which had lines … to the effect of fight for Trump. We're going to march the Capitol. I'll be there with you. Fight for me. Fight for what we’re doing. Fight for the movement.” Herschmann also opposed including language targeting Vice President Pence. According to Hutchinson, Herschmann and Cipollone advocated against the inclusion of this language for legal and nonlegal reasons.
Hutchinson related a conversation she had with Cipollone on Jan. 3. During that conversation, Cipollone—who knew Meadows had floated the idea of going to the Capitol on Jan.6—said, “[W]e need to make sure this doesn’t happen. This would be legally a terrible idea for us. … We have serious legal concerns if we go up to the Capitol that day.” Hutchinson stated that Cipollone urged her to continue to pass along this message to Meadows. Hutchinson testified that Cipollone again implored her on the morning of Jan. 6 to make sure that Trump and his team did not go to the Capitol.
According to Hutchinson, Cipollone said during this conversation, “We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”
Hutchinson said that in the days preceding Jan. 6 that the specific crimes discussed included obstruction of justice and defrauding the United States with respect to the electoral count. In an interview with the committee, Hutchinson also stated that during a conversation with Cipollone on Jan. 3 or Jan. 4, he expressed concern that “it would look like we were obstructing justice or obstructing the Electoral College count. … And he was also worried that it would look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot to erupt … at the Capitol.”
Hutchinson testified that Rep. Kevin McCarthy called her during Trump’s Ellipse speech. When she received the call, Hutchinson was in the tent behind the stage and could not hear Trump’s speech clearly. According to Hutchinson, McCarthy, who sounded “frustrated” and “angry,” told Hutchinson that Trump stated he was going to go to the Capitol. McCarthy then said, “You told me this whole week you aren't coming up here. Why would you lie to me?” Hutchinson said she hadn’t been lying and that she could assure McCarthy that Trump’s team would not go to the Capitol. Hutchinson said she then called Ornato to confirm that Trump’s team would not be going to the Capitol, and she followed up with McCarthy to inform him of this.
The committee presented video footage of Trump’s motorcade departing the Ellipse after Trump’s speech. Hutchinson described hearing from Ornato and Bobby Engel, Trump’s lead Secret Service agent, about the president’s ride in his motorcade from the Ellipse to the White House. Ornato told Hutchinson that Meadows had indicated to Trump that it was possible or likely that the president would be able to go to the Capitol, but that Engel had more information. Ornato said that when Trump got into the car, he believed they were going to the Capitol. Engel then said to the president, “[W]e’re not [going to the Capitol], we don’t have the assets to do it, it’s not secure, we’re going back to the West Wing.”
Hutchinson said she heard Trump “had a very strong, a very angry response to that” and “said something to the effect of ‘I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,’ to which [Engel] responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.’”
Hutchinson further stated:
The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, “Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the West Wing. We're not going to the Capitol.” Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards … Engel. And … when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.
Hutchinson said that Engel was in the room when Ornato told Hutchinson this story, and that Engel did not correct or disagree with any component of the story. And Hutchinston testified that neither Ornato nor Engel ever told her this story was untrue.
In the committee’s July 21 hearing, Luria stated that two witnesses—an unidentified former White House employee with national security responsibilities and retired Sergeant Mark Robinson of the D.C. Police Department—testified that there was a heated exchange in the presidential motorcade between the Secret Service and President Trump after Trump’s Ellipse speech. (This supported the broad strokes of Hutchinson’s assertions, which had been disputed by some anonymous Secret Service sources after the June 28 hearing.)
The White House employee testified that Ornato “expressed to [them] that the President was irate” after Engel had refused to drive him to the Capitol. (Luria noted that Engel did not refute Ornato’s claim.)
Robinson, who was assigned to the president’s motorcade on Jan. 6, stated that he had been told “the president was upset and adamant about going to the Capitol and there was a heated discussion about that.” Robinson said that he had been present in the president’s motorcade “probably over 100 times,” and yet had never before seen a dispute arise in which the president contradicted where he was supposed to go.
Robinson testified that he had been aware of armed members of the crowd in trees along Constitution Avenue at this time. He stated that the motorcade departed the Ellipse and returned to the White House, despite Trump’s protests—but the president’s security detail was nonetheless “placed on standby” for 45 minutes to an hour at the White House as the Secret Service determined whether or not to let the president go to the Capitol.
According to Luria, “a White House employee informed the president as soon as he returned to the Oval about the riot at the Capitol,” meaning that “within 15 minutes of leaving the stage, President Trump knew that the Capitol was besieged and under attack.”
The committee presented a fairly detailed timeline concerning what Trump did during the period of the siege.
Luria stated that a White House employee had confirmed that Trump had stayed in his dining room from 1:25 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. While there was no official record of what Trump did while in the dining hall for several hours, witnesses told the committee that the room’s television was tuned to Fox News throughout the afternoon.
Presenting the presidential call log from Jan. 6. and the presidential daily diary, Luria noted that there are no entries for the period between 1:21 p.m. and 4:03 p.m., nor are there any photos from this period: In fact, the chief White House photographer was explicitly told “no photographs.”
When the committee asked Cipollone whether he was aware of Trump making any phone calls to the secretary of defense, the attorney general, or the secretary of homeland security on Jan. 6, Cipollone stated, “[N]o.” Former National Security Adviser to the Vice President Keith Kellogg also stated that he never heard the president ask for a National Guard or law enforcement response. And former Trump assistant Nicholas Luna stated that he was “not aware of any” requests to any security or law enforcement agency during this time.
An anonymous former White House employee working on national security told the committee that Cipollone had to take a call from the Pentagon intended to coordinate a response on the attack on Jan. 6 because “the president didn’t want anything done.”
So what was Trump doing doing this time in the dining room? Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany testified that Trump had requested a list of senators’ contact information. Luria asserted that Trump spent his hours in the dining room calling these senators, one by one, to encourage them to reject the certification of the election. Because the presidential call log was empty, the committee was unable to verify which lawmakers Trump contacted—though according to Giuliani’s phone records, Trump also spoke with him for four minutes at 1:39 p.m. Luria stated that as Trump’s call with Giuliani was ending, Fox News was airing a segment during which a commentator stated that “the president, as we all saw, fired this crowd up” and “there’s nothing in the Constitution unilaterally that Vice President Pence could do.”
At 1:49 p.m., Trump tweeted a video of his speech at the Ellipse—the same time, Luria noted, that the D.C. police declared a riot at the Capitol.
Cipollone testified that he had said that “there needed to be an immediate and forceful … public statement that people need to leave the Capitol now,” which he asserted that he and others in the White House were pushing to issue as soon as the rioting began to unfold around 2:00 p.m. Cipollone confirmed that he had continued to push for a stronger statement throughout that period of time up until 4:17 p.m. Cipollone said that until the president made his statement condemning the attack, Cipollone “felt it was [his] obligation to continue to push for [a statement from Trump] and others felt that it was their obligation as well.” In this effort, he said that he was joined by Ivanka Trump, Eric Herschmann, and Mark Meadows.
Cipollone noted that Trump could have addressed the nation from the podium in the briefing room of the White House any time from when the violence began at approximately 2:00 p.m. until Trump made a statement shortly after 4:00 p.m. Separately, Hutchinson testified that Ivanka Trump wanted to “get her dad on board with saying something that was more direct than he had wanted to at the time and throughout the afternoon.”
Cipollone stated that Meadows had wanted to get Ivanka Trump involved “because he thought that would be important.” Cipollone also said that former Deputy White House Counsel Pat Philbin had been called in and was “very clearly expressing his view” that the president should take further action.
Sarah Matthews, former deputy White House press secretary, testified that “if the president had wanted to make a statement and address the American people, he could have been on camera almost instantly.” Kellogg testified that he had recommended against a press conference on Jan. 6 because he believed that it could actually worsen the situation were Trump to go off script as he tended to do. Former Deputy White House Secretary Judd Deere also recalled telling McEnany that “we needed to encourage individuals to stop, to respect law enforcement, and to go home.”
Meanwhile, Luria stated, while he was aware that the riot was ongoing, Trump did not take any action to address the violence but instead made a call to Giuliani again at 2:03 p.m. that lasted for about eight minutes. At 2:13 p.m., video shows that Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member charged with seditious conspiracy, used a police shield to break a window and gain entry to the Capitol.
Hutchinson stated that around 2:00 to 2:05 p.m., she went into Meadows’s office to ask whether he was seeing the news, as she had been alarmed that rioters were nearing the Capitol. She described Meadows sitting on his couch, scrolling through his phone, as he had been that same morning:
I said, “you watching the TV, Chief?”
He was like, “yeah.”
I said, “the rioters are getting really close. Have you talked to the President?”
And he said, “no, he wants to be alone right now,” still looking at his phone.
So I start to get frustrated because, you know, I sort of felt like I was watching a—this is not a great comparison, but a bad car accident that was about to happen where you can’t stop it, but you want to be able to do something.
Frustrated, Hutchinson said that she pointed at the TV and urged Meadows to call Rep. Jim Jordan—stating that “the rioters are getting close; they might get in.” According to Hutchinson, Meadows then looked up at her and “said something to the effect of, ‘Alright, I’ll give him a call.’”
Hutchinson detailed that soon after the rioters had breached the Capitol, Pat Cipollone came “barreling down the hallway towards our office and rushed right in,” asking whether Meadows was in. Hutchinson confirmed that he was, recalling that Cipollone “just looked at me and started shaking his head and went over, opened Mark’s office door, stood there with the door propped open” as Meadows was still “sitting on his phone.”
Hutchinson said Cipollone then informed Meadows that the rioters had gotten to the Capitol and that they needed to speak with the president immediately—to which Meadows responded, “he doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.”
Hutchinson said that Cipollone replied with something to the effect of, “Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die, and the blood is going to be on your effing hands. This is getting out of control.” At that point, Hutchinson stated, Meadows walked out with Cipollone and told Hutchinson to let him know if Rep. Jordan called back.
Hutchinson recalled that Jordan called back at around 2:15 to 2:25 p.m., at which point she brought the phone to Meadows in the Oval Office dining room and the two had a “brief conversation,” during which Hutchinson heard the group inside discussing the “hang Mike Pence” chants.
Hutchinson stated that a few minutes later, after she was back at her desk, Cipollone and Meadows returned, still discussing the threats to the vice president. Cipollone was calling for more to be done—given the danger Pence was in—to which Hutchinson said Meadows had responded: “You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
Cipollone protested again, Hutchinson recounted: “This is effing crazy, we need to be doing something more,” and Meadows again replied “something to the effect of, [the president] doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
In the eighth hearing, Luria presented radio traffic from the Secret Service as a team attempted to clear a safe path for Pence to leave his office next to the Senate floor. At one point, someone on the line stated, “If we lose any more time, we may have—we may lose the ability to—to leave. So, if we’re going to leave, we need to do it now.” Another stated, “They’ve gained access to the second floor and I’ve got [the] public about five feet from me down here below.” Luria showed excerpts of a chat from the president’s National Security Council staff to highlight that the team had been listening and tracking these developments minute-by-minute.
In one of these chats, sent at 2:24 p.m., someone had written that the Secret Service agents at the Capitol did not “sound good right now.” An anonymous White House security official explained that this was referencing “calls to say goodbye to family members” and the detail’s belief “that this was about to get very ugly.”
Luria presented a video montage of rioters infuriated that Pence had “betrayed” Trump, showing that the crowd’s anger was focused largely on the vice president. She offered the tweet sent by Trump at 2:24 p.m. that said, in part, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.“
Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger testified that he chose to resign after this tweet, because it only worsened the crisis. Matthews also remembered thinking the tweet was dangerous “because it was essentially giving the green light to these people … that they were justified in their anger.” She stated that, as a person who had gone to countless rallies with Trump, she understood the impact that Trump’s words had on his supporters: “They truly latch onto every word and every tweet that he says,” she explained.
Luria stated that at 2:26 pm, Pence “had to be evacuated to safety a second time and came within 40 feet of the rioters; the attack escalated quickly right after the tweet,” playing footage of the riot at this time. Meanwhile, as Sen. Tommy Tuberville later stated on broadcast television, the president had contacted him around this time—a call that Tuberville had to cut short to flee the Capitol building.
Cheney presented video footage from a March 2021 ABC interview, during which Trump, after being asked about his supporters’ “Hang Mike Pence” chant, had stated, “Because it’s—it’s common sense, Jon. It’s common sense, that you’re supposed to protect—how can you—if you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?”
Hutchinson testified that there were three camps of thought in the White House on Jan. 6: those “strongly urging [Trump] to take immediate and swift action” (including Ivanka Trump and Eric Herschmann); those more neutral who were “trying to toe the line”; and those who pushed a “defect and blame” strategy, such as by blaming Antifa. She stated that she would classify Meadows within the “defect and blame category, but he did end up taking a more neutral route, knowing that there were several advisers in the president’s circle urging him to take more action.”
