While rioters smashed through police lines at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Donald Trump asked aides for a list of senators to call as he continued to pursue paths to overturn his defeat.
“He wanted a list of senators,” former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in recorded testimony, aired by the Jan. 6 select committee at a public hearing Thursday night.
McEnany didn’t identify which senators Trump called, but one of them was Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who has previously described receiving a call from the then-president just as he and Pence were being evacuated, as the mob encroached on the Senate chamber. The select panel also revealed in its eighth summertime hearing, scheduled during primetime, that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had called a host of other GOP lawmakers on the evening of the attack — ostensibly to shore up support for continuing to challenge the 2020 election.
That was just one thread of new evidence the select panel wove as it delivered a narrative reminder that Trump didn’t just sit on his hands during the riot by his supporters; he sought to use the chaos to further his goal of clinging to power. The select panel added new details to the timeline of Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, painting a picture of a president who sat idly in the Oval Office, watching on TV as the mob battered its way through police lines and into the Capitol.
New images and video shown on Thursday shed specific light on the climate surrounding Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, and members of Congress as they fled violent rioters. The committee aired audio from Pence’s Secret Service detail making rapid-fire decisions about the proper route through the Capitol to avoid confronting the mob.
“We may lose the ability to leave,” one agent warned moments before Pence was ushered to an underground loading dock, where he remained for the remainder of the riot.
“President Trump did not fail to act … he chose not to act,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said at Thursday’s hearing.
While Trump’s public silence during much of the violence is already well-known, the panel argues that the new evidence it presented about what happened inside the West Wing showed he purposely didn’t intervene in the chaos until it was clear the mob had failed to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election.
“Donald Trump ignored and disregarded the desperate pleas of his own family, including Ivanka and Don Jr.,” said the select panel’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), referring to the former president’s children. “He could not be moved.”
The hearing focused intensely on the now-famous “187 minutes” — the period of time between when Trump urged his supporters to march on the Capitol, 1:10 p.m., and when Trump haltingly told them to depart, at 4:17 p.m.
Prominently featured was new testimony from Trump’s former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, including his recollection of discussions with colleagues about the mob’s chants of “hang Mike Pence.” Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has recalled overhearing Cipollone discussing the matter with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and that Meadows said Trump thought Pence deserved it.
Cipollone relied on executive privilege to decline to discuss whether he raised concerns about that matter directly with Trump.
One of the committee’s live witnesses, former Trump White House press aide Sarah Matthews, described how easily his aides could have arranged for him to address to the White House press corps to condemn the riot: “He could have been on camera almost instantly.” But the order never came, she said.
The hearing also emphasized the role of Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet on Jan. 6, in which he attacked Pence for his refusal to attempt to block the transfer of power. The committee showed testimony from Trump White House aides expressing disappointment and frustration at Trump’s broadside against Pence, which also rippled through the mob itself, with rioters amplifying it and using it to urge others to enter the Capitol.
“My reaction is that it’s a terrible tweet,” Cipollone told the select committee. “I disagreed with the sentiment.”
“The scenes at the U.S. Capitol were only getting worse at that point,” said former White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. “This was not going to help that.”
The panel also aired outtakes from Trump’s remarks on the afternoon of Jan. 6 and in the aftermath on Jan. 7, as he struggled to condemn the violence and admit the election was over.
“I don’t want to say the election is over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results,” Trump said in an outtake from the Jan. 7 remarks.
Thursday night’s hearing is closing the latest chapter of the select panel’s investigation, but investigators vowed to keep going. Its probe has opened up extraordinary new avenues of inquiry — from Secret Service agents’ deletion of text messages in the days surrounding Jan. 6 to the legal concerns about Trump’s plans that day from his own White House counsel’s office.
“We anticipate further testimony” from the Secret Service, said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), one of two lawmakers leading Thursday’s hearing.
Thompson said the committee would reconvene in September to continue presenting evidence to the American people about a “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn an election overseen and directed by Donald Trump.”
“There needs to be accountability, accountability under the law, accountability to the American people,” Thompson said. “If there’s no accountability for January 6, for every part of this scheme, I fear we will not overcome the growing threat to our democracy.”
Matthews and another former Trump aide, Matthew Pottinger, both testified live. But select panel members also featured extensive video clips from witnesses’ interviews, highlighting the vast network of Trump allies who tried to facilitate his plans.
By all accounts, witnesses are coming forward at a steady clip, offering new insights about the multiple facets of Trump’s plan, which grew increasingly desperate as Jan. 6 approached. Cipollone, for one, testified privately to the committee earlier this month.
The committee emphasized that while Trump was continuing to lean on senators and allies to aid his quest to remain in power — among the senators Giuliani called were Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas.) — he never called security agencies to send aid to the Capitol.
Trump also fielded pleas for help on Jan. 6 from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has told allies he rejected Trump’s contention that the violent mob was a left-wing assault masquerading as Trump supporters, according to new material aired Thursday.
The committee has also shown that Trump’s outside lawyers continued to strategize about potential legal actions that might undo the results of the election, even as Fox News host Sean Hannity texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a bid to usher Trump out of the White House.