The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol has over several weeks been building a case against former President Donald Trump in a series of televised hearings.
The members and select committee staff have presented evidence that the Republican former president and his supporters were well aware that Trump had lost the 2020 presidential election, but pushed false election-fraud claims anyway, and in doing so helped incite the riot at the Capitol complex while Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Witnesses including Trump’s top advisers and family members, as well as former White House staffers, election workers and legal experts, have given some eyebrow-raising testimony.
The committee held the last of its planned summer series of public hearings on Thursday, airing, for just a second time, during TV prime time. The hearing detailed just what was happening inside the White House on Jan. 6 during the 187 minutes following Trump’s so-called Stop the Steal rally at the Ellipse near the White House.
So if you need to brush up on what we learned during the first several sessions, here are some of the biggest revelations and most surprising moments from this summer’s public hearings.
This wasn’t a spontaneous riot. It was ‘an attempted coup.’
The leaders of the bipartisan panel came out swinging in the first hearing, which was also televised in prime time, by calling the attack on the Capitol the culmination of “a sophisticated seven-part plan” to overturn the election and keep Trump in power, rather than a protest that devolved into violence. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat leading the committee, gave an opening statement that charged Trump with instigating “an attempted coup” aimed at obstructing Congress from certifying Biden’s electoral victory. “Ultimately, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, spurred a mob of the domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down [to] the Capitol and subvert American democracy,” Thompson said.
“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” added Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, the Jan. 6 committee’s vice chairwoman.
Bill Barr called election-fraud claims ‘bullshit’ — and Ivanka Trump agreed with him.
One of the most viral moments from the first public hearing featured a clip of former Attorney General Bill Barr giving a deposition in which he said that he tried telling Trump that he had lost the election, and that Trump’s fraud claims were “bullshit.”
What’s more, the committee played the video deposition of Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter and a White House adviser, saying, “I respect Attorney General Barr, so, when he said that there was no fraud, I accepted what he said.”
For the record, Biden won the presidency on Nov. 3, 2020, by a popular-vote margin exceeding 7 million and by a margin of 306-232 in the Electoral College. Biden received more than 81 million votes to Trump’s 74 million, according to the tally of the Federal Election Commission.
A Capitol Police officer described Jan. 6 as ‘total carnage’ and ‘an absolute warzone.’
The bipartisan select committee anchored its first hearing with testimony from U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edward, who was briefly knocked unconscious and sustained a traumatic brain injury while trying to defend the Capitol. She described being called “Pelosi’s dog, incompetent, a hero and a villain,” as well as “a traitor to my country” amid her effort to protect the lawmakers inside the building. “I was none of those things,” she said. “I was an American standing face to face with other Americans asking myself how we had gotten here.”
The committee’s first hearing, which was televised in prime-time, was seen by 19.4 million people, Nielsen reported.
A reportedly ‘intoxicated’ Rudy Giuliani told Trump to prematurely declare victory on Election Night, even as the president’s own campaign manager said it was too early.
The second hearing, and the ones afterward leading up to the July 21 session, were all held during the day. Each one focused on a particular theme, with Day 2 focusing on how the president ignored the advisers telling him that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud. Trump instead insisted on prematurely (and inaccurately) declaring victory. Barr described the former president as “detached from reality,” and a former acting deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, said he told Trump “flat out” that his claims were “just not supported by the evidence.”
But there was at least one person urging the president to declare victory anyway: his personal lawyer and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, whom Trump’s former campaign spokesman, Jason Miller, described as “definitely intoxicated.” Miller said Giuliani told Trump to declare victory, despite other campaign advisers insisting it was too early to make that call.
Giuliani responded in a now-deleted tweet saying he was “disgusted and outraged by the out right lie,” and adding, “I REFUSED all alcohol that evening. My favorite drink..Diet Pepsi.” Giuliani’s lawyer was quoted as having told USA Today that Giuliani had denied the allegation.
The ‘Big Lie’ was also a ‘big rip-off.’
The Trump campaign used false claims that the election had been stolen to fundraise $250 million for an “election defense fund” that, the Jan. 6 committee investigation found, likely did not exist. Nearly $150 million was raised in the first week after the Nov. 3, 2020, election alone.
