What we know — and don’t know — about what Trump did on Jan. 6

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally outside the White House on Jan. 6, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP)
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As the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection makes the case that President Donald Trump is responsible for the violence that day, members have said that telling the story of what Trump did or didn’t do that day is one of their top priorities.

There had been substantial chunks of Trump’s day that we had known little about — especially what he did during the 187 minutes of the attack before he released a video telling protesters, “Go home. I love you, you’re special.”

In its Thursday hearing, the committee shared new evidence, painting a vivid picture of that stretch in Trump’s day.

Upon returning to the White House, the committee said, Trump was informed that the protests had turned violent. Staffers testified that they spent hours trying to get the president to denounce the riot, but he was mostly watching TV. He did not call the Justice, Defense or Homeland Security departments or other federal officials who could respond to the attack. He did request a list of senators to call, pressing them to further delay the certification of the election.

Here is what we know about Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.

Let’s set the scene: Congress counting electoral votes is supposed to be a routine task, the final stage to certifying the winner of the presidential election. But as the lawmakers convened in the Capitol, the city and the politicians in it were on edge. For months, Trump had been pushing false election fraud claims and tried to pressure Republicans to help him overturn the results in states he lost. When that failed, his attention turned to Washington. He appeared at a “Stop the Steal” rally down the street from the Capitol and invited his supporters. “Be there, will be wild!” he had tweeted the previous month. Far-right groups, who had been in and out of the city protesting for weeks, heeded the call. And privately, top military officials worried the president could attempt a coup if he didn’t get his way.

Trump spends his mornings making calls

Who did Trump talk to as the day got started?

8:23 a.m.: Trump is in the White House, making a flurry of calls. According to White House call logs, one of the first people he talks to is political adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who the committee says was part of a command center at a nearby hotel, where Trump allies were trying to convince Republican members of Congress to vote to overturn states’ results. Bannon also predicted on his podcast that “hell is going to break loose” on Jan. 6. Trump also talks with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who had taken a leading role in publicly pushing false election fraud claims, and with congressional ally Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.)

9:02 a.m.: He places a call to Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump had been publicly and privately pressuring to throw out states’ electoral votes in his role presiding over Congress that day. At one point, Pence had considered doing so, according to the book “Peril” by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and CBS’s Robert Costa, but he announces later that morning he won’t be overturning any state electoral votes.

Around 11 a.m.: Trump meets in the Oval Office with his family members and top aides. Around 11:20 a.m., he talks to Pence on the phone. An aide who witnessed this call told the committee Trump again pressured Pence not to certify the results and described Trump’s demeanor as “frustrated.” Ivanka Trump told the committee she heard her father take a “different tone” than he ever had with Pence. And another aide told the committee he called Pence the “p-word.”

Then Trump heads out to the “Stop the Steal” rally just outside the White House that his allies had organized. Two members of Congress and various Trump allies have already spoken by the time Trump arrives.

Shortly after this, official White House call logs go dark.

View the entire White House call log here

Trump speaks to ‘Stop the Steal’ rally

What role did the rally and Trump’s speech play in contributing to the violence that day?

Before he gets on stage: Trump was in a tent before the speech when he was informed that his supporters in D.C. were armed to the teeth: The Jan. 6 congressional committee said supporters came to his “Stop the Steal” rally on the National Mall armed with weapons — pepper spray, knives, brass knuckles, stun guns, body armor, gas masks, batons and blunt weapons — and Trump was told many of these people couldn’t get past security. Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Trump was mad that Secret Service wasn’t letting these armed supporters into the rally, which Trump has denied. “I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, ‘You know, I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,’” she said.

Just before noon: Trump gets on stage and gives an hour-long speech to a crowd of thousands. He doesn’t explicitly tell his supporters to enter the Capitol, but he tells them to “walk down to the Capitol,” says he’ll come with them, and makes it clear that he thinks Congress’s counting of electoral votes should be stopped.

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Toward the end of the speech, he tells his supporters: “I said something is wrong here, something is really wrong, can’t have happened, and we fight. We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Attackers begin to overtake the Capitol

1 p.m.: Meanwhile, Congress begins to vote to certify results, voting to approve electoral counts state by state. Enough Republicans object to Arizona’s results to cause the chambers to break apart and debate the objection. But they don’t get very far. Hundreds of Trump supporters have gathered outside. (Documentarian Nick Quested, who embedded with the Proud Boys that day, testified that some Proud Boys started walking there before Trump’s speech even began.)

