Jan. 6 Committee Hearing Takeaways: Trump’s Inaction During Riot Spotlighted

What’s happening

Thursday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing focused on what happened in the White House during the 187 minutes of the Capitol riot.

Why it matters

The committee continues to build a case on how Trump could have stopped the attack but refused to do so, and at times, spurred on the rioters even more.

Thursday’s hearing by the House select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol broke down the activity within the White House on the day when the riot took place. The committee also showed never-before-seen footage of Trump refusing to say the election was over.

Formed more than a year ago, the select committee has been investigating the circumstances behind the Jan. 6 attack and those who influenced the more than 800 people who’ve been criminally charged in connection with an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. Thursday was the eighth public hearing that started in June. The committee plans to hold more sessions starting in September. 

When is the next Jan. 6 committee hearing? 

The committee didn’t provide a date for its next hearing but did say it will restart sometime in September. 

How can I watch the previous hearings? 

Hearings are available on C-SPAN and the Jan. 6 committee’s YouTube channel

What did the committee reveal in the first hearing?

The first hearing, on June 9, gave an overview of what to expect while also showing never-before-seen deposition testimony and footage from the Capitol riot. 

Committee chairman Rep. Thompson, and Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee vice chairwoman and a Republican from Wyoming, spoke throughout the two-hour hearing. They revealed how officials from Trump’s administration didn’t believe his claims of voter fraud, how multiple Republican members of Congress sought presidential pardons for their roles in trying to overturn the election, and how, when the mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” the vice president, Trump said: “He deserves it.”

The second half of the hearing included testimony from two witnesses: documentary filmmaker Nick Quested and Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards. Quested had been embedded with the far-right group The Proud Boys and was in attendance at a discreet meeting on Jan. 5 between the group’s leader at the time, Enrique Tarrio, and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of another far-right group called the Oath Keepers. TarrioRhodes and other members of their groups have since been charged with seditious conspiracy for their actions. 

In his testimony, Quested also confirmed that there were hundreds of Proud Boys who were making their way to the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6 before Trump gave his speech that day, which was the catalyst for other supporters to move toward the Capitol, where Congress would be certifying Biden’s election win. 

Edwards testified about the violence on Jan. 6 committed by the mob of Trump followers. She also spoke about her injuries on that day.

What did the second hearing tell us?

The June 13 hearing looked at the false claims made by Trump and his administration that the 2020 presidential election was supposedly stolen, which has been dubbed the “Big Lie.” 

Video testimony from former White House attorney Eric Herschmann, former White House staff secretary Derek Lyons, former Attorney General Bill Barr and others, played during the hearing, showed those officials confirming there was no basis for the claims of election fraud. 

Former US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia BJay Pak, former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt and election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg provided live witness testimony debunking the claims made by Trump and his administration. The committee also revealed the finding of its investigation into how the conspiracies about the election were used to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for pro-Trump political organizations. 

What was the third hearing about? 

Almost the entire hearing on June 16 was about Pence. The committee detailed how the former vice president didn’t have the authority to stop the counting of electoral votes. John Eastman, an attorney who was advising Trump, promoted a legal theory of Pence having this power, although it isn’t established in the Constitution. 

Greg Jacob, Pence’s chief counsel, and former federal judge Michael Luttig testified about the powers of the vice president and their assessment that Pence couldn’t stop the vote count. The committee also played depositions from people on Trump’s staff who said the former president and others in his administration did agree that Pence couldn’t change the election results, even though some still applied pressure for him to do so. 

In addition, the committee played the deposition of Eastman who pleaded the fifth more than 100 times during his testimony and had requested a presidential pardon for his actions. 

What happened in the fourth hearing? 

The committee first heard the testimony of Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, in the fourth hearing on June 21. He testified on how Trump and his lawyer at the time, Rudy Giuliani, urged Bowers to agree to put forth pro-Trump electors instead of the legitimate electors the state was already going to send to DC. Bowers also said two Republican members of Congress asked him to support Trump’s plan to decertify Biden’s victory, which he didn’t agree to. 

The committee played multiple deposition videos from witnesses who said Trump took part in pushing the plan to gather these fake electors along with Eastman, the lawyer who theorized the election could be overturned. 

After a recess, the committee heard testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his deputy Gabe Sterling along with Georgia election workers Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman. All four spoke of the almost nonstop abuse they received after Trump, Giuliani and others singled them out over false claims that they helped steal the election. 

