Jan. 6 panel to dissect Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction during riot
By Luke Broadwater
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is planning to return to prime time on Thursday for what could be the finale of its summer hearing schedule: a session focused on then-President Donald Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction as a mob of his supporters assaulted Congress.
The hearing, scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Eastern time, is expected to give a detailed account of how Trump resisted multiple entreaties from staffers, lawyers and even his own family to call off the attack, which raged for hours in the early afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021.
Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., are expected to play leading roles in the hearing.
One witness the panel could hear from is Sarah Matthews, a former White House press aide who resigned in the aftermath of Jan. 6. She has told the committee that a tweet Trump sent attacking then-Vice President Mike Pence while the riot was underway was like “pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Trump had tried unsuccessfully to pressure Pence to reject Congress’ official count of electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden as the president-elect and was inside the Capitol as rioters breached the building chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
The committee is also likely to play clips of the testimony of other witnesses who attempted to intervene with Trump during those more than three hours, including Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. The committee has also said it received testimony from Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general who was Pence’s national security adviser, about Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence as the mob engulfed the Capitol.
Kellogg said Ivanka Trump, Trump’s eldest daughter, urged her father at least twice to call off the violence, as did Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary.
The panel has already heard testimony from witnesses about unsuccessful attempts to get Trump to call for peace.
Most memorably, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson described to the committee how Trump sided with the mob and sympathized with their chants for the execution of Pence.
The hearing was initially planned to be the last in a series of summer sessions in which the panel would reveal its findings. But the committee has continued to collect new evidence, and lawmakers have hinted that they could add more hearings to the schedule.
Among the new wrinkles, the committee is looking into the disappearance of Secret Service text messages from around the time of the attack.
The committee issued a subpoena to the Secret Service on Friday evening, seeking text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, that were reportedly erased as well as any after-action reports.
The development came after the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the Secret Service, met with the panel Friday and told lawmakers that many of the texts were erased as part of a device replacement program even after the inspector general had requested them as part of his inquiry into the events of Jan. 6.
The Secret Service has disputed parts of the inspector general’s findings, saying that data on some phones had been “lost” as part of a planned three-month “system migration” in January 2021, but none pertinent to the inquiry.
The agency said that the project was underway before it received notice from the inspector general to preserve its data and that it did not “maliciously” delete text messages.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the committee, said the panel wants to hear more from the Secret Service to try to get to understand what happened.
“The committee is absolutely determined to get to the bottom of this and to find all of the missing texts,” Raskin told reporters on Capitol Hill. “They are missing, but in the age of high technology, we should not give up.”
On Friday, the committee also interviewed Patrick Byrne, former CEO of Overstock.com, who financed some of the legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Byrne was present at what was perhaps the most dramatic meeting of the Trump presidency on Dec. 18, 2020, in which Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser, and Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump lawyer, pressed to seize voting machines and name Powell as a special counsel to work to overturn the election.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the Jan. 6 committee, said the panel also has been discussing what to do about some more high-profile potential witnesses.
Virginia Thomas, a political activist who pushed to overturn the 2020 election and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is “still on the committee’s list” of witnesses to call, even though she has rebuffed attempts to interview her, Thompson said.
Thompson also told reporters the panel was continuing to discuss — as members have for months — whether it should try to summon Trump and Pence to testify, but lawmakers have not reached a conclusion about how to proceed.
The panel believes both men would probably fight attempts to get them to testify, and some lawmakers worry a public battle over Trump’s compliance would distract from the actual work of fact finding.
Thompson has previously said the committee had ruled out a subpoena for Pence, citing “significant information” it had received from two of his aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob.