Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With
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.