Raffensperger testified about the call he had with Trump who was asking him to find 11,000 more votes. Sterling talked about the threats of physical violence election workers received based on false claims made by the former president about the election. 

Moss and Freeman became a target for Trump’s team and his fans after video footage was used to falsely claim the two were conducting illegal activities and counting fake votes. The mother (who provided her testimony via video earlier) and daughter spoke about the numerous death threats, messages and abuse they received once they were named by Giuliani. Both had to take precautions for their safety and still try to keep a low profile when out in public in fear of someone recognizing them. 

What was revealed in the fifth hearing?

The June 23 hearing featured witness testimony from Jeffrey A. Rosen, the former acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general; and Steven Engel, the former assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel. All three testified about the pressure they received from the White House to indulge Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him. 

Among the requests made by Trump and his team were the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the false claims, seizing voting machines and investigating a conspiracy theory that an Italian satellite was used to switch votes. 

The three also testified how there would be a mass resignation by senior Justice Department staff if Trump appointed Jeffrey Clark, an official with the department who supported the former president’s false claims. Federal law enforcement raided Clark’s home as part of the department’s investigation into the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. 

Before the hearing ended, the committee aired testimony from former White House officials who said Republican members of Congress asked for a presidential pardon for their participation in trying to overturn the election. This group included Rep. Mo Brooks from Alabama, Matt Gaetz from Florida, Andy Biggs from Arizona, Louie Gohmert from Texas and Scott Perry from Pennsylvania. 

What happened in the sixth hearing? 

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide for White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified on June 28 about the events on and leading up to Jan. 6, 2021. In the days before the riot, Hutchinson says, there were concerns about how “things might get real, real bad on January 6.” On the day of, she says she heard Trump was warned that some rioters attending his speech at the Ellipse had weapons. Also, the former president had demanded the Secret Service remove the metal detectors, referred to as “mags,” in order to allow more people to be in the crowd. She said Trump said of those with weapons, “they’re not here to hurt me.” 

Trump said in his speech that he was going to walk to the Capitol with those in attendance. Hutchinson testified that she was told that while traveling back to the White House in his vehicle, he demanded to be driven to the Capitol but was told by the Secret Service that it wasn’t possible. Trump was furious and attempted to take the steering wheel. He then lunged at the Secret Service agent driving. 

After a recess, Hutchinson went on to testify how Trump thought Pence deserved a mob calling for him to be hanged. She also says Meadows and Giuliani inquired about presidential pardons for their actions promoting the false claims about election fraud. 

Before the committee adjourned for the day, Cheney shared some of the responses the committee has received from witnesses, showing Trump allies tried to intimidate them. In the examples provided, those connected to Trump reached out to the witnesses and told them how the former president knows they’re “loyal” and they’re “going to do the right thing when” they go in for their deposition. 

What did we learn in the seventh hearing? 

The first half of the July 13 session was filled with testimony from former White House officials who said there was no evidence to support false claims that the 2020 election should be overturned. But one group of people began speaking with Trump about the potential to overturn the election using false claims of fraud. This group included Giuliani, former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. In a fiery meeting at the White House, they advised Trump to declare a national emergency and seize voting machines. 

After a short recess, the committee reconvened and began looking at Trump’s tweets leading up to Jan. 6. A former Twitter employee, who had their voice altered, spoke about how the company was aware that the president’s tweets could be dangerous and said the company “relished” the power from his activity on the platform. A video showed how Trump’s tweets led to the formation of a mob at the Jan. 6 rally and subsequent riot. 

Jason van Tatenhove, a former national spokesman for the Oath Keepers, and Stephen Ayres, a convicted Capitol rioter, gave live testimony about their radicalization. Both spoke about how they were riled up by Trump’s rhetoric and, at the time, believed the false claims that the election was stolen. 

What did the eighth hearing present us?

Thursday’s hearing took a look at Trump’s inaction during the riot. Once he returned to the White House after his speech at the Ellipse that day, he watched footage of the attack on Fox News, but didn’t call upon law enforcement to stop the violence. Even with members of Congress and his own family telling him to call for an end to the attack, Trump refused to do so until hours later. 

Testimony from an unnamed White House security official gave some insight into the activity of Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail. Members of the team worried they wouldn’t survive the day and wanted to say goodbye to their families. 

The committee played two unedited videos of Trump. In the first, recorded hours after the riot, Trump told the attackers to leave the Capitol and that he loved them. 

The second video, from Jan. 7, showed outtakes of the speech Trump gave. In it, he refused to say that the election was over and had issues saying he accepted the integrity of the vote. 

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