August 15, 2022
January 6 hearings: some parallels, some contrasts
Here are my thoughts about the first eight hearings by the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack:
I. As the hearings on the events of January 6, 2021 proceeded, dealing with efforts by Trump to overturn the 2020 election, it was difficult not to think of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, which involved another Republican President running for re-election. As evidence emerged, Republicans reluctantly turned against Nixon. By contrast, Trump’s support among voters and in Congress has remained bafflingly strong.
Liz Cheney has been a notable exception to the pattern of loyalty to Trump. In her opening remarks at the first broadcast hearing of the Select Committee, Representative Cheney left no doubt as to responsibility for the riot at the Capitol:
Those who invaded our capital and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them, that the election was stolen and that he was the rightful President. President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. . . .
. . . On the morning of January 6th, President Donald Trump's intention was to remain President of the United States despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his constitutional obligation to relinquish power. . . .
Later, she gave this warning: “Tonight I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible. There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
There have been other exceptions to Republican support for Trump, including those who voted to impeach or convict. The hearings identified others outside Congress; its case against Trump was made by Republican witnesses.
The first hearing described the presentation to be made in later hearings and anticipated a few points, one of which was that Trump had been told that his claims were baseless. The Committee played a tape of an interview with former Attorney General William Barr:
I had three discussions with the president that I can recall. One was on November 23rd, one was on December 1st, and one was on December 14th. . . . I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit. . . . . I observed, I think it was on December 1st, that, you know, how can we — you can't live in a world where — where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that the election — that there was fraud in the election.
I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public, that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn't count and that these machines controlled by somebody else were actually determining it, which was complete nonsense. . . . And I told them that it was — that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that. And it was doing a great, grave disservice to the country.
The hearing also anticipated coverage of the events of January 6 by noting Trump’s tweet on December 19, part of which read: ”Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!" The Committee played a tape of Steve Bannon saying, on January 5, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
As these examples show, the evidence relevant to the events of January 6 was not presented in an entirely systematic fashion, resulting in some repetition and some matters presented out of chronological sequence. The case against Trump was no less convincing for that.
II. At the second hearing, the Committee, in the words of Rep. Zoe Lofgren, examined “the false narrative that the 2020 election was ‘stolen.’ " Trump's “plan to overturn the election relied on a sustained effort to deceive millions of Americans with knowingly false claims of election fraud.”
Trump claimed fraud before votes were counted; Barr: “Right out of the box on election night, the President claimed that there was major fraud underway. I mean, this happened as far as I could tell before there was actually any potential of looking at evidence.” The Committee pointed out that Trump referred to fraud well before the election, including at a speech in Wisconsin on August 17, where he alleged: “The only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” An article on Politico quotes his claims of fraud from July 30 through September 24, 2020, a comment on July 19 of that year that he might not accept the results of the election, and a refusal on September 23 to “commit here today for a peaceful transferral of power after the November election.” Trump babbled about fraud at the first 2020 presidential debate on September 29.
The pattern goes back still further. In 2016, his campaign website pleaded: “Help me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!” In an interview, he declared: “that election is going to be rigged.” During the last 2016 debate, he refused to say whether he would accept the result if he lost. Already during that campaign, he had convinced many that elections were not to be trusted. “A Politico/Morning consult poll carried out in mid-October  found that . . . 73 percent of Republicans believed that the election could be stolen from Trump.” The electoral college saved him from defeat but, embarrassed by his loss in the popular vote, he trotted out allegations of fraudulent voting to explain that result.
III. At the opening of the third hearing, Ms. Cheney summarized its theme: “Today we're focusing on President Trump's relentless effort to pressure Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th”
The hearing drew a sharp contrast between the behavior of Trump and that of his Vice President. Trump tried to persuade Pence that he had the right and duty to interfere with the counting of the electoral votes, but the hearing made clear that the arguments offered to support interference by the Vice President were false. The principal theorist and supporter of Trump’s ploy, John Eastman, acknowledged to Greg Jacob, counsel to Pence, that, if his argument were presented to the Supreme Court, it would be rejected unanimously. Mr. Jacob was asked whether Eastman ever said that he would want other vice presidents to have the power to decide the outcome of the election. Jacob reported his question and Eastman’s baffling response:
I mean, John, back in 2000, you weren't jumping up and saying Al Gore had this authority to do that. You would not want Kamala Harris to be able to exercise that kind of authority in 2024 when I hope Republicans will win the election. And I know you hope that too, John. And he said, absolutely. Al Gore did not have a basis to do it in 2000, Kamala Harris shouldn't be able to do it in 2024, but I think you should do it today.
The Vice President refused to play along. A video clip was shown in which he said, in part, “President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American President.”
