The January 6 committee concluded its first series of public hearings Thursday night with a revelatory look at what then-President Donald Trump was doing, and who was trying to influence him, during the 187 minutes between when he finished his Stop the Steal speech at the rally on January 6, 2021, and when he tweeted a video calling for the rioters at the Capitol to leave.
The committee also heard live testimony from two White House aides — former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews and former deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger — both of whom resigned on January 6. And it aired new footage of a still-defiant Trump from the day after the attack.
We also learned that, despite billing this as a finale of sorts, there will be a new round of televised hearings in September. The committee left us with several revelations, though, including:
1) During the siege, Trump watched Fox News and “poured gasoline” on what he saw unfolding
For nearly three hours, according to the committee, Trump watched Fox News as it broadcast live images of the Capitol being breached and the mob attacking law enforcement officers. That matched previous press reports about Trump’s activities at the time.
The committee shared testimony from numerous White House officials reinforcing the fact that Trump did nothing to reach out to law enforcement or military officials during this time. They also provided evidence that, during this period, Trump called Rudy Giuliani, and he called senators to lobby them to support his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
White House staff, including Matthews and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, were beseeching Trump to communicate something to quell the violence as it began to unfold near the Capitol. Trump, also aware of the violence, instead tweeted disparagingly about Vice President Mike Pence.
“The tweet looked to me like the opposite of what we needed at that moment, which was a de-escalation,” Pottinger said. “It looked like fuel being poured on the fire. That is the moment I decided I would resign.”
“I see the impact that his words have on his supporters,” said Matthews, who had previously worked on Trump’s 2020 election campaign. “They latch onto every tweet and word that he says. For him to tweet out that message about Mike Pence, it was him pouring gasoline on the fire and making it much worse.”
2) Pence’s Secret Service agents feared for their lives
The committee also broadcast testimony from an anonymous White House official who testified that the Secret Service detail of Vice President Mike Pence feared for their lives during the attack on the Capitol.
We asked a security professional who had been working in the White House complex on January 6th what was meant by the comment that the Secret Service agents did not "sound good right now."— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) July 22, 2022
The professional discusses what they heard from listening to the incoming radio traffic: pic.twitter.com/lDn8sNMaYR
As the mob breached the second floor outside the Senate, agents were telling goodbye to their families and loved ones on the radio in case they were killed as others worried that they would not be able to successfully evacuate Pence from the building.
“If we lose any more time, we may lose the ability to leave so if we are going to leave, we need to go now,” one said over the radio at that time, according to footage played by the committee.
As this was happening, Trump sent the tweet that egged on the mob against Pence. “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!” said Trump on his since-deleted account.
3) On January 7, Trump refused to say the election was over
In a series of outtakes from taped remarks he delivered the day after the attack on the Capitol, Trump could not bear to admit defeat. “I don’t want to say the election is over, I just want to say Congress has certified the results,” he said in footage obtained by the committee.
"I don't want to say the election is over," Trump says in outtakes from his speech on Jan. 7. "I just want to say Congress has certified the results." Ivanka Trump, who is not seen but heard in the background, helps him make revisions in real time. pic.twitter.com/cCfnyWKgLo— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) July 22, 2022
It was a remarkable refusal to acknowledge his defeat, even after people had died in the January 6 riot.
Trump also was pictured stumbling over words and making minor complaints about his script, including quibbling with describing those who went to the Capitol as law-breakers.
4) The humiliation of Josh Hawley
The select committee members have not been averse to calling out their congressional colleagues who supported Trump’s efforts in previous hearings, as it has done with Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA)’s efforts to help install Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general in early January 2020. On Thursday, they reminded viewers of how critical minority leader Kevin McCarthy was of Trump immediately after the attack, before quickly resuming his status as a Trump loyalist.
But it went out of its way to dunk on Sen. Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican who was the first member of the upper chamber to publicly say he would object to election results on January 6. It showed the now-infamous picture of Hawley walking into the Senate that day with his fist raised to a crowd of Trump supporters outside the Capitol.
Sen. Josh Hawley raised his fist to protesters outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. A Capitol Police officer who was present said the gesture "riled up the crowd."— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 22, 2022
Hawley fled the Capitol later that day after the barricades were breached, video shows. https://t.co/ESArRv4BJP pic.twitter.com/PnDlYCVSb9
As the picture was shown, Rep Elaine Luria (D-VA) narrated how one female Capitol Police officer was upset that Hawley was riling up the crowd from safely behind police lines while she had to deal with the consequences.
Shortly afterward, footage was shown of Hawley running down the corridors of the Capitol. The hearing room snickered — along with Twitter — as the footage was played and repeated.
5) More is coming from the committee
At the beginning of the hearing, chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in videotaped remarks from his Covid-19 quarantine that this was not going to be the last hearing. There will be more in September, after the August recess.
While the committee had never ruled out further hearings, the roadmap presented at the first hearing in June had been followed with the exception of the hastily called hearing for the explosive testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. But on Thursday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) hinted at a variety of new developments as the committee’s investigation progressed through the summer, including recent ones about Secret Service text messages that were erased.
“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” Cheney said.