Cheney presented a handwritten note articulating a statement for the president to put out, which Hutchinson testified she had written “at the direction of the chief of staff on Jan. 6, likely around 3:00.” The note read, “Anyone who entered the Capitol illegally [word crossed out] without proper authority should leave immediately.” Hutchinson explained that there should have been a slash between the two phrases “illegally” and “without proper authority” as an and/or in the event the president had chosen to put one of those statements out, noting that “evidently, he didn’t.” Later in the afternoon, Hutchinson stated that Meadows returned from the Oval Office dining room and placed the note on her desk with “illegally” crossed out, telling her that no further action was needed on the statement.
President Trump had issued two tweets in the time after his 2:24 p.m. tweet criticizing Pence and prior to his recorded statement: one, at 2:38 p.m., which said “stay peaceful,” and another, at 3:13 p.m., which said “remain peaceful.” Kinzinger said, however, that “neither tweet condemned the violence or told the mob to leave the Capitol and disperse,” despite Trump’s knowledge of ongoing violence.
Matthews testified that McEnany went to meet with the president in the Oval Office dining room after he had issued his 2:24 p.m. tweet. Upon returning, she told Matthews that a tweet had been sent out, which Matthews expressed she did not believe went “far enough” in calling for an end to the violence. Matthews stated that at this moment, McEnany
looked directly at me, and in a hushed tone, shared with me that the president did not want to include any sort of mention of peace in that tweet, and that it took some convincing on their part, those who were in the room. And she said that there was a back and forth, going over different phrases to find something that he was comfortable with. And it wasn’t until Ivanka Trump suggested the phrase stay peaceful that he finally agreed to include it.
Text messages between Donald Trump Jr. and Mark Meadows showed that high-level officials and Trump allies believed the president’s conduct in this moment was wrong: At 2:53 p.m., Trump’s son wrote, “He’s got to condem [sic] this shit. Asap. The capitol police tweet is not enough.” Meadows responded, “I am pushing it hard. I agree” — to which Trump Jr. replied, “This his [sic] one you go to the mattresses on. They will try to fuck his entire legacy on this if it gets worse.” (Trump Jr. clarified that “go to the matresses on” is “a reference for going all in. I think it’s a Godfather reference.”) In the June 28 hearing, Cheney had also displayed text messages sent from Laura Ingraham to Meadows at 2:32 p.m., one of which read, “Hey Mark, The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home” and presented footage of Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Mike Gallagher imploring Trump to call off the riot.
Fox News commentator Sean Hannity also texted Meadows, at 3:31 p.m., “Can he make a statement. I saw the tweet. Ask people to peacefully leave the capital.” (Meadows said he was “On it.”) “Throughout the attack, Mr. Meadows received texts from Republican members of Congress, from current and former Trump administration officials, from media personalities, and from friends,” Rep. Kinzinger stated, all urging the president to call off the attack. Kinzinger presented texts from Fox News host Laura Ingraham, former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Fox News personality Brian Kilmeade, and others. And he played deposition footage in which Cipollone listed off a group of Trump’s top advisers and family who all had been pushing for a statement from Trump. Cipollone further stated that he couldn’t think of anybody on the staff who didn’t want people to leave the Capitol, though when asked explicitly about Trump, he cited executive privilege.
In the eighth hearing, Kinzinger asserted that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy “managed to get the president on the phone and told him to call off his supporters,” and when the president refused, McCarthy reached out to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Molly Michael, Trump’s former executive assistant, testified that she had transferred a call from McCarthy to Trump while he was in the dining room. McCarthy told Fox News on Jan. 6, “I’ve already talked to the president, I called him. I think we need to make a statement.” Kinzinger presented footage of several others, including Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, stating that they were aware of a call in which McCarthy expressed frustration to Trump that he was not taking the situation seriously. Herrera Beutler said that Trump had told McCarthy, “Well, Kevin, I guess they’re just more upset about the election, you know, theft than you are. … That’s when the swearing commenced, because the president was basically saying, nah, I’m okay with this.”
Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford, stated that McCarthy had called Ms. Trump about the attack on the Capitol, and Kushner testified that McCarthy had called him in a clear state of duress, asking for Kushner to do anything he could to help. (Back in the committee’s third hearing, Short stated that McCarthy told him that he had been in contact with a White House official and “expressed frustration” that the White House was not “taking the circumstances [as] seriously as they should [at] that moment.”)
