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Monday, July 25, 2022


Vice President Pence exiting the Senate office with Secret Service

On Thursday, the committee showed just how dire the security situation during the riot became for Pence, and one White House security official testified that members of Pence’s security detail started saying their goodbye to their loved one

GUEST BLOG / By Sam Woodward, CNN--On Thursday, the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol concluded its first series of hearings where it heard from witnesses including top ex-Trump officials, election workers, those who took part in the attack, and many others. 

Through live testimony, video depositions, and never-before-seen material, the committee attempted to paint the picture of the former President’s plan to stay in power and the role he played on January 6. 

Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) used her opening statement during the first hearing in June to lay out the panel’s agenda. Here are some of the key points Cheney said the committee would explore in the hearings and what they’ve uncovered so far. The panel plans to reconvene for more hearings in September. 

“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.” 

During the seventh hearing, the committee presented new information about the “unhinged” Oval Office meeting that took place Dec. 18, 2020, after which then-President Donald Trump tweeted what Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) called an “explosive invitation,” calling supporters to come to DC on January 6. During his speech that day, Trump told the crowd to “march” to the Capitol and that they needed to “fight like hell.” The calls to action followed weeks of Trump making false claims about the results of the election. 

A video presented by the panel showed how supporters reacted to his plea. During the seventh hearing, Stephen Ayres, a rioter who pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, testified that he had no intention of even going to the building until hearing Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. “Well, basically, you know, the President got everybody riled up and told everybody to head on down,” said Ayres, who has lost his home and his job. “So we basically was just following what he said.” 

Directly behind VP Pence as he escapes a Senate  office, a Secret Service agent is shown carrying the Nuclear football. 

“While the violence was underway, President Trump failed to take immediate action to stop the violence and instruct his supporters to leave the Capitol.” 

The committee used its final hearing of the series to detail the 187 minutes former President Trump refused to act while the Capitol was under attack, despite learning about the assault just minutes after he returned to the White House. 

Witnesses testified to Trump’s over three-hour-long disregard for the safety of his own vice president, responding officers and the joint session of Congress, despite watching the violence unfold on Fox and receiving numerous pleas from aides and Republican allies to call off the mob. 

And according to previously unseen video testimony played during Thursday’s hearing, Trump did not place a single call to any of his law enforcement or national security officials as the riot was unfolding. 

“You will see that Donald Trump and his advisers knew that he had, in fact, lost the election…President Trump corruptly pressured state legislators and election officials to change election results.” 

The committee showed the then-President and his team continued to press false election claims even after they were presented with findings that their conspiracies did not have merit. 

Multiple former Trump advisers testified to the committee that they tried to tell the then-President that there was no credible evidence of significant voter fraud and refused to go along with his plan to overturn the election. 

The panel used the fourth hearing to detail the private and public effects that Trump’s pressure campaign had on election officials. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, told the committee he and his family faced threats he believed were attempts to make him quit over his unwillingness to participate in overturning the election. 

During the third hearing, the committee highlighted how Trump attorney John Eastman knew his plan to try to block the election would fail if it went to the Supreme Court — yet the right-wing attorney continued to fuel Trump’s hope. 

Read more here about Trump’s efforts to overturn the election in Georgia. 

“President Trump engaged in a massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information … and invested millions of dollars of campaign funds purposely spreading false information…” 

During the second hearing, the committee presented multiple conspiracy theories pushed by Trump’s advisers to convince state legislators to help him overturn the election. 

Some theories included accusing Dominion Voting Systems of changing Trump votes to Biden votes in large numbers, a truckload of ballots being shipped from New York to Pennsylvania, and Georgia election workers scanning tens of thousands of ballots for Biden that came from a suitcase. (All of these claims have been debunked.) 

 CNN’s Fredreka Schouten wrote during the second hearing that roughly $250 million that was raised after the election largely went to the former President’s political action committee, rather than to the “election integrity” effort touted to his donors, the committee said. 

 “You will see that President Trump corruptly planned to replace the Attorney General of the United States so the U.S. Justice Department would spread his false stolen election claims.” 

During the fifth hearing, the panel described a January 2021 meeting where the then-President considered replacing acting Attorney General Jefferey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a top Justice Department official who became a proponent of Trump’s false election fraud claims. 

Rosen, who replaced Bill Barr after he resigned in December 2020, investigated claims of voter fraud and, after finding nothing that would change the outcome, refused to use the powers of the Justice Department to help Trump overturn the election. Rosen testified to the committee that when he entered the Jan. 3, 2021, meeting, Trump said “you don’t even agree with the claims of election fraud, and this other guy at least might do something,” Rosen testified, referring to Trump considering installing Clark. 

Richard Donoghue, Rosen’s deputy, testified that while undergoing the presidential transition, he and another top Justice Department official were told by the then-President that they should “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to [him] and the Republican congressmen.” 

“…we will focus on President Trump’s efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th…in private and in public.” 

During a speech at the Ellipse on January 6, Trump called upon then-Vice President Mike Pence to “do the right thing” by declaring the electoral votes of battleground states illegitimate and sending them back to their state government to be re-certified by Republican officials to vote in favor of Trump. 

Trump was told repeatedly by advisers that his plan for Pence to overturn the election on January 6 was illegal, but he tried to do it anyway, and the committee showed video of Capitol rioters expressing anger at Pence for not fulfilling Trump’s wish. 

Hear Secret Service radio traffic as rioters breached the Capitol The committee also learned through testimony from former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson that she heard her boss, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, say that Trump seemed to agree with the suggestion from some rioters, caught on tape that day, that Pence should be hanged. 

“I remember (White House Counsel) Pat (Cipollone) saying something to the effect of, ‘Mark, we need to do something more, they’re literally calling for the vice president to be f—ing hung,’” she told the panel. “And Mark had responded something to the effect of, ‘You heard it, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’” 

 On Thursday, the committee showed just how dire the security situation during the riot became for Pence, and one White House security official testified that members of Pence’s security detail started saying their goodbye to their loved ones.

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