“As the select committee has demonstrated, the Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false,” Amanda Wick, the senior investigative counsel of the House select committee, testified. “Yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called ‘the Election Defense Fund.’ ” Wick said that the Trump campaign sent millions of emails to Trump supporters between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, including as many as 25 emails a day at peak frequency.
As Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat and select committee member from California, summed it up: “The Big Lie was also a big rip-off.”
Trump pushed Vice President Mike Pence to illegally overturn the election results, and later reportedly said Pence ‘deserves’ threats against his life.
The third hearing mostly covered the former president’s attempts to pressure his vice president in public and in private to reverse Biden’s victory, even after he was told this was illegal. Trump campaign spokesman Miller testified that those around Trump called this effort “crazy.” And conservative legal scholar Michael Luttig told the committee that, had Pence obeyed Trump’s order — which was against the law — it would have plunged the country into a “constitutional crisis.”
The armed mob that broke into the Capitol — which included people chanting “Hang Mike Pence” — came within 40 feet of Pence at one point on Jan. 6. Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California said that violent right-wing groups would have killed Pence “if given a chance.” And testimony in later Jan. 6 hearings indicated that Trump had said Pence “deserves it.”
Pence — said to have called a “wimp” by Trump during a phone call before the riot — refused to leave the Capitol that day, his lawyer Greg Jacob said, in order to continue his ceremonial role of presiding over the counting of the electoral votes. And also because, “he did not want to take any chance that the world would see the vice president of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol.”
Trump pressured state elections officials to ‘find’ him votes, and was linked to a fake-electors scheme to win the Electoral College.
The fourth hearing presented evidence that the former president and his supporters, including Giuliani and Mark Meadows, Trump’s fourth and final White House chief of staff, tried to influence the election by persuading officials in key battleground states to avoid certifying vote counts. This included a Jan. 2, 2021, telephone call during which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to change the certified results of the election and “find” him the votes needed to overcome Biden’s total in the state. “Fellas, I need 11,000 votes — give me a break,” the former president is heard pleading in an audio recording of the call.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, like Raffensperger a Republican, said that Trump called him and suggested having the state replace its electors for Biden with an alternative slate favoring Trump. “I said, ‘Look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath,’ ” Bowers told the committee. And when Bowers asked Giuliani for evidence of fraud, the latter admitted, “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence.’ ”
A Georgia prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into “attempts to influence” the 2020 election, including the 16 Republicans who served as fake electors. They all signed a certificate declaring falsely that Trump had won the state, and declared themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors — even though Joe Biden had won the state, and a slate of Democratic electors was certified.
Trump attempted to misuse the Department of Justice as president to keep himself in the White House.
The fifth panel hearing featured an argument that Trump breached protocol by hounding the Justice Department daily to act on his baseless claims of election fraud — suggesting, for example, a federal seizure of voting machines, or issuance by the Justice Department of an unfounded declaration that the election was corrupt. Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general at the end of the Trump administration after Barr left his post, testified before the Jan. 6 committee that he either met with the president or was called by him almost every day.
And Donoghue, an acting attorney general under Trump, testified that when Rosen told Trump that the Justice Department “can’t and won’t snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election,” Trump responded, “That’s not what I’m asking you to do. What I’m asking you to do is, just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] congressmen.”
When the department refused to act on Trump’s orders, the president mulled replacing Rosen with environmental enforcement lawyer Jeffrey Clark, a Trump loyalist willing to promulgate the false election-fraud claims. But Trump backed down when he was warned there would be mass resignations in the department were he to do so.
Numerous Republican lawmakers, including Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, asked for presidential pardons after Jan. 6.
Former aides to then-President Donald Trump testified in interviews with the Jan. 6 committee that several Republican members of Congress sought pre-emptive presidential pardons. Witnesses said Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Scotty Perry of Pennsylvania asked for Trump pardons.
“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans tapped to serve on the select committee after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew his slate of committee nominees in what critics viewed as an attempt to paint the committee’s investigation as partisan and politically motivated.
Election workers and local officials received death threats after Trump wrongly accused them of fraud.
State officials like Raffensperger and Bower who didn’t “find” Trump extra votes became the victims of public smear campaigns. Raffensperger testified that his wife received “sexualized” threats by text from Trump’s more radical followers, and people broke into his daughter-in-law’s house. Bowers said there have been protesters with bullhorns at his home, and a pistol-wielding man taunted his family and neighbors.