Trump continued until the last moment to claim that Pence could and should reject the certified votes. During his speech at the Ellipse on January 6 he said this: “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president.”
When Pence did not do so Trump, of course, turned on him. The Committee transcript refers to but does not include the exact text of this tweet by Trump at 2:24 PM on January 6, minutes after rioters had entered the Capitol: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
IV. At the opening of the fourth hearing Rep. Cheney described the effort to reverse results in several states: “Today we will begin examining President Trump's effort to overturn the election by exerting pressure on state officials and state legislatures. Donald Trump had a direct and personal role in this effort, as did Rudy Giuliani, as did John Eastman. In other words, the same people who were attempting to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes illegally were also simultaneously working to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election at the state level.”
The hearing illustrated another exception to the continuing Republican support for Trump: the principled action of elected officials. Two of them, Russell Bowers, Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State of Georgia, described their refusals to go along with Trump’s attempts to alter state electoral results.
Rep. Adam Schiff read a statement by Trump which, referring to a conversation in November 2020 with Bowers, claimed: "During the conversation he told me the election was rigged and that I won Arizona." Bowers denied saying that and confirmed that Biden won his state.
Giuliani proposed to Bowers that somehow Arizona “remove the — the electors of President Biden and replace them” with Trump electors. He proposed that Bowers assemble “an official committee” for that purpose. Bowers declined. In his attempts to pressure Bowers, Giuliani appealed to him as a fellow Republican; as Bowers put it, Giuliani “would say, aren't we all Republicans here? I — I would think we would get a better reception. I mean, I would think you would listen a little more open to my suggestions, that we're all Republicans.”
Eastman also contacted Bowers, proposing that “we would in fact vote — to take a vote to overthrow or — I shouldn't say overthrow, that we would decertify the electors . . . .” Bowers refused.
A comment by Giuliani sums up the phoniness of the Trump scheme; Bowers recalls that Giuliani said “we've got lots of theories. We just don't have the evidence.”
In a phone call to Raffensperger, Trump made various false claims about fraud in Georgia. When Raffensperger stood by the election count, Trump resorted to threats, as shown by this video played at the hearing:
I think you're going to find that they are shredding ballots because they have to get rid of the ballots because the ballots are unsigned, the ballots are — are corrupt and they're brand new and they don't have seals and there's a whole thing with the ballots, but the ballots are corrupt and you're going to find that they are — which is totally illegal.
It's — it's more illegal for you than it is for them. Because you know what they did and you're not reporting it. That's a — you know, that's a criminal — that's a criminal offense. And you know, you can't let that happen. That's — that's a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. And that's a big risk.
Ultimately Trump’s attempt to alter the outcome came down to this plea: “So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes. . . . “ Again: “ So — so what are we going to do here? Because I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” Just “find” enough votes to reverse the outcome. Secretary Raffensperger told the Committee: “There were no votes to find. That was an accurate count that had been certified.”
The Trump quotes above were taken from an hour-long call he made to Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, to which Ryan Germany, General Counsel to the Secretary of State, among others, was a party. Trump went on and on about imaginary fraud and made nonsensical claims, such as these:“As you know, every single state, we won every state. We won every statehouse in the country.” “And we won the House. . . .” “There’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
The testimony by Bowers and Raffensperger was made more powerful and their stand more praiseworthy by their general support for Trump. They acknowledged that they wanted President Trump to win the 2020 election. Bowers went further. The day before the hearing, he said this about 2024: “If he [Trump] is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again.”
According to the Committee, Trump ”posted messages on Facebook, listing the contact information for state officials and urging his supporters to contact them to ‘Demand a vote on decertification.’ " Whether or not the result of those messages, the principled stand by these officials earned them threats and accusations. Here is a description by Speaker Bowers:
[W]e received, my secretaries would say, in excess of 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voicemails and texts which saturated our offices. . . . [A]t home, up till even recently, it is the new pattern or a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays because we have various groups come by and they have had video panel trucks with videos of me proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician and blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood and leaving literature both on my property, and — but arguing and threatening with neighbors and with myself.
This was Secretary Raffensperger’s experience:
Well, after the — after the election, my email, my cell phone was docked [sic, doxxed]. And so I was getting texts all over the country. And then eventually my wife started getting the text and hers typically came in a sexualized attacks which were disgusting. . . . And so they started going after her I think just to probably put pressure on me. . . . And then some people broke into my daughter in law's home and my son has passed and she's widow and has two kids. And so we're very concerned about her safety also.
