The prime time hearing will be led by committee members Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Elaine Luria. Together they are expected to parse out what happened from the time Trump left the rally at the Ellipse and when he finally, 187 minutes after plopping himself down in front of a flat-screen television, addressed the crisis with a video message posted to Twitter.
Details of how that message came to be are expected to come under close review during the committee’s next hearing.
He tweeted twice during the attack before finally issuing a video message on Twitter at 4:17 PM that began with empathy for the rioters—“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt”—and claims, yet again, that the election was “stolen from us.”
“It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from us all, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election,” Trump said. “But we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home, we love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home at peace.”
Before this, the first tweet he sent went out at 2:24 PM. It attacked then-Vice President Mike Pence for lacking “courage” to stop or delay the counting of certified votes during the congressional joint session.
Pence, at this time, was being rushed to safety inside the Capitol. People had long begun scaling the walls, breaking windows, assaulting police, and forcing their way into the House and Senate chambers. Two rioters who suffered cardiac episodes had already died by then. Conditions were worsening fast. Police were grossly outnumbered, overwhelmed, and frantically calling for backup.
Trump sent out another tweet.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” he wrote.
Within minutes of sending this, Trump supporter Ashli Babbit would be shot. She ignored multiple warnings to stand down after trying to physically breach a door in the Speakers Lobby with a rack of rioters at her back. She would later die.
Washington Post reporters Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker wrote in their book, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, that Trump had to record the video message he sent 187 minutes after the rioting began no less than three times because his he kept deviating from remarks prepared by his speechwriters.
What the nation saw in that video tweet was the “best one,” a White House official told Leonning and Rucker.
The message did nothing to quell the chaos. Police were still being brutally beaten as they held the line. It would be around 4:30 PM, when the National Guard would finally be deployed but only after approval was granted to the Army by then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. The Guard was first requested hours before.
Around 200 D.C. National Guardsmen showed up to sweep the Capitol as a curfew in Washington went into effect. Trump would tweet again a minute after the 6 PM curfew set in. He repeated the lie about fraud in the election despite being told for weeks at this point by his closest and most credible advisors that in fact no widespread voter fraud existed.
“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!” he wrote.
Previewing the coming hearing, Rep. Elaine Luria dubbed Trump “the arsonist who lit the fire and watched it burn.”
She’s also told reporters this week that the committee would zero-in on Trump’s actual duties as president and how his immediate failure to take action was a direct violation of the oath he swore to uphold when he was inaugurated.
During a previous committee hearing, Rep. Liz Cheney noted how Trump refused to tell the mob to leave the Capitol and “placed no call to any element of the U.S. government to instruct that the Capitol be defended.”
“He did not call his Secretary of Defense on January 6. He did not talk to his Attorney General. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security,” she said.
Messages to the White House during the insurrection however, came in hot and heavy. Within minutes of the attack, Trump’s Republican allies in Congress, members of the media, and even his own family began to rally, texting Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and pleading with him to have Trump condemn the attack.
In a text sent at 2:53 PM, roughly a half-hour after Trump slammed Pence on Twitter, the former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., urged Meadows: “He’s got to condemn this shit. Asap.”
Fox News talking head Laura Ingraham texted Meadows too.
“Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Ingraham wrote. “This is hurting all of us.”
South Carolina Republican Will Timmons begged Meadows: “The president needs to stop this now.”
Alyssa Farah Griffin, then Trump’s director of strategic communications, sent a message to Meadows almost exactly one hour before Trump would post his video.
The president had to be “firm,” she said, and tell the rioters to leave.
“Someone is going to get killed,” she said.
Meadows turned over a little more than 2,300 texts to the committee in December before ending his cooperation.
The hearing on July 21 is currently slated to be the committee’s last public hearing, but Chairman Bennie Thompson hasn’t completely ruled out holding more.
“I’m hoping it is [the last hearing], but something could come up, just like the [Cassidy] Hutchinson situation that warranted what we felt was an immediate hearing,” Thompson said.
Hutchinson’s testimony was damning. She testified under oath that Trump tried to force his security detail to take him to the Capitol on Jan. 6 after his speech at the Ellipse. When that failed, he lashed out in a fit of rage. She also testified that Trump knew the mob was heavily armed and moreover, that his security detail was aware the mob building around the complex included members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
On Thursday night, CNN reported that an unidentified member of the Metropolitan Police Department who was part of Trump’s presidential motorcade on Jan. 6 has shared their account of Trump’s interaction with Secret Service agents. The officer was reportedly able to corroborate Hutchinson’s testimony.
A full report from the committee—which is expected to include many if not all of the records unearthed by the panel—is due this fall.
Witnesses are still coming forward to cooperate and testify. On Friday, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne is expected to meet with investigators. He’s likely to field a slew of questions about a Dec. 18 meeting he attended with Trump, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s attorney Sidney Powell, and others.
This meeting, White House attorney Pat Cipollone testified to the committee, spiraled out of control and would not end until midnight. Derek Lyons, a White House staff secretary under Trump, told the committee in a recorded video deposition: “At times, there were people shouting at each other, hurling insults at each other. It wasn’t just sort of people sitting around on a couch like chit-chatting.”
Powell sought to become Trump’s special counsel to investigate voter fraud that didn’t exist. A draft executive order to seize voting machines in battleground states Trump lost to Joe Biden was trotted out. The order never went out and Trump was left unsatisfied. It was after this meeting that he sent out a tweet the committee has described as an “inflection point” on the path to Jan. 6.
“Be there, will be wild,” Trump wrote near 2 AM on Dec. 19.
The committee is reportedly toying with the idea of issuing a subpoena to Trump to testify as well as former Vice President Mike Pence. And new questions are now fast piling up after The Intercept reported first on Thursday that the U.S. Secret Service deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 that may have contained evidence about the insurrection.
Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, said the messages were deleted “as part of a device replacement program” and said they were erased after the Office of the Inspector General requested records from the Secret Service about Jan. 6.
Thompson said the committee would work on finding a way to reconstruct the texts if possible. The Secret Service lashed out after the news broke, with spokesman Anthony Guglielmi saying that insinuations about the Secret Service “maliciously” deleting texts was “false.”
The Secret Service has already turned over close to a million emails and over 7,000 of its own internal messages to the committee as it relates to Jan. 6.
According to CNN, Cuffari briefed all members of the committee about the messages on Friday.