But among the most heartbreaking testimony during the public hearings came from Wandrea’ ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker, whom Trump wrongly accused of voter fraud while playing a spliced surveillance clip of her and her mother working at a vote-counting station. The two women testified they have received death threats and lived in fear ever since.
“It has turned my life upside down,” Moss said. “I don’t want anyone knowing my name. … I just don’t do nothing anymore, I don’t want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It’s affected my life in a major way, in every way. All because of lies.”
Trump knew the mob was armed and heading to the Capitol but observed that ‘they’re not here to hurt me.’
In a surprise hearing added to the Jan. 6 committee’s originally planned seven-hearing roster, the panel presented Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to then–White House chief of staff Meadows. Hutchinson said Trump was aware that many people trying to attend his rally on Jan. 6 were armed, and he was angry that the Secret Service was screening them for weapons. “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” Hutchinson paraphrased Trump as having said. “Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”
Cassidy Hutchinson alleged Trump threw his lunch at the wall in anger — and it wasn’t the first time.
The former White House aide also described participating in a cleanup of ketchup that was dripping down an Oval Office dining-room wall after an “extremely angry” Trump apparently threw a lunch plate when he learned that Barr had told the Associated Press there was no election fraud on a scale to sway the presidential election. Hutchinson said this wasn’t the first time the president had expressed his anger this way; she was aware of him “throwing dishes or flipping the tablecloth to let all the contents of the table go onto the floor” at other times.
Hutchinson also recounted having heard from deputy White House chief of staff Anthony M. Ornato, a former Secret Service agent, that Trump had tried to grab the wheel of a presidential SUV when the Secret Service refused to let him join supporters marching on the Capitol. She also said Ornato told her the president “lunged” at the lead Secret Service agent, Robert Engel. Some Secret Service officials have disputed her account, and it has subsequently been learned that, in apparent defiance of warnings and against standard government practice, text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, had been deleted from Secret Service agents’ government cellphones and might not be recoverable.
Hutchinson’s testimony was a hit with audiences. It was seen by 13.17 million people, the Nielsen company said, which represented a 28% jump from the committee’s previous daytime hearing.
Remorseful Jan. 6 rioter tells Trump supporters to ‘take the blinders off.’
The seventh hearing attempted to connect the dots between Trump’s tweets and public statements, and to show how his rhetoric summoned his more extreme supporters, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. And it featured some former Trump followers regretting their actions.
Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man scheduled to be sentenced in September after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the riot, said Jan. 6 “changed my life, and not for the good.” He lost this job, he said, after becoming swept up by Trump’s bogus claims as if he’d had “horse blinders on.”
“I was locked in the whole time,” said Ayres, who urged other Trump supporters to “take the blinders off, make sure you step back and see what’s going on before it’s too late.”
And Jason Van Tatenhove, a former national media director for the Oath Keepers, testified that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and Trump’s overall effort to overturn the election, have him worried about future elections. “I do fear for this next election cycle, because who knows what that might bring,” Van Tatenhove said, adding that if Trump were to be re-elected, “all bets are off at that point.”
Trump tried contacting a witness who’s been speaking to the Jan. 6 committee.
During the seventh public hearing, Cheney revealed that Trump had attempted to contact a witness who had been talking to the panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack, and that the Justice Department had been notified. The witness — whom the public has not seen testify yet, Cheney said — declined to answer or respond to the president’s call, and instead alerted a lawyer, who reported it to the panel. “We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously,” Cheney said.
Trump “chose not to act” for 187 minutes on Jan. 6, 2021
The second prime-time hearing focused on how the president spent the hours between leaving his “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse at 1:10 p.m., and his 4:07 p.m. Rose Garden video, when he told the “very special” rioters that he loved them, but they should go home. Rather than act to quell the violence happening at the Capitol, witnesses say then-press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Sarah Matthews, who was a White House press aide at the time, testified that the president spent most of the day in the dining room adjacent to the Oval Office, watching Fox News and placing calls to senators urging them to delay or object to certifying the election for Biden.
The committee also revealed that there is official record of what Trump was doing from between about 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. that day. The president’s call logs and White House diary are blank, and the official White House photographer was told “no photographs.” Here’s a recap of 10 takeaways from the second prime-time hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.