In testimony before the Committee, Gabriel Sterling, Chief Operating Officer in the Georgia Secretary of State's office, related this incident: a contractor for Dominion Voting Systems, which provided voting machines to Georgia, received threats; a video had been posted which ”had his name, [said] you committed treason, may God have mercy on your soul,” and had an image of a slowly twisting noose. The committee showed a video of Mr. Sterling, in a December 1 press conference, addressing some of his remarks directly to Trump: “Mr. President, . . . you have the rights to go to the courts. What you don't have the ability to do, and you need to step up and say this, is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed, and it's not right. . . .”
Another Republican official, Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, received daily voice mails from Trump's lawyers in the last week of November. “Mr. Speaker, this is Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis. We're calling you together because we'd like to discuss obviously the election. . . . Hey, Bryan. It's Rudy. I really have something important to call to your attention that I think really changes things.” The Committee noted that “Cutler felt that the outreach was inappropriate and asked his lawyers to tell Rudy Giuliani to stop calling.” However, he persisted: “I understand that you don't want to talk to me now. I just want to bring some facts to your attention and talk to you as a fellow Republican.”
Eventually, there were protests; Trump ally Steve Bannon announced this plan: “We're getting on the road and we're going down to Cutler. We're going to start going to offices. And if we have to we're going to go to homes and we're going to let them know what we think about them.”
Cutler testified: “There were multiple protests. I actually don't remember the exact number. There was at least three, I think, outside of either my district office or my home. . . . All of my personal information was doxxed online. It was my personal email, my personal cell phone, my home phone number. In fact, we had to disconnect our home phone for about three days because it would ring all hours of the night and would fill up with messages.”
The threats were directed not only to high-level officials; ordinary election workers were subjected to unconscionable pressure and calumny. Two election workers, mother and daughter, testified and clips were shown of the abuse they received. Here’s Rudy Giuliani claiming that a video showed that they engaged in fraudulent activity: “Tape . . . of Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss and one other gentleman quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine. I mean, it's our — it's obvious to anyone who's a criminal investigator or prosecutor they are engaged in surreptitious illegal activity again that day, and that's a week ago, and they're still walking around Georgia lying.”
Presumably Rudy meant they were passing around thumb drives, no doubt concluding, in the inane manner of all of the election-fraud nonsense, that they were somehow introducing false information into election machines. (In fact, one was handing the other a ginger mint). Rudy ranted on: “They should have been — they should have been — should have been questioned already. Their places of work, their homes, should have been searched for evidence of ballots, for Ellis — evidence of USB ports, for evidence of voter fraud.”
The Donald piled on during his call with Secretary Raffensperger, making as little sense as usual: ”We had at least 18,000. That's on tape. We had them counted very painstakingly, 18,000 voters having to do with the Ruby Freeman. That's — she's a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler.”
Shaye Moss referred to “a lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I'm — I'll be in jail with my mother . . . .” She received a call from her grandmother “saying that there are people at her home and they, you know, they knocked on the door and of course she opened it seeing who was there, who it was. And they just started pushing their way through, claiming that they were coming in to make a citizen's arrest. They needed to find me and my mom. They knew we were there. . . . “
Ms. Moss summarized the effect of the attacks: “This turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. . . . I — I don't want anyone knowing my name. I don't want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all.”
Similarly, Ruby Freeman testified: “Now I won't even introduce myself by my name anymore. I get nervous when I bump into someone I know in the grocery store who says my name. I'm worried about who's listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders. I'm always concerned of who's around me. I've lost my name, and I've lost my reputation.”
It was so bad for her that, “[a]round the week of January 6th, the FBI informed me that I needed to leave my home for safety.. . . . I — I stayed away from my home for approximately two months. It was horrible. I felt homeless. . . . I can't believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family.” She summed up the experience powerfully: “Do you know how it feels to have the President of the United States to target you? The President of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one. But he targeted me, . . . a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who [stood] up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.”
Representative Cheney summed up the threat to the country: “We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.”
V. The presentation at the fifth hearing was primarily by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the only Republican on the Committee apart from Rep. Cheney. He was no more reluctant than she to point out failings by members of his Party. He quoted several of them supporting the stolen-election claim, with this comment: “Republican Congressman amplified the stolen election message to the American public.”
At this hearing, we learned of a plan by Trump to replace the honest leader of the Justice Department with someone he thought would support his claims of fraud, providing an echo of Watergate, of the Saturday Night Massacre in which the Special Counsel was fired.
Trump wanted to appoint Jeffrey Clark, a Department of Justice lawyer with no relevant experience, to replace the Acting Attorney General, Jeffrey Rosen, who had been appointed on the resignation of Attorney General Barr. That plan was prompted by Trump’s desire to send a letter to the leadership of the Georgia state legislature, with variations for other swing states. As summarized by Rep. Cheney, the letter, drafted by Clark, claimed that the Department of Justice's investigations "identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia. . . . In light of these developments, the department recommends that the Georgia General Assembly should convene in special session," and consider approving a new slate of electors.
