Key takeaways from the January 6 first hearing: It’s all about Trump
WASHINGTON — More than one person sparked the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, the Riot Investigation Committee said in its first public hearing Thursday.
And that person is Donald Trump.
He rioted on Capitol Hill and nearly shredded American democracy in his quest for power, the House committee argued Jan. 6 in what will serve as the opening argument in a week-long effort to plead the case to the public.
Committee members set out to explain a multi-tiered plan to void the 2020 election and undo millions of votes cast for Joe Biden.
The committee released never-before-seen video of interviews with Trump’s inner circle and graphic images of the Capitol headquarters.
But behind all the production was a recurring message: Trump fueled the lie that the election was stolen, stoked the ire of his supporters who stormed the Capitol, then did nothing when lawmakers, aides and family members implored him to stop the attack.
In fact, Trump started yelling and got “really mad at the advisers who told him he needed to do something more,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the committee’s vice chair. , in his opening statement.
Holding its first public hearing in prime time, the commission faced a tricky challenge: capturing the attention of Americans who may feel like they know all they need to know about a dark episode in history. of the United States which received wide coverage. But after interviewing 1,000 people behind closed doors and collecting 140,000 records, the committee came up with findings that proved startling enough to draw gasps from lawmakers in the courtroom.
These are the takeaways from the first hearing:
Trump thought his supporters were “doing what they had to do,” Cheney said. Indeed, the riot was, in a way, the inevitable result of his plan to sow doubt about the election results and persuade Americans that he had rightfully won, according to the committee.
“As you will see, this disinformation campaign caused the January 6 violence,” Cheney said.
His top aide, meanwhile, didn’t want Trump to be upstaged by the vice president. The panel played audio of an interview with Army General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Milley described a conversation he had with Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6. Meadows, he testified, told him, “We have to kill the narrative that the vice president [Mike Pence] makes all the decisions. We need to establish the narrative that the president is still in charge and things are stable or stable, or words to that effect. Milley dismissed Meadows’ accent as simply “politics” and added, “I don’t do political stories.”
Neither should the committee, warn some observers. By making Trump a singular focus, the committee risks appearing as a partisan actor, not a neutral investigator. Before the hearing, Doug Jones, a former Democratic senator from Alabama, warned that the committee would lose credibility if it dwelled on Trump.
The committee painted Pence as an unlikely hero
And yet, importantly, Pence has been responsible that day.
He was in the building presiding over the counting of electoral votes when the crowd broke through police lines. Secret Service agents rushed Pence to safety as rioters roamed the Capitol.
With the building overrun, Trump did not alert any branch of government to defend those inside, the committee said. He did not speak to his attorney general or his secretary of defense, nor did he order the deployment of the National Guard.
Pence did all of that.
Milley described Pence as “very firm”, giving instructions to “get the army here, get the [National] Guard here. End this situation.
An upcoming hearing will explain how Pence and his team repeatedly told Trump that it would be illegal for the vice president to refuse to count certain electoral votes, as Trump wanted.
Although loyal, Pence chose to break with Trump rather than overturn the election.
Trump appointees feared he was unfit to govern and threatened to resign
Trump’s behavior was so disturbing that his cabinet debated whether he should be fired. Cabinet members discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, a way to replace a president. And an unnamed Cabinet member suggested that, in the face of Trump’s behavior, they’re all starting to take a more direct role in running the White House and the administration.
“They knew President Donald Trump was too dangerous to be left alone,” Cheney said.
Turnover has always been an issue in the Trump White House. His White House attorney, Pat Cipollone, was “so concerned about potentially lawless activity that he repeatedly threatened to resign,” Cheney said.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner suggested the White House lawyer’s staff were whiners
But Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner appeared to disregard the warnings.
When he testified before the committee, Cheney questioned him about Cipollone’s threats to resign.
The committee released an excerpt from Kushner’s response, in which he said Cipollone and people in his office often said they would leave. “So I kind of took it to whine, to be honest with you,” he said.
Upcoming hearings will reveal other elements of Trump’s plan to stay in power
The hearing served as a teaser. Over the next few weeks, the panel plans to hold at least six more public hearings and flesh out various elements of the plot to keep Trump in power.
Another hearing will reveal how Trump wanted to fire senior Justice Department officials who refused to follow his instructions and “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican members of Congress.”
Cheney also said the committee is continuing to investigate and more information may come to light. She left open the possibility of the hearings extending through the summer.
Final hearings this month will include Trump aides who were in the West Wing that day, Cheney said.
Trump was told Biden won fairly
Trump and his top aide were specifically told there was no widespread voter fraud. The committee released a videotaped deposition with one of Trump’s campaign lawyers, Alex Cannon, who spoke to Meadows about allegations of voter fraud. Cannon testified that he informed Meadows that “we couldn’t find anything that would be sufficient to change the results in any of the key states.”
In response, Meadows said, “So there’s no there.”
Trump had received much the same message. The panel aired part of a deposition in which former attorney general William Barr said he told Trump directly that “I have not seen evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election.”
Barr went on to say that he warned Trump that “this was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on this and it was doing the country a very, very disservice.”