A Congressional committee has learned that Donald Trump sat in his presidential dining room for two and a half hours on the afternoon of January 6, 2021, watching live coverage on Fox News as a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol.
The panel looking into the violence said on Thursday night that they had evidence from numerous White House witnesses that the former president disregarded the cries of those who were closest to him, including his own family, to issue a statement urging his supporters to stop.
Trump allegedly watched the events on television, tweeted his rally speech from earlier in the day, and called senators who were supposed to be certifying the results of the 2020 election.
Messages from the Capitol were delivered to Trump’s officials at the same time, warning that Mike Pence’s security detail members were in grave danger and feared for their lives.
Members heard from Matt Pottinger, who worked as deputy national security adviser, and Sarah Matthews, a former press assistant, two White House staff members who were present on the day during the primetime hearing.
They played video evidence from a number of individuals who were working in the building that day, all of whom worked they had not seen or heard the former president call that law enforcement be strengthened as the mob stormed Congress.
The committee told remarks from US military chief Mark Milley about his alarm over inaction. “You’re the commander-in-chief and there’s an attack on the US Capitol,” he said in testimony that was recorded. And nothing else? No call was received? Zero?”
The committee also heard evidence from several witnesses who described an altercation between Trump and Secret Service agents as he attempted to join his supporters at the Capitol, even though he was aware that some of them were armed.
As soon as Trump realized he had to go back to the White House, he went back to his office and turned on live television to observe the violence.
The committee was informed that Trump expressed empathy for his supporters, despite their cries to “Hang Mike Pence.”
At the time, Cassidy Hutchinson, a White House assistant, recalled a conversation between Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.
“You heard, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” was Mark’s response.
While White House officials believed Pence’s life was in danger, a tweet sent by Trump at 2:24 p.m. that read, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution” alarmed several witnesses.
The tweet, according to Hutchinson, left her “disgusted,” and Pottinger said he immediately decided to resign.
Due to a recent diagnosis of Covid-19, the Democratic committee chair, Bennie Thompson, opened the hearing from a distance. “[Trump] ignored and disregarded the desperate pleas of his own family, including Ivanka Trump and Don Jr. [his daughter and son]—even though he was the only one who could call off the mob,” he said in his testimony.
The White House briefing room’s cameras were waiting and eager to broadcast his message to the savage mob, but Thompson continued: “He could not be moved to rise from his dining room table and walk the few steps down to the White House briefing room.”
The committee has held seven hearings in an effort to draw voters’ attention back to the violence that erupted following the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s role in inflaming it. The committee will reconvene in September to continue outlining its findings and presenting fresh evidence, Thompson said, but Thursday’s meeting will be the last in this series.
The hearings have told how Trump was informed that he had lost the election by a number of his closest advisers, yet he persisted in exerting pressure on the justice department and individual states to hold up the release of the results. He urged his supporters to protest in Washington, DC on January 6, the day Congress formally recognized the result, after he lost.
The hearings have decreased Trump’s popularity and improved the chances of those who might run against him for the Republican nomination in 2024 by demonstrating how close he came to overturning the election results.
Due to lost text messages sent by Secret Service agents, there are gaps in the committee’s evidence regarding what transpired in the White House on January 6.
Only a few weeks after the riot, the service deleted those messages as part of what it claimed to be a “system migration process.” The committee has only received and reviewed one text, according to aides.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, vice-chair of the committee Liz Cheney and Thompson urged the Secret Service to find the lost data and cautioned that there may have been legal violations.
“The method for content preservation prior to this purge appears to have been contrary to federal records retention requirements and may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act,” they claimed.
Members of the secret service are anticipated to testify in the upcoming weeks, according to Democratic committee member Elaine Luria.