Mr. Rosen and his deputy, Richard Donoghue, had informed Trump that no fraud had been found. Here is Mr. Donoghue’s summary:
As we got later in the month of December, the President's entreaties became more urgent. He became more adamant that we weren't doing our job. . . . And he had this arsenal of allegations that he wanted to — to rely on. And so I felt in that conversation that it was incumbent on — on me to make it very clear to the President what our investigations had revealed, and that we had concluded based on actual investigations, actual witness interviews, actual reviews of documents that these allegations simply had no merit.
Accordingly, Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue refused to issue the letter, leading to Trump’s plan to appoint Clark.
Notes taken by Mr. Donoghue recorded that Mr. Rosen said to Trump, "DOJ can't and won't snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election." Donoghue described Trump’s reply: “He responded very quickly and said essentially that's not what I'm asking you to do. What I'm just asking you to do is to say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”
On December 31, Trump proposed seizing voting machines from state governments. Rosen: “we had seen nothing improper with regard to the voting machines. And I told him that the — the real experts that had been at DHS and they had briefed us, that they had looked at it and that there was nothing wrong with the — the voting machines.” Donoghue: “Toward the end of the meeting the President again was getting very agitated and he said people tell me I should just get rid of both of you. I should just remove you and make a change in the leadership. Put Jeff Clark in, maybe something will finally get done.”
The issue came to a head in a meeting on January 3. White House counsel Pat Cipollone was present, along with Rosen and Donoghue. Trump complained that DOJ wasn’t doing what he wanted; “You don't even agree with the — the claims of election fraud, and this other guy [Clark] at least might do something.” As Donoghue put it, “the conversation at this point was really about whether the president should remove Jeff Rosen and replace him with Jeff Clark. And everyone in the room I think understood that that meant that letter would go out. So, that was the focus.”
They warned Trump that appointing Clark would result in mass resignations. Donoghue added, perhaps sensing Trump’s vulnerable spot, “Mr. President, within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions. What's that going to say about you?” Donoghue testified: “And I think at that point Pat Cipollone said, yeah, this is a murder suicide pact, this letter.” Trump relented. Clark was not appointed.
Rep. Kinzinger commented: “So, in today's hearing, we've showcased the efforts of the Americans before us to stand up for democracy. Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue stayed steadfastly committed to the oath they take as officials in the Department of Justice. . . . My colleagues and I . . . also take an oath. Some of them failed to uphold theirs, and instead chose to spread the big lie. Days after the tragic events of January 6th, some of these same Republican members requested pardons in the waning days of the Trump administration.”
In a closing comment, Rep. Kinzinger captured Trump’s character: “[W]e're here today because the facts were irrelevant to President Trump. It was about protecting his very real power and very fragile ego, even if it required recklessly undermining our in — our entire electoral system by wildly casting baseless doubt upon it. In short, he was willing to sacrifice our republic to prolong his presidency. I can imagine no more dishonorable act by a president.”
In her closing, Rep. Cheney appealed to Trump’s followers:
[L]et me also today make a broader statement to millions of Americans who put their trust in Donald Trump. In these hearings so far, you've heard from more than a dozen Republicans who've told you what actually happened in the weeks before January 6th. You will hear from more in the hearings to come. Several of them served Donald Trump in his Administration, others in his campaign. Others have been conservative Republicans for their entire careers. It can be difficult to accept that President Trump abused your trust, that he deceived you. Many will invent excuses to ignore that fact. But that is a fact. I wish it weren't true, but it is.
VI. The sole witness at the sixth hearing was Cassidy Hutchinson, principal aide to the White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. She revealed what was happening in the White House on and before January 6.
On January 2, Rudy Giuliani met with Meadows. Ms. Hutchinson walked with Giuliani as he left. He said: “Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It's going to be a great day. I remember looking at him saying, Rudy, could you explain what's happening on the 6th? He had responded something to the effect of, we're going to the Capitol. It's going to be great. The President's going to be there. He's going to look powerful. He's — he's going to be with the members. He's going to be with the Senators. Talk to the chief about it, talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.”
She returned to Meadows’ office and reported Giuliani’s comments. Meadows “said something to the effect of, there's a lot going on, Cass, but I don't know. Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.”
