Donald Trump sat for two and a half hours in his presidential dining room on the afternoon of January 6, 2021, watching live coverage on Fox News as a crowd of his supporters stormed the US Capitol , a congressional committee heard.
The panel investigating the violence said Thursday night it had evidence from multiple White House witnesses that the former president ignored pleas from those closest to him — including his own family — to issue a statement calling on his supporters to withdraw.
Instead, the committee heard Trump watching the events on TV, tweeting his rally speech earlier in the day, and calling in senators who were supposed to certify the 2020 election results.
At the same time, Trump officials received messages from the Capitol that the safety of his Vice President Mike Pence was in such jeopardy that members of his security detail feared for their lives.
During the prime-time hearing, members heard from two White House aides present that day: Matt Pottinger, who worked as a deputy national security adviser, and Sarah Matthews, a former press secretary.
They released video evidence of several people who worked in the building that day, all of whom said they neither saw nor heard the former president calling for increased law enforcement as the crowd stormed. assault Congress.
Mark Milley, the head of the US military, told the committee of his concern over the lack of action. In recorded testimony, he said, “You are the Commander-in-Chief and there is an attack on the US Capitol. And there is nothing? No call? Zero?”
The committee also presented testimony from several witnesses recounting a confrontation between Trump and Secret Service agents as he attempted to reach his supporters on Capitol Hill – despite knowing some of them were armed.
After agreeing that he should return to the White House, Trump returned to his office where he watched the violence unfold live on television.
The committee heard that Trump was expressing sympathy for his supporters, even as they chanted “Hang Mike Pence.”
Cassidy Hutchinson, a White House aide at the time, recounted a conversation between Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, and Pat Cipollone, the White House attorney.
“Mark replied something like, ‘You heard Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.'”
Several witnesses expressed concern over a tweet sent by Trump at 2:24 p.m., even as White House officials believed Pence’s life was in danger: “Mike Pence didn’t have the guts to do this. that should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution. ”
Hutchinson said she was “disgusted” by the tweet, while Pottinger said he decided at that point to quit.
Bennie Thompson, the Democratic committee chairman, opened the hearing remotely due to a recent diagnosis of Covid-19. He told the session:[Trump] ignored and ignored desperate pleas from his own family – including Ivanka Trump and Don Jr [his daughter and son] – even if he was the only one who could call the crowd back.
Thompson added: “He couldn’t be moved to get up from his dining room table and down the few stairs to the White House briefing room where the cameras waited and were eager to deliver his message to the wild crowd.”
The committee held seven hearings intended to refocus voters’ attention on the violence that erupted after the last election — and Trump’s role in stoking it. Thursday’s session is the last in this series, although Thompson said the committee will meet again in September, when it will continue to present its findings and present new evidence.
The hearings showed how Trump was told by many of his closest advisers that he had lost the election, but continued to pressure the Justice Department and individual states to stop processing the results. . When he failed, he encouraged his supporters to demonstrate in Washington, D.C., on January 6, when Congress officially certified the result.
By showing how close Trump was to overturning the election results, the hearings hurt the former president’s approval rating and boosted the prospects of those who might challenge him for the nomination. Republican in 2024.
There are gaps in the committee’s evidence regarding what happened at the White House on January 6, due to missing text messages sent by Secret Service agents.
The service deleted those posts just weeks after the riot due to what it called a “system migration process.” Only one text was retrieved and shared with the committee, aides said.
Thompson and Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee, released a joint statement on Wednesday urging the Secret Service to recover lost data and warning that laws may have been broken.
“The content preservation procedure prior to this purge appears to have violated federal record retention requirements and may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act,” they said.
Elaine Luria, a Democratic member of the committee, said they expect members of the Secret Service to testify in the coming weeks.