Around the same time, people breach the barricades police had set up around the Capitol and start banging on windows and doors, chanting “Let us in! Let us in!”

Around 1:10 p.m.: As he calls on rallygoers to march to the Capitol, Trump speech ends, and hundreds more people begin marching up to the Capitol.

Trump had said he wanted to join the march. Secret Service tries to clear a route, but the head of the president’s security deems it too risky. Trump got back in his heavily fortified car and tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from the head of his Secret Service detail to go to the Capitol, according to Hutchinson, relaying what she heard from the president’s security team: “The president said something to the effect of ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’ to which [Robert Engel, the head of the Secret Service detail] responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.’ The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going the Capitol.’ Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel.”

Trump has denied this happened. On Thursday, the committee played corroborating testimony from a retired D.C. police sergeant describing Trump as “adamant” about going to the Capitol, and saying that the president’s motorcade waited for more than 45 minutes, in case Trump prevailed in this demand.

At 1:21 p.m.: Trump returns to the White House. Almost as soon as he enters the Oval Office — his overcoat still on — a White House employee tells him that his supporters had breached the Capitol, committee member Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said during Thursday’s hearing.

The official White House call logs and his daily diary say nothing about what Trump did or whom he called or talked to for the next several hours as the attack unfolded. But the committee shared new details about this period, based on witness testimony and other records.

Trump didn’t do much beyond watch Fox News from his private dining room, just outside the Oval Office, the committee said. Witnesses told them that Trump watched TV for at least two and a half hours, and that he didn’t call a single military or law enforcement official to help quell the violence. Meanwhile, the chief White House photographer was told not to take any photographs of Trump.

Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump was “gleeful” as he watched the attack unfold, and the committee says he even cheered on chants of “Hang Mike Pence.” “Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” Trump remarked to his aides, according to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee.

At 1:39 p.m., Trump calls Giuliani and they talk for four minutes, said the committee, citing phone records.

At 1:49 p.m., well aware of the violence happening at the Capitol, Trump tweets a clip of his speech from earlier in the day, in which he encouraged supporters to go there.

Trump’s call logs go dark

How did Trump respond to the violence and pressure from his allies to call off the attack?

From about 2 to 7 p.m.: Attackers have overtaken both chambers of Congress and key offices. They overwhelm Capitol police officers, smashing windows to break in. Pence and senators are whisked away. Terrified House lawmakers put on gas masks and crouch down in the chamber as they hear a gunshot and rioters near.

Official White House logs give no indication of what the president was doing at this time. The committee said that, according to Giuliani’s phone records, Trump called him at 2:03 p.m. and they spoke for eight minutes.

During this time, 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,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

According to the committee, several times Ivanka Trump walked into the dining room to talk to her father and tried to persuade him to denounce the violence. Hutchinson testified that, at one point, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone grabbed Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and marched to the dining room to try to talk Trump into calling off the rioters.

“I think I was pretty clear there needed to be an immediate, forceful response, statement, public statement, that people needed to leave the Capitol,” Cipollone told the committee in taped testimony.

At 2:24 p.m., Trump tweets that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution …” — as the attack was unfolding, and as Pence and his family were still very much in danger.

During this period, Trump also posts a few tweets telling protesters to be peaceful, but he does not tell them to leave, though more than 20 Republicans were pleading with him and Meadows to do just that. At least one Trump ally, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, said he tried to reach Trump during the attack but couldn’t.

Trump initially resisted telling the protesters even that much: “It wasn’t until Ivanka Trump suggested the phrase ‘stay peaceful’ that he finally agreed to include it,” testified Sarah Matthews, the deputy White House press secretary who resigned in protest later that day.

Even though the call logs don’t show it, we know from reporting that Trump called multiple senators. On Thursday the committee also shared videotaped testimony from press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, saying that he asked her for a list of lawmakers to call one by one.