There was talk of potential violence on January 6. Ms. Hutchinson: “I recall hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boys closer to the planning of the January 6th rally when Mr. Giuliani would be around.” She received a call from Robert O'Brien, the National Security Advisor. “He had asked if he could speak with Mr. Meadows about potential violent — words of violence that he was hearing that were potentially going to happen on the Hill on January 6th.” Describing a meeting between Meadows and Tony Ornato, Deputy Chief of Staff, she said: “I just remember Mr. Ornato coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th.”
On January 6, Trump gave a speech at the Ellipse, south of the White House. Those entering the Ellipse were screened for weapons by magnetometers (“mags”). Many weapons were detected, and some of the potential audience remained outside the Ellipse, not wanting to surrender them.
Trump was angry that those with weapons were not admitted. Ms. Hutchinson: “He was furious because he wanted the arena that we had on the Ellipse to be maxed out at capacity for all attendees.” She recalled Trump saying: “I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take that effing mags away. Let my people in.
According to Ms. Hutchinson, Trump was told that those outside “don't want to come in right now. They — they have weapons that they don't want confiscated by the Secret Service. And they're fine on the mall. They can see you on [from?] the mall and they're — they want to march straight to the Capitol from the mall.”
People at the White House were aware of the situation at the Capitol. Ms. Hutchinson: “It 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 having short — they were short people to defend the building against the rioters.”
Trump’s chief legal counsel was worried about Trump’s plan to go to the Capitol. Ms. Hutchinson: “On January 3rd, Mr. Cipollone had approached me knowing that Mark [Meadows] had raised the prospect of going up to the Capitol on January 6th. Mr. Cipollone and I had a brief private conversation where he said to me we need to make sure that this doesn't happen. This would be a legally a terrible idea for us. We're — we have serious legal concerns if we go up to the Capitol that day.”
She reported a further conversation on the 6th: “Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.” Asked what crimes Cipollone referred to. Ms. Hutchinson replied: “In the days leading up to the 6th, we had conversations about potentially obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count. . . . And he was also worried that it would look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot to erupt on the Capitol — at the Capitol.”
Ms. Hutchinson testified that, on the 6th, she was informed by Ornato that Trump had attempted to go to the Capitol, not by accompanying marchers, but by car. “Tony proceeded to tell me that when the president got in the beast [the presidential limo], he was under the impression from Mr. Meadows that the . . . movement to the Capitol was still possible and likely to happen . . . . So, once the president had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby [Engel, a Secret Service agent], he thought that they were going up to the Capitol. And when Bobby had relayed to him we're not, we don't have the assets to do it, it's not secure, we're going back to the West Wing, the president had a very strong, a very angry response to that.”
As the riot developed, Cipollone tried to persuade Meadows to tell Trump to intervene. Ms. Hutchinson described his response: “I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the vice president to be f'ing hung. And Mark had responded something to the effect of, you heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong . . . . I understood ‘they're’ to be the rioters in the Capitol that were chanting for the vice president to be hung.”
All of this apparently happened in the general time frame of Trump’s tweet at 2:24 PM. The text of that tweet bears repeating in full: “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!.” Here is Ms. Hutchinson’s reaction when she saw that tweet:
As a staffer that worked to always represent the administration to the best of my ability and to showcase the good things that he had done for the country, I remember feeling frustrated and disappointed, and really it felt personal. I — I was really sad. As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie, and it was something that was really hard in that moment to digest, knowing what I've been hearing down the hall and the conversations that were happening. Seeing that tweet come up and knowing what was happening on the Hill, and it's something that I — it's still — I still struggle to work through the emotions of that.”
She was a loyal aide, thought the administration had done good things for the country, but knew that the election-fraud claim was a lie, and the tweet disgusting and unpatriotic.
VII. Here is Rep. Cheney’s summary of the seventh hearing: “Today's hearing will take us from December 14th, 2020, when the Electoral College met and certified the results of the 2020 presidential election, up through the morning of January 6th. . . . We will also see today how President Trump summoned a mob to Washington and how the president's stolen election lies provoked that mob to attack the Capitol. . . .”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy stated that “members of President Trump's Cabinet and his White House staff . . . told President Trump that it was time to concede the election to Mr. Biden.” She ran a tape of Secretary of Labor Gene Scalia: “So I had to put a call into the President. . . . We spoke, I believe, on the 14th [of December, 2020] in which I conveyed to him that I thought that it was time for him to acknowledge that President Biden had prevailed in the election.”
Videos were run of interviews of Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel:
Q: “I want to start by asking if you agree, Mr. Cipollone, with the conclusion of Matt Morgan and Bill Barr, of all of the individuals who evaluated those claims that there is no evidence of election fraud sufficient to undermine the outcome in any particular state?”
A:“Yes, I agree with that.”
