Though the Jan. 6 committee has not yet made it official, reports are circulating rapidly that the expected witnesses for the probe’s hearing this Thursday will be Matthew Pottinger, who served as former President Donald Trump’s deputy national security adviser, and Sarah Matthews, the former Trump White House deputy press secretary. Both resigned amid the assault and cooperated with the committee behind closed doors.
CNN was first to report the expected witnesses. A committee spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos.
Pottinger stepped down on Jan. 6, “dismayed” over what he perceived as Trump’s responsibility for bringing the mob to Washington and setting them loose on Congress. In a recounting of that day in journalist Jonathan Karl’s book, Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, Pottinger was said to be in a state of “disbelief” after hearing unconfirmed reports that a call to send in the National Guard had been delayed.
Pottinger was watching the melee unfold in his office in the West Wing when he saw Trump’s tweet targeting then-Vice President Mike Pence, calling him a coward. In a clip of his recorded private deposition before the committee aired during the sixth public hearing, Pottinger testified that once a member of his staff brought him a printout of Trump’s mid-riot tweet targeting Pence, it sealed his decision.
“That's where I knew that I was leaving that day, once I read that tweet,” Pottinger told the committee.
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The delayed deployment of the National Guard was beyond baffling. Trump’s then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows offered him no real comfort either, Karl reported. When Pottinger bumped into Meadows in the White House on Jan. 6 and asked him point blank if there was any truth to press reports that the White House had blocked the Guard from assisting, Meadows told him he gave “very clear instructions to get the Guard over there to control the situation.”
Then Meadows scurried off to see Trump, and Pottinger set about tendering his resignation.
As questions around delays for backup swirled, according to the Times, before his interaction with Meadows, Pottinger was informed by Charles Kupperman, a fellow national security adviser, that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had made attempts to contact the White House seeking a rollout of National Guard, but there was a sluggish response.
The Guard would not be deployed until roughly 5:08 PM. A curfew went into effect by 6 PM, and U.S. Capitol Police would confirm the building was all clear by 8 PM.
A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Reuters and a former U.S. Marine, Pottinger served in Iraq and Afghanistan on three combat deployments before eventually landing his spot on the National Security Council in the Trump administration. He was named deputy adviser in 2019. Notably, in an interview with The Atlantic this month, Pottinger recounted his experience with fellow Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn when the two were in Afghanistan together.
Flynn was, to hear him tell it, a much different man then.
“When we were in Afghanistan, I didn’t hear wacky conspiracies,” he said.
Flynn, who peddled Trump’s wild conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud and openly suggested that Trump declare martial law in order to “rerun” the 2020 election, was hauled in before the committee on a subpoena and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He refused to answer all questions, including: “Do you believe the violence on Jan. 6 was justified morally or legally or do you believe in the peaceful transition of power?”
According to The New York Times, former Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews is expected to testify about her attempts to have Trump issue a statement that would quell the violence as it was exploding all around them.
Before coming aboard the Trump White House, Matthews served as a Trump campaign aide. Since then she has taken a spot as a communications director for a select committee on the climate crisis in the House. She’s been there for more than a year.
When the committee aired portions of Matthews’ private testimony at its seventh hearing, she described being invited into the Oval Office on the eve of the insurrection.
That night, Trump asked his personal assistant Nicholas Luna to open a door so he could better hear the pro-Trump “Rally to Save America” unfolding blocks away at nearby Freedom Plaza.
Roger Stone, who was flanked by Oath Keepers as his security detail, would speak at that event, telling the crowd: “We will win this fight or America will step off into a thousand years of darkness. We dare not fail. I will be with you tomorrow, shoulder to shoulder.”
Once the insurrection was underway the next day, footage from the Danish documentary A Storm Foretold shows Stone fleeing Washington and telling his aide: “I really want to get out of here.”
Matthews described the scene to the committee in her private deposition:
“We walked in, the staff was kind of standing up and assembled along the wall, and the president was at the desk and Dan Scavino was on the couch. And the president was dictating a tweet that he wanted Scavino to send out. Then the president started talking about the rally the next day. He had the door of the Oval open to the Rose Garden because you could hear the crowd already assembled outside on the Ellipse.
And they were playing music, and it was so loud that you could feel it shaking in the Oval. He was in a very good mood. And I say that because he had not been in a good mood for weeks leading up to that, and then it seemed like he was in a fantastic mood that evening.”
Trump’s White House Deputy Assistant Judd Deere told the committee that Trump “asked if members of Congress would be with him tomorrow.”
Matthews said Trump was confident that they could “make the RINOs do the right thing” when Congress met for the joint session. All the while, according to testimony by fellow aide Sarah Craighead, Trump was “making notes talking then about we should go up to the Capitol, what’s the best route to go to the Capitol.”
The hearing on Thursday will be led by Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Elaine Luria and is expected to unpack what Trump did—or did not do—during the fraught three hours when Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police pushed themselves to the brink to defend the Capitol from a thousands-strong mob.
The committee will likely lean heavily on recorded deposition from Pat Cipollone, Trump’s former attorney at the White House. Cipollone’s testimony during the last committee hearing corroborated much of what other former White House officials have said about Trump’s obstinance around conspiracy theories ginned up by his most sycophantic counselors: personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell.
Cipollone confirmed that Trump was told repeatedly the allegations of voter fraud were completely baseless, and he told investigators he urged Trump to throw in the towel. He also strongly advised the president against traveling to the Capitol on Jan. 6 lest he wish to spark a smorgasbord of criminal liability concerns, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, the one-time aide to Meadows.
Moreover, Cipollone corroborated details behind an explosive Dec. 18 visit to the White House where Powell, Giuliani, and the former head of Overstock.com Patrick Byrne pushed to have Trump declare that voting machines in battleground states should be seized.
On the day of the attack, Cipollone was also one of the closest people to Trump who called right away for Trump to do something, anything, to stop the storming of the Capitol.
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