The committee holds Trump responsible for the attack on the Capitol
He knew protesters came to his “Stop the Steal” rally armed — with “knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears and flagpoles,” said former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson — and he urged them to go to the Capitol anyway.
Hutchinson also testified that a member of the president’s security team told her that Trump, in the presidential vehicle, tried to physically wrestle a Secret Service agent into taking him to the Capitol. Upon returning to the White House, Trump sat back for hours as the violence grew and didn’t once pick up the phone to call the military to step in and stop it, the committee says.
Also, urging protesters to go to the Capitol in that Jan. 6 speech may not have been spontaneous on Trump’s part: The committee shared a draft tweet that Trump had seen (but didn’t send) encouraging people to march to the Capitol.
Trump was told, repeatedly, that he lost the election
When these hearings started, it was an open question how often, and how clearly, Trump’s advisers told him he had lost. Plenty of times, the committee has demonstrated. Former attorney general William P. Barr said he told the president that various allegations of widespread fraud were easily debunked, and the idea the election was stolen was “bullshit.” “I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, ‘Boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has … become detached from reality,'” Barr testified. He said he resigned in part because Trump wasn’t listening to him.
“He thought the election had been stolen or was corrupt and that there was widespread fraud,” testified Barr’s successor as attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen. “And I had told him that our reviews had not shown that to be the case.”
By December, after the electoral college confirmed Joe Biden’s win, White House officials said they told Trump to concede.
Yet Trump consistently turned away from the facts and kept inquiring about various routes to staying in power. A small group of lawyers and outside advisers were willing to give him some ideas — like seizing voting machines or declaring martial law — even as they themselves acknowledged they didn’t have the evidence to back up their fraud claims, and that their plans were probably illegal.
In mid-December, this culminated in an “unhinged” six-hour meeting in the White House between Trump advisers and his outside lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. Trump sat through it all and eventually appeared to side with the conspiracy theorists. Then he started rallying his supporters to come to D.C. on Jan. 6. “Be there, will be wild,” he said in a tweet sent hours after that meeting.
“Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by arguing he is willfully blind,” committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) warned.
The committee raised at least four crimes they think Trump may have committed
- Did Trump “corruptly” try to stop an official proceeding of Congress? Hutchinson’s testimony, above all others, suggested he did: She outlined the repeated warnings that Trump and his top aides received about the potential for violence on Jan. 6. Yet Trump urged his supporters on to the Capitol anyway and, according to Cheney, even expressed openness to their chant “Hang Mike Pence.” According to Hutchinson, White House counsel Pat Cipollone warned about what might happen if the president urged people to go to the Capitol: “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”
- Did Trump commit seditious conspiracy? This is the charge federal prosecutors have leveled against top leaders of right-wing militia groups who they say organized the attack on the Capitol. The committee spent significant time linking Trump to these extremist groups, a necessary step to showing Trump committed this crime. They showed videos and photos revealing people in his orbit had close ties to these leaders. And they repeatedly emphasized how tweets from Trump ricocheted around social media. “I was hanging on to every word he was saying,” testified Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after illegally entering the Capitol on Jan. 6.
- Did Trump or his allies engage in witness-tampering? This is another serious federal crime. For two hearings in a row, the committee has said that allies of the former president — or Trump himself — called witnesses, at times urging them not to testify to the committee. The committee said they referred information to the Justice Department about a call Trump made.
- Did Trump commit wire fraud? The committee has revealed that Trump raised millions of dollars for an election defense fund that aides said didn’t technically exist, instead diverting money to his PAC that could help him run for reelection one day.
But raising these crimes doesn’t mean Trump will be charged with them. Congress doesn’t have the ability to charge anyone with a crime. The most it can do is refer all of this to the Justice Department, which has been skittish about investigating — let alone charging — a former president.
Trump and his advisers pressured officials to keep him in power
Before the attack, Trump tried pulling levers of government, from state lawmakers to Justice Department officials, to overturn the election. The committee brought some of these pressure campaigns to life.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R) described conversations with Trump and Giuliani in which they asked him to convene the state legislature and somehow determine that Trump won Arizona. “I said, ‘Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath,’ ” Bowers pushed back.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) testified about a phone call during which Trump told him to “find” enough votes in Georgia to declare him the winner. Election workers and state officials across the country testified they were subject to death threats for doing their jobs. “There is nowhere I feel safe,” said former Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman.