Kinzinger presented footage of walkie-talkie communications with several Oath Keepers members “as they share[d] intelligence and communicated about President Trump’s 2:38 tweet in real time.” The protesters specifically referenced Trump’s tweet to support the Capitol police, saying:
They are on our side. Do not harm them. That’s saying a lot by what he didn’t say. He didn’t say not to do anything to the congressmen. Well, he did not ask them to stand down. He just said stand by the Capitol Police … CNN said that Trump has egged this one, that he is egging it on, and that he is watching the country burn two weeks before he leaves office. He is not leaving office. I don’t give a shit what they say.
Luria played 3:58 p.m. footage from Fox News (“the channel the president was watching all afternoon,” she noted), which showed the chaos at the Capitol while a commentator described the Pentagon’s mobilization of the D.C. National Guard as well as the FBI’s movement to the scene.
At 4:03 p.m., Trump finally made his way out to the Rose Garden, though he did not stick to the script that his staff had prepared. Luna testified that he did not know why Trump went “off the cuff.” After this video, Herscmann stated, people retired for the day, as they were “pretty emotionally drained.” Meanwhile at the Capitol, Luria showed, the riot was still raging.
Cheney displayed a video of Trump, released at 4:17 p.m., during which the president said, “We have to have peace, so go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace.” Luria played this clip in the committee’s July 21 hearing, noting that “virtually everyone” around the president had been begging him to call off the attack for hours. “By that time,” Luria stated, “two pipe bombs had been found at locations near the Capitol, including where the vice president elect was conducting a meeting.” Hutchinson also recalled that Trump had been “reluctant” to film that video.
Matthews testified that, frustrated by Trump’s continued claims of a stolen election and remark that “we love you, you’re very special” in his video statement, she decided to resign that evening. Deere told the committee he thought the same 4:17 p.m. message was “the absolute bare minimum of what could have been said at that point” and had believed that a more forceful condemnation of the violence had been in order. McEnany stated she wished it had happened earlier. Video of the rioters showed that many were receptive to Trump’s message and echoed his statement to “go home.”
At 4:45 p.m., McConnell told Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, “we’re not going to let these people keep us from finishing our business. So we need you to get the building cleared.” Pence also remained in action, calling military leaders to secure the Capitol “well past President Trump’s 4:17 video,” Luria stated. Milley stated that Pence was “very animated, very direct, very firm,” in these calls. Milley testified that Meadows had told him something to the effect that they had to “kill the narrative that the vice president is making all the decisions” and establish that the president was still in charge.
At 6:01 p.m., Trump tweeted, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” At 6:27 p.m., Kinzinger stated, the president left the dining room and headed into the residence for the evening—and on his way in, saying nothing of the day’s attack, Trump told an anonymous employee, “Mike Pence let me down.” Luna testified that Trump had asked for Luna’s input on the 6:01 p.m. tweet before it was sent, and Luna had advised that “the wording on the first sentence would lead some to believe that potentially he had something to do with the events that happened at the Capitol.” Trump, however, did not change anything in light of the comment.
Kinzinger played audio from a voicemail that Giuliani left Sen. Tuberville at 7:02 p.m. on Jan. 6, stating that Giuliani had also called Rep. Jordan and Sens. Blackburn, Haggerty, Graham, Hawley, and Cruz to push them to further delay the certification of the election.
Shortly after Congress certified the election results, Trump made a statement on Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino’s Twitter account (his own account had by now been suspended) in which he maintained his claims of a stolen election but conceded that there would “be an orderly transition on January 20th.” Kinzinger stated that this message was not necessarily Trump’s idea: Campaign adviser Jason Miller testified that he drafted the statement after the joint session began and called Trump at 9:23 p.m. on Jan. 6 to convince him to issue it.
Hutchinson stated that contrary to the opinions of White House counsel and Herschmann, “Trump didn’t necessarily think he needed to do anything more on the seventh than what he had already done on the sixth,” and the speech that he did ultimately deliver on Jan. 7 was substantially different from what his counsel had advised. She said that while original drafts of the speech included lines about prosecuting the rioters and calling them violent, Trump had demanded that they be removed, and further, he had wanted to include a line indicating his desire to “potentially pardon them.” Hutchinson noted that Trump remained within the mindset that “he didn’t think [the rioters] did anything wrong” but, rather, that “the person who did something wrong that day was Mike Pence by not standing with him.”
