The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jan. 6 hearing highlights Trump refused to say ‘the election’s over’ day after Capitol attack, new video shows

In outtakes from President Trump’s address to the nation on Jan. 7, 2021, he went off script and refused to say “the election is over.” (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Tom Brenner/The Washington Post)

President Donald Trump resisted pleas from senior aides to call off the mob attacking the Capitol in his name on Jan. 6, 2021, even as members of the security detail for Vice President Pence feared for their lives, the House select committee investigating the insurrection showed in its prime-time hearing Thursday.

“The mob was accomplishing President Trump’s purpose, so of course he didn’t intervene,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said. “President Trump did not fail to act... He chose not to act.”

Kinzinger and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) — two military veterans — led the hearing and the questioning of two in-person witnesses: Sarah Matthews, Trump’s deputy White House press secretary, and Matthew Pottinger, a former National Security Council official. Both gave an inside look at Trump’s refusals to call off the mob, despite reported pleas to do so from numerous advisers, including his own daughter.

Trump “did not want to include any sort of mention of peace” in a tweet aides urged him to send to quell the violence, Matthews testified. The former president also hesitated to vilify the rioters and refused to say “the election’s over” while taping remarks the day after the attack, newly released video showed.

Promising additional hearings in September, committee members warned that a failure to hold Trump accountable would critically damage American democracy.

“There was no ambiguity, no nuance: Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office, to ignore the ongoing violence against law enforcement, to threaten our constitutional order,” committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said. “There is no way to excuse that behavior. It was indefensible.”

Here’s what to know

  • Several witnesses told the committee over its investigation that Trump did not call the Defense, Justice or Homeland Security departments — or any other agency — to coordinate a response as the attack unfolded. Instead, Trump was calling GOP senators to urge them to object to the electoral vote count, Luria said.
  • The hearing also featured taped testimony from the committee’s interviews with other witnesses, including an unnamed White House security official who said members of Pence’s security detail started to fear for their own lives during the attack. “There were calls to say goodbye to family members and so forth,” said the official, whose voice was disguised.
  • Pence was giving orders to the military to clear the Capitol and stop the violence, according to taped testimony from Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Get the military down here. Get the guard down here. Put down this situation!” Pence said, Milley told the committee. Other legislative leaders also were begging Christopher Miller, the acting secretary of defense, to help. Milley said Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, called him to say they needed the “narrative” that Trump was still in charge and making decisions. But Trump wasn’t giving any orders. Pence was.
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