Q: “Did you in your mind form the belief that the President should concede the election loss at a certain point after the election[?]
A; “]I]f your question is did I believe he should concede the election at a point in time? Yes, I did.”
He also commented on one of the wilder ideas put forth by some of Trump’s allies, that the Secretary of Defense seize voting machines. “To have the federal government seize voting machines? That's a terrible idea for the country. That's not how we do things in the United States. There's no legal authority to do that. . . .”
That proposal had been put forth in a contentious, six-hour meeting on December 18 attended by Trump supporters and White House counsel. The outcome, as Rep. Jamie Raskin put it, was that “President Trump turned away from both his outside advisers' most outlandish and unworkable schemes and his White House counsel's advice to swallow hard and accept the reality of his loss. Instead, Donald Trump issued a tweet that would galvanize his followers, unleash a political firestorm, and change the course of our history as a country.” The transcript contains part of the text of the tweet, sent at 1:42 AM on the 19th, which in full is as follows: “Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud 'more than sufficient' to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK . A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
The Committee played some reactions to Trump’s message:
Alex Jones: “It's Saturday, December 19th. The year is 2020, and one of the most historic events in American history has just taken place. President Trump, in the early morning hours today, tweeted that he wants the American people to march on Washington DC on January 6th, 2021. . . . H e is now calling on we the People to take action and to show our numbers.”
Matt Bracken: “We're going to only be saved by millions of Americans moving to Washington, occupying the entire area, if — if necessary storming right into the Capitol. You know, they're — we know the rules of engagement. If you have enough people, you can push down any kind of a fence or a wall.”
Tim Pool: “This could be Trump's last stand. And it's a time when he has specifically called on his supporters to arrive in DC. That's something that may actually be the big push Trump supporters need to say this is it. It's now or never.”
Rep. Raskin described the situation: “While Trump supporters grew more aggressive online, he continued to rile up his base on Twitter. He said there was overwhelming evidence that the election was the biggest scam in our nation's history. As you can see, the president continued to boost the event, tweeting about it more than a dozen times in the lead up to January the 6th.” Here is one of the tweets, from December 26, 2020: "The Justice Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation’s history, despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th."
According to White House visitor logs obtained by the Committee, Republican members of Congress visited Trump on December 21st. Rep. Murphy: “We've asked witnesses what happened during the December 21st meeting, and we've learned that part of the discussion centered on the role of the vice president during the counting of the electoral votes. These members of Congress were discussing what would later be known as the Eastman theory,” about Vice President Pence’s alleged right to refuse to certify electoral votes.
Mr. Cipollone was asked about the issue. He responded: “My view was that a vice president had — didn't have the legal authority to do anything except what he did. He added: “I thought that the vice president did not have the authority to do what was being suggested under a proper reading of the law. I conveyed that. . . . I think the vice president did the right thing. I think he did the courageous thing. . . . I think he did a great service to this country. And I think I suggested to somebody that he should be get — given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for — for his actions.”
Returning to the events leading up to January 6, Rep. Murphy said: “The committee has learned from the White House phone logs that the president spoke to Steve Bannon, his close adviser, at least twice on January 5th. . . . Listen to what Mr. Bannon said that day after the first call he had with the President: ‘All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's all converging and now we're on, as they say, the point of attack, right, the point of attack tomorrow. I'll tell you this, it's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen, Ok? It's going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in.’ ”
There was a preliminary rally in Washington on January 5 by Trump supporters. Here are some of the statements they made:
Roger Stone: “This is nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of this country, between dark and light, between the Godly and the godless, between good and evil. And we will win this fight or America would step off into a thousand years of darkness.”
Michael Flynn: “The members — the members of Congress, the members of the House of Representatives, the members of the — of the United States Senate, those of — those of you who are feeling weak tonight, those of you that don't have the moral fiber in your body, get some tonight because tomorrow we the people are going to be here. And we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie. We will not stand for a lie.”
Ali Alexander: “I want them to know that 1776 is always an option. These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want or we are going to shut this country down.”
Alex Jones: “It's 1776, 1776, 1776, 1776.”
Rep. Murphy referred to a tweet by Trump at 5:05 PM on January 5, about that rally, in which he said:: “Washington is being inundated with people who don't want to see an election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats. Our Country has had enough, they won't take it anymore! We hear you (and love you) from the Oval Office. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”  It was more fuel on the fire. Trump’s January 6 speech at The Ellipse contained these lines, further goading his followers:
. . . And after this, we're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you, . . .we're going to walk down to the Capitol, and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated.
He ended the speech with this:
I think one of our great achievements will be election security. Because nobody until I came along had any idea how corrupt our elections were. . . . And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. . . . So we're going to, we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. . . . [W]e're going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don't need any of our help. We're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.