Nonetheless, a group of people convinced Trump to deliver a statement. This group included, by Hutchinson’s account, Mark Meadows, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Eric Herschmann, Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin, and Kayleigh McEnany. When asked why these people thought it was necessary that Trump give this statement, Hutchinson said the primary reason was to condemn the violence to protect Trump’s legacy, and the secondary purpose was to avoid action under the 25th Amendment.
In raw footage of Trump recording his address to the nation on Jan. 7, the president protested the speech that had been prepared for him. One can hear Trump complaining and revising the statement in real time: For example, as he read out, “But this election is now over. Congress has certified the results,” he cut with, “I don’t want to say the election’s over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election’s over, okay?”
Cheney asserted that “the president ultimately delivered the remarks,” and largely stuck to his script, with one exception: “Even then on Jan. 7, 2021,” Cheney stated, “the president still could not bring himself to say, quote, ‘But this election is now over.’”
Cheney stated that “the committee has learned that after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, [the 25th Amendment] was being discussed by members of President Trump’s cabinet as a way of stripping the full power of the presidency from Donald Trump.” She presented a text from Sean Hannity to Kayleigh McEnany on Jan. 7, in part summarizing the course of action that he had recommended Trump take to deescalate the situation and avoid removal and in part relaying what he had observed of Trump. The text included the lines: “1- No more stolen election talk,” and “4- Resistant but listened to Pence thoughts, to make it right.” Hutchinson confirmed that she and Meadows had been aware of the talk about the 25th.
Luria played a recording of a call between McCarthy and Republican colleagues after the House had introduced a resolution calling for Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump from power under the 25th Amendment. In the call, McCarthy said that “what he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it. The only discussions I would have with him is that I think this will pass and it would be my recommendation that he should resign.” (McCarthy stated, however, that he believed it was unlikely that Trump would do so.) He continued:
But let me be very clear to all of you, and I’ve been very clear to the president. He bears responsibility for his words and actions, no ifs, ands, or buts. I asked him personally today does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened and he needed to acknowledge that.
However, Luria stated, “President Trump has never publicly acknowledged his responsibility for the attack,” nor has he ever acknowledged the names of the officers who died in the wake of Jan. 6. Two of Trump’s top campaign officials, Tim Murtaugh and Matthew Wolking, exchanged texts about this on Jan. 9: “Also shitty not to have even acknowledged the death of the Capitol police officer,” Murtaugh had messaged. “That is enraging to me. Everything he said about supporting law enforcement was a lie[,]” Wolking responded. Murtaugh replied:
You know what this is, of course. If he acknowledged the dead cop, he’d be implicitly faulting the mob. And he won’t do that, because they’re his people. And he would also be close to acknowledging that what he lit at the rally got out of control. No way he acknowledges something that could ultimately be called his fault. No way.
Cipollone and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia testified that they considered resignation after Jan. 6 but ultimately determined that leaving the administration could present a danger in leaving Trump with a team that would offer him bad advice. Milley stated that Meadows had told him, on Jan. 7, “POTUS is very emotional and in a bad place.” Pottinger testified that after his resignation, he agreed to stay at his desk until O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, returned on the morning of Jan. 7. He stated that in the wake of the contested election, he had been “concerned that some of our adversaries would be tempted to probe or test U.S. resolve. … But our national security was harmed in a different way by the sixth of January,” clarifying that he believed it “emboldened our enemies by helping give them ammunition to feed a narrative that our system of government doesn’t work, that the United States is in decline.”
In a memo to Trump requesting to convene a Cabinet meeting, Scalia had written, “I believe it is important to know that while President, you will no longer publicly question the election results—after Wednesday, no one can deny this is harmful.” According to Cipollone, Meadows had been concerned that proposing a Cabinet meeting would not be productive, as Meadows was concerned about how Trump might react.
In her closing remarks during the June 28 hearing, Cheney stated that several of the select committee’s witnesses have been improperly contacted by former colleagues or individuals seeking to influence their testimony. One witness described phone calls from people interested in their cooperation with the committee as follows:
What they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I’m on the right team. I’m doing the right thing. I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World. And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts.
