US lawmakers investigating last year’s January 6 riots on Capitol Hill will focus their Thursday night hearing on what former President Donald Trump was doing for more than three hours in the White House while thousands of his followers took the Capitol trying to block the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
The nine-member House committee investigating the incident plans to show a montage of videotaped testimony from key Trump White House aides and feature live testimony from two of them, to support its charge that the former president he saw the insurrection on television and for hours did nothing to stop it.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a member of the committee that will lead much of the questioning Thursday, told earlier this week that the commission will explore “minute by minute” what Trump was doing during those 187 minutes on the evening of January 6, from the end of his fiery speech in which he went so far as to urge his supporters to walk to the Capitol and “fight like hell” only to finally tell them they should disperse.
“He didn’t act. He had a duty to act. So we’ll go into that in a lot of detail,” Luria said.
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who is also part of the commission, will question the witnesses, as he himself advanced to the network on Sunday. CBS: “The president did not do much more than happily watch television during this period of time,” he detailed.
The two new witnesses expected to appear are former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews and former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, who resigned on the day of the insurrection in protest at Trump’s reaction to the unrest.
In addition, Matthews is expected to provide details of what he saw in the White House that day, when Trump – knowing that violence had broken out – targeted then-Vice President Mike Pence in a tweet complaining about his second-in-command’s refusal to block the certification of Biden’s victory.
Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving states the opportunity to certify a correct set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones they were asked to make.” have them certify in advance. The US demands the truth!”
For days the Republican president had implored Pence, both privately and publicly, to send election results back to states he narrowly lost so that new voters — who favored Trump — could replace the officers. Constitutional experts say that would have been illegal.
In the United States, presidents are chosen in separate elections in each of the 50 states, not through the national popular vote. Each state’s number of electoral votes depends on its population, with the largest states having the most influence. The rioters who stormed the Capitol tried to prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden’s eventual 306-232 victory in the Electoral College.
Matthews said in a clip of his video statement: “I remember we said that was the last thing that needed to be tweeted at the time. The situation was already bad. So it seemed like I was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.”
Pottinger explained to the panel that Trump’s tweet prompted him to resign.
“I read that tweet and made the decision at that moment to resign,” he said in his video statement. “That’s where I knew I was going to go that day, once I read that tweet.”
Earlier, videotaped witnesses at the hearings, including Trump’s daughter Ivanka, then a White House aide, said the president ignored their pleas to publicly reprimand the rioters.
Trump eventually issued a videotaped statement after 4 p.m. asking the rioters to leave the Capitol. However, in another tweet sent later, he seemed to justify the mob’s actions.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory of great patriots who have been mistreated and unjustly for so long is unceremoniously and viciously stripped away,” he wrote. “Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Trump, who has emphatically suggested that he values running for the White House again in 2024, still to this day claims – without evidence – that the election was rigged.
The January 6 investigative panel has often been mocked. On Tuesday he posted on his social media platform Truth Social that the committee “is a fraud and an embarrassment to America.”
For his part, Trump has said he would consider pardoning the more than 800 assailants arrested during the unrest if he becomes president again.
Thursday night’s public hearing was originally scheduled to be the last, but now committee members say they are continuing to gather information on the unrest and could hold further hearings in September and beyond.