Washington DC: Members of the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 will hold their first prime-time hearing Thursday to share what they have uncovered about former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol. Part of their mission: Determining the former president’s actions that day.
Much is already known about where Trump was, what he said, and how he reacted. But large gaps remain. What we know: WE FIGHT LIKE HELL’ The day began, as they often did, with calls and angry tweets. As Vice President Mike Pence prepared to preside over a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes that would formalize Democrat Joe Biden’s win, Trump continued to apply public pressure. He demanded that Pence reject the results by invoking powers that Pence had made clear to the president he did not possess.
“States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval,” Trump falsely claimed at 8:17 a.m. ”All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN,” he added. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Trump continued to repeat his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud as thousands of his supporters gathered for a “Save America March” rally on the Ellipse outside the White House organized to pressure Republicans in Congress to reject the democratic vote — a move that would have thrown the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis. “The States want to redo their votes. They found out they voted on a FRAUD. Legislatures never approved. Let them do it. BE STRONG!” he urged.
By then, the rally was already underway.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., proclaimed that “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” “Let’s have trial by combat,” declared Rudy Giuliani, who was leading Trump’s losing legal effort. Before leaving the White House, Trump placed a call to Pence from the Oval Office and again berated his once-loyal soldier. “You don’t have the courage to make a hard decision,” a seething Trump said, according to an account described in a committee letter.
Trump then went to the rally, arriving around 11:42 a.m. as his campaign soundtrack blasted through the frigid air. Just before noon, he took the stage to his usual “God Bless the USA” and launched a fiery speech in which he complained of a “rigged” election and insisted he would “never concede.” “If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election,” he falsely declared from behind a wall of protective glass, telling his supporters, “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He told them he planned to join them on their planned marched to the Capitol, adding that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.” By that point, reams of his supporters — many carrying large “Trump” flags — were already streaming across the Mall to the Capitol, where the congressional proceedings were getting underway.
As Trump spoke, Pence released a public letter formally laying out his position in defiance of the president. “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he wrote.
By 1:12 p.m., Trump had wrapped up his speech and was dancing on stage to “YMCA,” pumping his first and clapping his hands as protesters clashed with police just 1.5 miles away on the Capitol steps. As the presidential entourage piled into the waiting motorcade, questions flew about whether he would head to the Capitol, as he had told the crowd. Instead, after a delay, the president’s limousine headed toward the White House. Trump later told The Washington Post in an interview that the Secret Service had barred him from making the trip.
THIS IS WRONG AND NOT WHO WE ARE
‘ As Trump was returning to the White House, the situation at the Capitol was deteriorating. Rioters in the pro-Trump mob burst through police barricades, assaulted officers, smashed through windows and rammed through doors. At 1:49 p.m., D.C. police officially declared a riot. And by 2:15 p.m. Pence and members of Congress were rushed into hiding as the rioters breached the building.
“This is wrong and not who we are,” tweeted the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who had spoken at the rally, at 2:17 p.m. “Be peaceful and use your 1st Amendment rights, but don’t start acting like the other side. We have a country to save and this doesn’t help anyone.” His father, however, took a different tone.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m. “USA demands the truth! The tweet came around the time that Trump accidentally called Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, while trying to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. Lee reportedly passed the phone to Tuberville, who told Politico that he informed Trump that Pence had just been evacuated from the Senate chamber.
Finally, around 2:40 p.m., as images of protesters marching through the building’s gilded hallways flooded TV screens throughout the West Wing, Trump sent a tweet urging the rioters to stay peaceful.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” At 2:43 p.m., Ashli Babbitt, a pro-Trump protester, was shot trying to force her way into the House chamber.
CONDEMN THIS NOW’
It remains unclear exactly when it happened, but at some point after returning from the rally, Trump sequestered himself in the dining room off the Oval Office to watch the violence play out on TV.
“All I know about that day was that he was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV as he often did — ‘Look at all of the people fighting for me,’ hitting rewind, watching it again — that’s what I know,” his former press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who also served as chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump, told CNN.
