The House Jan. 6 select committee used its second prime-time hearing Thursday to make the case that President Donald Trump not only did nothing to stop the assault on the U.S. Capitol but did so because he wanted it to succeed.
Chairman Bennie Thompson, leading off the hearing remotely as he recovers from COVID-19, called for accountability at every level of what the committee has described as Trump’s “attempted coup.”
The panel detailed the 187 minutes that passed between Trump’s speech at the Ellipse and his taped statement telling his supporters still storming the Capitol to leave.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Trump didn’t move to immediately discourage rioters because they were carrying out his plot to delay the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
“President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the Ellipse and telling the mob to go home,” Kinzinger said. “He chose not to act.”
Former White House officials — including live witnesses Sarah Matthews and Matthew Pottinger — painted a picture of Trump sitting in a private dining room off the Oval Office watching the events unravel on television while the mob closed in on Vice President Mike Pence and congressional lawmakers.
Here are some key takeaways:
Trump resisted pressure to take action, watching the riot on TV instead
Former White House officials described Trump, after his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, spending three hours in the private dining room off the Oval Office simply watching the attack on the Capitol on television while making calls to supportive senators.
Then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone said he was among several officials — including Ivanka Trump — who pushed for Trump to quickly make a “strong” statement to tamp down the violence shortly after it broke out.
Matthews, a deputy press secretary at the time, told lawmakers Thursday that it would’ve taken “less than 60 seconds” for Trump to leave the dining room and make a statement at the briefing room — but he declined.
Text messages sent by Donald Trump Jr. to chief of staff Mark Meadows showed Trump’s son also thought his father should “condemn” the attack as soon as possible.
He finally taped a statement issued at 4:17 p.m., calling on his supporters to end the attack, but also telling them, “We love you. You’re very special.”
The committee juxtaposed the time of that statement with video of heavy violence continuing at the Capitol.
White House reaction to Trump ‘courage’ tweet on Pence
An incendiary tweet by former President Trump about his vice president amid the riot was a pivotal moment for the live witnesses. The tweet, sent at 2:24 p.m. at the height of the riot, said Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Pottinger said it was in that moment that he decided to resign.
“It looked like fuel being poured on the fire,” he told the committee. “I did not want to be associated with the events that were unfolding on the Capitol.”
Matthews said she thought the tweet “was the last thing that was needed in that moment” from Trump.
“He should have been telling these people to go home, and to leave, and to condemn the violence that we were seeing,” she said. “For him to tweet out the message about Mike Pence, it was him pouring gasoline on the fire, and making it much worse.”
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., characterized Trump’s tweet as putting a “target on his own vice president’s back.”
Secret Service agents feared for their lives, witness recalls
The public heard new audio of Secret Service radio traffic from the attack indicating officers were very concerned about safely evacuating Pence as rioters made their way into the building.
“If we lose any more time, we may lose the ability to leave,” one agent said over the radio. “So, if we’re going to leave, we need to do it now.”
An unidentified White House security official, whose voice was distorted to hide the person’s identity, provided a chilling detail that members of Pence’s detail “were starting to fear for their own lives.”
“There were calls to say goodbye to family members,” the official said in a recorded interview.
Trump outtakes: ‘I don’t want to say the election is over’
The committee revealed never-before-seen raw footage of outtakes from a message Trump recorded a day after the Capitol attack — on Jan. 7 — that showed, the committee said, that even after everything that happened, Trump insisted on sticking to the ‘big lie.”
“This election is now over. Congress has certified the results,” Trump starts to say, reading off a teleprompter. He then stops to say, “I don’t want to say the election is over.”
“I just want to say Congress has certified the results, without saying the election is over, OK?” he continues.
Trump had refused to record the address for hours, Luria said, but ultimately relented “because of concerns that he might be removed from power by threats of the 25th Amendment.”
The 25th Amendment lays out the procedures for replacing the president in the event of death, removal, resignation or incapacitation.
Cheney says Trump can’t be trusted
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., concluded the hearing with a central question as rumors swirl about a Trump comeback in 2024.
The former president was given a choice between right and wrong on Jan. 6, Cheney argued, and his behavior was “indefensible.”
“Every American must consider this: can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?” she asked.
The committee’s work isn’t over
While the committee’s hearing on Thursday was its last scheduled proceeding, Thompson and Cheney emphasized that the panel’s work isn’t over.
“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued and the dam has begun to break,” Cheney said.
The panel said it has received an abundance of information since the hearings began in early June, and will continue to collect evidence through the month of August when Congress is on recess. They said the committee will reconvene in September.