As rioters were breaching the Senate chamber, Trump mistakenly called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), expecting to talk to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). Lee handed the phone over, and Tuberville and the president talked for a few minutes before police evacuated lawmakers. The call was short. “Not very good, Mr. President,” Tuberville responded, when Trump asked how it was going. “As a matter of fact, they’re about to evacuate us.”

“I know we’ve got problems,” Trump responded, according to Post reporting.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he was one of the first to reach Trump during the attack, and from what we know about the call, it was heated. “Call them off!” McCarthy yelled at Trump.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to another GOP member of Congress, who said McCarthy recounted the call to her.

President-elect Joe Biden went on TV and urged Trump to call the rioters off.

“There was a desperate scramble for everyone to get President Trump to do anything,” Kinzinger said of this time period. “All this occurred and the president still did not act.”

Trump releases a video telling protesters to go home

What motivated Trump to finally tell protesters to go home?

4:17 p.m.: After aides tell Trump he could be at risk of impeachment by his Cabinet under the 25th Amendment if he doesn’t do something to end the violence, Trump releases a 60-second video he recorded in the Rose Garden telling protesters to go home. It takes him three tries to record it, and it is couched in language supporting the attackers. “Go home, we love you. You’re very special,” he said.

Contrast that with the script prepared by his staff for him to read, which according to the Jan. 6 committee, said: “I am asking you to leave the Capitol Hill region NOW and go home in a peaceful way.”

Innever-before-seen outtakes of his video, Trump says, apparently off the cuff: “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.”

President Trump on Jan. 6 falsely claimed that the election was "fraudulent," telling his supporters to "go home" after they breached the U.S. Capitol. (Video: @realDonaldTrump/Twitter)

The National Guard gets deployed to the Capitol

Around 6 p.m.: The National Guard finally arrives at the Capitol, at the command of Pence — and not Trump, according to the Jan. 6 committee.

Trump sends what will be his last tweet of the day — and one of his last before Twitter bans him. What he says irritates Republican lawmakers, who aren’t yet secure: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

6:27 p.m.: Trump leaves the Oval Office and goes to his residence, according to the White House daily logs. The Jan. 6 committee says that, as he was gathering his things to leave, Trump told a White House employee: “Mike Pence let me down.”

Around 7, the call logs start back up again and show that he starts calling aides and his lawyers.

Giuliani also called Republican lawmakers, leaving a voice mail for Tuberville and urging him to delay the electoral certification more.

Congress reconvenes to certify Biden’s win

8:06 p.m.: The Capitol is under control, and congressional leaders are determined to convene immediately to finish certifying states’ electoral votes. Amid shattered glass, lawmakers give emotional speeches about the violence, and some Republicans who said they were going to support raising objections to election results announce they’ve changed their minds. “Count me out,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) says. “Enough is enough.” Facebook and Twitter begin locking Trump from his accounts.

Enough Trump allies, including a majority of House Republicans, object to certifying Pennsylvania’s results to delay the proceedings.

Trump’s call logs start back up

Late into the evening: Meanwhile, Trump works the phones, according to the White House call logs. He’s calling campaign aides, lawyers like Giuliani who had helped him push doomed election fraud claims in court, his press secretary, Bannon and even Fox News host Sean Hannity.

9:23 p.m.: Campaign adviser Jason Miller calls Trump to try to persuade him to issue a formal statement about the attack, which Miller drafted. Trump wanted to refer to a “peaceful transition,” but Miller told him: “That ship’s kind of already sailed.” Ultimately, the statement says there will be an “orderly transition” of power.

Trump’s last recorded call, at 11:23 p.m., is also one of his longest of the night — to the person in charge of staffing at the White House, John McEntee. McEntee told the committee that they discussed the day’s events and the multiple staff resignations, Kinzinger said. White House aides, three Cabinet secretaries and top national security officials had announced or were about to announce they were resigning.

3:24 a.m.: Pence confirms Biden’s win.

On the evening of Jan. 7: Trump filmed an address from the White House, with the goal of condemning the violence. But according to outtakes the committee obtained, he struggled to do so: “I don’t want to say the election is over,” he told his aides.

This story has been updated with the latest news.

correction

An earlier version of this article misstated a tweet by President Donald Trump. He wrote, “Be there, will be wild!” not, “Be there, be wild!” This version has been corrected.

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