Supporters frantically tried to reach the White House to urge Trump to make an appearance and ask the rioters to leave. They included his eldest son, several Fox News hosts, multiple members of Congress and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had worked with Trump on debate preparations.
Unable to reach him directly, allies scrambled to get his attention any way they could. Some resorted to tweeting. Others appeared on TV, trying to get through.
“Call it off, Mr. President,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said on CNN.
“Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump- you are the only one they will listen to. For our country!” tweeted his former communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin, at 2:54 p.m.
“The President’s tweet is not enough. He can stop this now and needs to do exactly that. Tell these folks to go home,” his former chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, wrote at 3:01 p.m.
Former counselor Kellyanne Conway, who had by then had left the White House, said she called an aide whom she knew would be next to Trump with an urgent message.
“Urge the president to tell the people at the Capitol to stop. Just stop. Get out of there,” she wrote in her recent memoir. “Maybe there are loudspeakers. Someone could livestream him. They need to hear his voice.” She also made her plea on TV and on Twitter where she wrote, “STOP. Just STOP. Peace. Law and Order. Safety for All” at 3:21 p.m.
Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy told a California radio station that he, too, had spoken to the president.
“I was the first person to call him,” McCarthy said. “I told him to go on national TV, tell these people to stop it. He said he didn’t know what was happening.” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., said McCarthy relayed that conversation to her. By her account, when McCarthy told Trump it was his own supporters breaking into the building, Trump responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” Others texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, begging Trump to say something and trying to convey the severity of the situation.
“We are under siege,” wrote one reporter. “We are all helpless.” “He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump Jr. texted Meadows.
“I’m pushing it hard. I agree,” Meadows responded.
Trump Jr. texted again and again, urging that his father act.
“We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.” Fox News hosts agreed.
“Mark, president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” texted Ingraham.
“Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol,” texted Sean Hannity.
At 3:13 p.m. Trump finally issued a tweet asking his supporters to remain peaceful, but not asking them to leave.
“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” he wrote.
‘IT’S COMPLETELY INSANE’
Congressional testimony released so far paints a picture of a chaotic scene inside the White House, with staff just as desperate as those outside the building for Trump to act. Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser, who had been in the Oval Office during Trump’s morning phone call to the vice president, testified that staff wanted Trump to take immediate action to address the violence, but that Trump had refused.
The committee has identified an almost eight-hour gap in the official White House record of Trump’s phone calls, from a little after 11 a.m. to about 7 p.m. — a time when Trump is known to have spoken with several GOP members of the House and Senate, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tuberville and McCarthy.
White House staff repeatedly asked his daughter, Ivanka Trump’s assistance, the committee has said.
“Is someone getting to potus? He has to tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed,” Griffin texted Ben Williamson, an aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
“I’ve been trying for the last 30 minutes. Literally stormed in outer oval to get him to put out the first one. It’s completely insane,” Williamson wrote back.
The White House was already a ghost town amid staff departures. Nonessential staff had been told they could work from home due to the potential security threat.
Finally, at 4:17 p.m., 187 minutes after the insurrection began, Trump released a video, recorded in the Rose Garden, in which he praised the rioters as “very special,” but asked them to disperse.
“I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us,” he said. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.” “So go home. We love you. You’re very special,” he went on. “I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.” Multiple takes had been filmed, but, the committee said, Trump had apparently in earlier versions failed to ask rioters to leave.
The Capitol was finally secured at 5:34 p.m. and Trump was soon back to tweeting.
“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,” he wrote at 6:01 p.m. ”Remember this day forever!”” Soon after, Twitter announced that it had locked the president’s account and demanded he delete tweets praising the Capitol assailants. Facebook soon followed.
Congress resumed counting the electoral votes at 8 p.m. and at 3:40 a.m., lawmakers certified Biden as the rightful winner. Minutes later, Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, posted a statement from Trump, who had been locked out of his own accounts, officially conceding following the vote.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” it read.