President Trump's former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, recognized the impact of the speech; this is what he said on January 6th in excerpts from text messages: “[T]his is about Trump pushing for uncertainty in our country". . . . A sitting President asking for civil war."
VIII. Witnesses at the eighth hearing were Matthew Pottinger, Deputy National Security Advisor to the President and Sarah Matthews, Deputy Press Secretary and Special Assistant to the President.
The hearing was designed in part to show that Trump not only failed for hours to call off the rioters, but that he ignored advice and pleas to do so. The Committee did a careless job of establishing the latter, often noting only that his advisors, staff and family wanted hin to do so. However, there were enough references to conversations with Trump to make the point.
Reps. Elaine Luria and Adam Kinzinger led the discussion. According to Rep. Luria, “A White House employee informed the President as soon as he returned to the Oval about the riot at the Capitol. . . . At 1:25, President Trump went to the private dining room off the Oval Office. From 1:25 until 4:00, the President stayed in his dining room.” There he watched Fox News coverage of the events at the Capitol. The Committee showed this excerpt from the broadcast, apparently at about 1:43 PM:
The President, as we all saw, fired this crowd up. They've all — tens of thousands, maybe 100,000 or more have gone down to the Capitol or elsewhere in the city and they're very upset. Now I jumped down as soon as we heard the news that Bret gave you about Mike Pence. I started talking to these people. I said, what do you think? One woman, an Air Force veteran from Missouri said she was quote, disgusted to hear that news and that it was his duty to do something. And I told her, I said there's nothing in the Constitution unilaterally that Vice President Pence could do. She said, that doesn't matter. He should have fought for Trump.
The low point in Trump’s behavior on January 6 came in his tweet at 2:24 PM. The temporal context is interesting; rioters had broken into the Capitol at 2:13. The tweet was cited in earlier hearings, but deserves restatement in full: “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
This was Matthew Pottinger’s reaction to that tweet:
I — I read it and was quite disturbed by it. I — I was disturbed and worried to see that the President was attacking Vice President Pence for doing his constitutional duty. So the tweet looked to me like the opposite of what — what we really needed at that moment, which was a de-escalation. And that's why I had said earlier that it looked like fuel being poured on the fire.
So that was the moment that I decided that I was going to resign, that that would be my last day at the White House. I — I simply didn't want to be associated with — with the events that were unfolding on the Capitol.
According to Rep. Kinzinger, in the time prior to 2:24, Trump’s ”staff repeatedly came into the room to see him and plead that he make a strong public statement condemning the violence and instructing the mob to leave the Capitol.” The transcript does not contain direct evidence of that but a tape of Pat Cipollone’s cautious testimony indicates that he so told Trump after learning of violence at the Capitol:
UNKNOWN: [I]t sounds like you from the very outset of violence at the Capitol, right around 2:00, were pushing for a strong statement that people should leave the Capitol. Is that right?
PAT CIPOLLONE: I was, and others were as well.
UNKNOWN: Pat, you said that you expressed your opinion forcefully. Could you tell us exactly how you did that?
PAT CIPOLLONE: Yeah, I can't — I don't have, you know, I have to — on the privilege issue, I can't talk about conversations with the President, but I can generically say that I said, you know, people need to be told, there needs to be a public announcement fast that they need to leave the Capitol.
The transcript also includes a reference to a video which includes this comment by Mark Meadows: “I've already talked to the president. I called him. I think we need to make a statement, make sure that we can calm individuals down.” The video shows Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher making this statement: “Mr. President, you have got to stop this. You are the only person who can call this off. Call it off. The election is over. Call it off.”
Trump did eventually issue two tweets calling for the mob to be peaceful: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” (2:38 PM). “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” (3:13 PM).
Trump eventually, at 4:17 PM, told the rioters to go home, but laced his request with stolen-election nonsense, ensuring that the election result would not be accepted by his followers:
I know your pain. I know you're hurt.
We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don't want anybody hurt. It's a very tough period of time. There's never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country.
This was a fraudulent election, but we can't play into the hands of these people. 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 at peace.
Sara Matthews had this reaction to Trump’s statement:
I was struck by the fact that he chose to begin the video by pushing the lie that there was a stolen election. And as the video went on, I felt a small sense of relief because he finally told these people to go home. But that was immediately followed up by him saying, we love you, you're very special. And that was disturbing to me because he didn't distinguish between those that peacefully attended his speech earlier that day and those that we watched cause violence at the Capitol.