Trump also tried to get federal officials to validate his election-fraud claims — and then went so far as to try to replace officials who refused, according to evidence shared by the committee. Jeffrey Clark, a once little-known lawyer in the Justice Department, almost got appointed attorney general thanks to his willingness to publicly question valid election results. (Other Justice Department officials warned Trump of a mass resignation if he appointed Clark.) The FBI recently raided Clark’s home.
And the committee illustrated just how much Trump seemed to rely on the government to back him up. After Barr publicly said he has “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Trump angrily threw his lunch, splattering ketchup on the wall, Hutchinson testified.
When these efforts failed, Trump turned his attention to Congress certifying the vote on Jan. 6.
The ‘absurd’ idea to pressure Pence to overturn election results
The next pressure campaign fell heavily on Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over Congress’s certification of the electoral results — the last step to confirming Biden’s win.
According to the committee, Trump lawyer John Eastman led this charge, regularly pressuring top Pence aides to get the vice president to reject electoral results from states Trump lost, to throw the election back to Republican states. Pence concluded this would be unconstitutional.
Those pushing this plan may have concluded this, too. Eastman conceded that if Pence went through with it, they “would lose 9-0 in the Supreme Court,” Pence aide Greg Jacob testified. The committee offered plenty of other evidence that Eastman and others knew their plans were potentially illegal.
The committee also hosted a conservative legal luminary — former federal judge J. Michael Luttig — who told the nation in no uncertain terms that what Trump and Eastman were pushing was beyond dangerous: “That declaration of Donald Trump as the next president would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis in America,” he said in carefully calculated language, calling the idea “absurd.”
During the attack, the committee revealed that Pence came within 40 feet of the rioters, who, egged on by a Trump tweet accusing the vice president of lacking courage, streamed into the Capitol shouting, “Hang Mike Pence.” Pence’s resolve hardened as he hid from the mob in a parking garage, along with his family and top aides. Earlier, he privately said that confirming Biden’s win “may be the most important thing I ever say,” his aide testified.
The Republican Party apparatus helped Trump try to overturn the 2020 results
Throughout the hearing, the committee sprinkled names of Republican lawmakers they said helped Trump try to overturn his election loss.
On the morning of Jan. 6, the top aide for Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) inquired about giving Pence’s staff a list of fake electors declaring Trump won Wisconsin and Michigan. (“Do not give that to him,” a Pence aide warned.) The Justice Department is looking into whether the effort to put forward fake Trump electors — a scheme led by Giuliani — is illegal.
The committee aired video where Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), a Trump supporter, privately warned members of Congress that Trump supporters “are going to go nuts” on Jan. 6. But despite her private concerns, she voted against certifying election results that day. The committee highlighted her actions to illustrate the widespread Republican silence leading up to — and potential complicity in — the attack.
Cheney is just one of two Republicans willing to serve on this committee. She warned her colleagues at the start of the hearings: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
After the attack, admissions of remorse and pardon requests
The committee shared a remarkable admission of remorse from a senior Trump campaign aide after the attack: “This is about trump pushing for uncertainty in our country, a sitting president asking for civil war,” former Trump campaign adviser Brad Parscale wrote in a text message. “This week I feel guilty for helping him win.”
And it revealed that a number of Republican members of Congress requested pardons for themselves and others, including: Reps. Mo Brooks (Ala.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.). Many of them have denied asking for pardons.
There may also have been a “pardon list,” according to an email the committee obtained from Eastman. He emailed Giuliani days after the attack: “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.”
The terrifying violence, revisited
The committee opened its hearings by seeking to jolt the American public back to that violent day, with never-before-seen footage of the attackers marching up to the Capitol and smashing windows to get in.
“We can’t hold this, there are too many f------- people. Look at it from this vantage point. We’re f-----,” one panicked officer says in body-camera footage the committee obtained.
Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards testified in person. She was one of the first officers injured while trying to hold back the rioters, and her testimony about being on the front lines of the attack was particularly disturbing to hear.
“I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood,” Edwards said, “... It was carnage.”