The House Select January 6th Committee on Thursday accused former President Donald Trump of dereliction of duty and violating his oath of office in the panel's eighth public hearing and the final one expected this summer.
The driving force of the committee’s presentation was a meticulous examination of what happened after Trump left a "Stop the Steal" rally near the White House. The rally was held to support the president's false contention that he won the 2020 presidential election.
After he spoke, a group of his supporters forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, carrying out violence and destruction and delaying the electoral certification. More than three hours later the then-president released a Rose Garden video telling rioters to stand down.
“For 187 minutes on January 6, this man of unbridled destructive energy could not be moved,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss. 2nd District), the chairman of the committee, said in pre-recorded opening remarks. Vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) chaired the hearing after Thompson tested positive for COVID-19. “Not by his aides, not by his allies, not by the violent chance of rioters, or the desperate pleas of those facing down the mob. He could not be moved.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill. 16th District), who led the presentation with Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va. 2nd District), further said, “Donald Trump’s conduct on January 6 was a supreme violation of his oath of office and a complete dereliction of his duty to our nation.”
A video of President Donald Trump speaking on Jan. 6 is played as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
White House or Capitol?
Mark Robinson, a former Metropolitan Police officer who was with the motorcade that day, said in video testimony that a Secret Service agent told him there had been a “heated” conversation about going to the Capitol.
This seems to support portions of the testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who had been told about a confrontation between Trump and his security detail about going to the Capitol. Ultimately, he did not go.
Instead Trump appeared to spend much of the next few hours in his private dining room just off the Oval Office, watching the events unfold on television.
Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone told the committee he and others in the White House called for a forceful response to the violence at the Capitol. He also said the staff discussed the chants of “Hang Mike Pence” coming from some rioters.
Witnesses in previous hearings recalling Trump saying that his vice president “deserved” the death threats for refusing to unilaterally reject some Electoral College, despite a total lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities.
The committee showed security camera footage of officers trying to move Pence safely through the Capitol. A White House security official, who the committee allowed to remain anonymous, said in recorded audio testimony that members of Pence’s detail were fearing for their lives. Some, the official said, even radioed goodbyes to family members.
“On the ground, the vice president’s detail thought that this was about to get very ugly,” the witness said.
In this U.S. Capitol Police security video, rioters enter the Capitol in a video displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump Finally Tweets
Matthew Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser, and Sarah Matthews, a former deputy press secretary, both testified at the hearing. They were in the White House during the attack and resigned immediately afterwards.
Trump's 2:24 p.m. tweet, which said in part, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution,” was the last straw for Pottinger who told the committee he decided to resign at that moment.
“I simply didn’t want to be associated with the events that were unfolding on the Capitol,” he said.
Matthews, who previously worked on his campaign, said she understood the impact the tweet would have on the rioters.
“I’ve seen the impact that his words have on his supporters,” she said. “They truly latch onto every word and every tweet that he says, and so I think that, in that moment, for him to tweet out the message about Mike Pence, it was him pouring gasoline on the fire and making it much worse.”
Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser, and Sarah Matthews, former White House deputy press secretary, return from a break as they testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump later tweeted two additional times in the next hour, urging his supporters to “stay peaceful” and “remain peaceful," but the violence was already well underway.
After a flood of messages from big-name supporters urging more forceful action, Trump relented and recorded a video message to his supporters, which was tweeted out at 4:17 p.m. in which he told the rioters to go home, but would not condemn the violence and closed the message by saying, “We love you.”
Matthews said this moment spurred her resignation.
“As a spokesperson for him, I knew that I would be asked to defend that,” she said. “And to me, his refusal to act and call off the mob that day, and his refusal to condemn the violence was indefensible.”
It took several hours after the video was released to clear and secure the Capitol so Congress could finish certifying the election results, finally finishing early the next morning.
The committee showed brief footage of outtakes of Trump preparing a speech on January 7, in which he told his team, “I don’t want to say the election’s over.”
What Comes Next
Cheney closed the hearing by recounting the broad scope of the hearings so far.
“Here’s the worst part: Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation,” she said. “Were it threatened, they would put their lives and their freedom at stake to protect her. And he is preying on their patriotism. He is preying on their sense of justice. And on January 6, Donald Trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution.”
Thursday’s hearing is the final public hearing, for now.
Committee members and staff have stressed throughout the series of hearings that the committee’s investigation is ongoing. Given that it is a select committee, established for a specific purpose, its work will not officially wrap up until it issues its final report and gives any legislative recommendations to the full House.
Thompson said in his remarks the investigation is ongoing. The committee is expected to reconvene in September.