Instead, he told the people who we had just watched storm our nation's Capitol with the intent on overthrowing our democracy, violently attack police officers, and chant heinous, things like, hang Mike Pence, we love you, you're very special. And as a spokesperson for him, I knew that I would be asked to defend that.
And to me, his refusal to act and call off the mob that day and his refusal to condemn the violence was indefensible. And so I knew that I would be resigning that evening. . . .
In her closing remarks, Rep. Cheney added to the evidence that claims of fraud were not something that materialized after the election, but were part of the strategy, She played a video of Steve Bannon speaking on October 31, 2020:
And what Trump's going to do is declare victory, right? He's going to declare victory, but that doesn't mean he's a winner. He's just gonna say he's a winner. The Democrats — more of our people vote early that count. Theirs vote in mail. And so they're going to have a natural disadvantage and Trump's going to take advantage — that's our strategy. He's gonna declare himself a winner. So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it's going to be a firestorm. Also — also if Trump is — if Trump is losing by 10 or 11:00 at night, it's going to be even crazier. Because he's gonna sit right there and say they stole it. If Biden's winning, Trump is going to do some crazy shit.
Rep. Cheney also offered a theory as to why Trump’s followers have swallowed his lies. The usual explanations look to gullibility, fear of loss of status, partisanship, tribalism, separatism, hostility to government, etc. Rep. Cheney suggested that Trump “is preying on their patriotism. He is preying on their sense of justice. And on January 6th, Donald Trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution.” He accomplished that by creating “the false impression that America is threatened by a foreign force controlling voting machines or that a wave of tens of millions of false ballots were secretly injected into our election system or that ballot workers have secret thumb drives and are stealing elections with them.” That’s an interesting theory, and it probably is accurate in adding a factor to the mix, but other influences must be at work to persuade people that Trump speaks for patriotism and justice.
29. Levitsky and Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (2018), p. 61
30. https://www.npr.org/2021/02/10/966396848/read-trumps-jan-6-speech-a-key-part-of-impeachment- trial
31. I have used the transcripts furnished by NPR.
32. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-january-6-2021. Time: 19:24:22. That source uses a twenty-four hour system — so 2:24 PM Eastern Time would be 14:24 — and uses Universal Time Coordinated, which is 5 hours ahead of ET.
33. Transcript at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-raffensperger-call-transcript-georgia- vote/ 2021/01/03/2768e0cc-4ddd-11eb-83e3-322644d82356_story.html
34. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/22/arizona-rusty-bowers-jan-6-trump-vote. Continuing to support Trump in the circumstances baffles me, and Bowers has had second thoughts, saying in late July, “I’ll never vote for him.” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rusty-bowers-donald-trump-arizona-gop_n_ 62e7a6fbe4b00fd8d8411100
35. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-december-19-2020. Time: 06:42:42. A Washington Post article described Navarro’s “report” thus: “This might be the most embarrassing document created by a White House staffer.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/12/18/this-might-be-most- embarrassing-document-created-by-white-house-staffer/
36. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-december-26-2020. Time: 13:14:54
37. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-january-5-2021. Time 22:05:56
38. https://www.npr.org/2021/02/10/966396848/read-trumps-jan-6-speech-a-key-part-of-impeachment- trial
39. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-january-6-2021. Time: 19:38:58, 20:13:26.
40. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/videotaped-remarks-during-the-insurrection-the-united- states-capitol
2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/09/30/trump-unleashed-torrent-disinformation-about- voter-fraud-debate/
3 Levitsky and Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (2018), p. 61
5 I have used the transcripts furnished by NPR.
6 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-january-6-2021. Time: 19:24:22. That source uses a twenty-four hour system — so 2:24 PM Eastern Time would be 14:24 — and uses Universal Time Coordinated, which is 5 hours ahead of ET.
7 Transcript at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-raffensperger-call-transcript-georgia-vote/ 2021/01/03/2768e0cc-4ddd-11eb-83e3-322644d82356_story.html
8 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/22/arizona-rusty-bowers-jan-6-trump-vote. Continuing to support Trump in the circumstances baffles me, and Bowers has had second thoughts, saying in late July, “I’ll never vote for him.” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rusty-bowers-donald-trump-arizona- gop_n_62e7a6fbe4b00fd8d8411100
9 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-december-19-2020. Time: 06:42:42.
A Washington Post article described Navarro’s “report” thus: “This might be the most embarrassing document created by a White House staffer.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/12/18/this-might-be-most- embarrassing-document-created-by-white-house-staffer/
10 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-december-26-2020. Time: 13:14:54
11 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-january-5-2021. Time 22:05:56
13 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-january-6-2021. Time: 19:38:58, 20:13:26.
14 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/videotaped-remarks-during-the-insurrection-the-united- states-capitol