Cheney stated during the July 12 hearing that Trump attempted to call an unidentified witness in the committee’s investigation who had not yet appeared in the committee’s hearings. That witness declined to answer the former president and notified their lawyer of Trump’s call. The witness’s lawyer told the committee of Trump’s attempt, and the committee relayed this information to the Justice Department.
The evidence that Trump did nothing to stop the insurrection is overwhelming—and actually did not require the committee to establish. Trump simply disappeared after his speech and didn’t reappear in public for hours. The committee has presented, in addition, significant evidence that he actively resisted doing anything to calm things down during this period. The committee’s evidence that he was actively pleased by the violence is less dispositive and more indirect—consisting to a large degree of things that Meadows said about Trump’s attitudes in real time. That said, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Trump, having unleashed the violence, was content to see it play out.
The Jan. 6 select committee promised in its first hearing evidence on seven distinct points. The following is our brief assessment of the quality of the evidence the committee presented on each point:
- First, on its claim that Trump attempted to convince Americans that significant levels of fraud had stolen the election from him despite knowing that he had, in fact, lost the 2020 election: The committee is wholly persuasive that Trump was made aware of his defeat and of the meritlessness of his claims of fraud. Its presentation on this point lacks only a smoking gun as to Trump’s subjective state of mind in making the claims he advanced. The evidence that Trump knew he lost consists largely of his having laid the groundwork for the claim before Election Day and the information available to him being so voluminous that any blindness on his part was necessarily willful.
- Second, on its claim that Trump planned to remove and replace the attorney general and other Justice Department officials as part of an effort to pressure the department to spread his allegations of election fraud: The committee’s presentation on this point is wholly persuasive and has not been meaningfully contested. There appears to be no question that the president sought to persuade the Justice Department, both before Attorney General William Barr’s departure and after, to make false claims about election fraud. There similarly seems to be no question that the president, in the face of the Justice Department’s refusal to do this, seriously contemplated replacing the department’s acting leadership with Jeffrey Clark—knowing that Clark would send the letter to Georgia (containing baseless allegations of election fraud in that state and others) if installed. There is similarly uncontested testimony that Trump backed down only in the face of certain threatened resignations from virtually the entire Justice Department senior leadership.
- Third, on its claim that Trump sought to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on Jan. 6: The committee’s evidence that Trump pressured Pence to violate his oath and reject the electors is overpowering. He did this advised by lawyers who appear to have been aware that their legal theory was garbage. Trump actively lied in public about what Pence believed about his own authority. And he pushed Pence on Jan. 6 itself, knowing he was potentially putting the vice president in danger.
- Fourth, on its claim that Trump tried to convince state lawmakers and election officials to alter election results: The committee’s evidence on this point is neither ambiguous nor subtle. It involves the sworn testimony of a large number of state officials, actions taken in public, and public statements by the president and others. No evidence has emerged that significantly contradicts it.
- Fifth, on its claim that Trump’s lawyers and other members of the president’s team directed Republicans in multiple states to produce fake electoral slates and send those slates to Congress and the National Archives: The evidence the committee presented on this point is dispositive. There doesn’t seem to be much, if any, dispute about what happened. The question is whether the conduct in question was illegal or whether the conduct in question was so outlandish that it could be seen as something closer to a political protest. Regardless, that it happened seems beyond dispute.
- Sixth, on its claim that Trump assembled a destructive group of rioters in Washington and sent them to the U.S. Capitol: The committee did not present evidence that Trump or the White House organized the rally, but it did present substantial evidence that the rally was organized in response to Trump’s call, that Trump intended from the beginning that the rally would result in a march to the Capitol, that he intended to participate in that rally, and that he called for the rally in response to the failure of his efforts to subvert the election results. It presented evidence that he was aware of, and content with, the possibility of violence and that there were at least contacts between his White House staff and extremist groups.
- And finally, seventh, on its claim that Trump ignored requests to speak out against the violence in real time and failed to act quickly to stop the attack and tell his supporters to depart the Capitol: The evidence that Trump did nothing to stop the insurrection is overwhelming—and actually did not require the committee to establish. Trump simply disappeared after his speech and didn’t reappear in public for hours. The committee presented, in addition, significant evidence that he actively resisted doing anything to calm things down during this period. The committee’s evidence that he was actively pleased by the violence is less dispositive and more indirect—consisting to a large degree of things that Meadows said about Trump’s attitudes in real time. That said, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Trump, having unleashed the violence was content to see it play out.