The House Select Committee Investigating the U.S. Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021 returned on Thursday night for a primetime hearing, focusing on former President Donald Trump’s actions on the fateful day.
The committee discussed Trump’s actions, or lack thereof, as rioters stormed the Capitol, putting former Vice President Mike Pence’s life in danger.
An anonymous White House security official was one of the witnesses called during the hearing, testifying that Pence’s Secret Service agents feared for their lives as the rioters stormed the building.
“There were calls to say goodbye to family members and so on and so forth,” the official said. “(They were concerned) that it could get ugly.”
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Two former Trump aides, including former Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, were among those who testified that staffers were pleading with the president to issue a statement, to no avail.
“If the president wanted to make a statement and address the people, he could have been on camera almost immediately,” she said.
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was one of the primary questioners during the hearing, blasted the former president’s inaction.
“What happened between his last tweet at 1:49 and 2:24? His staff repeatedly asked that he make a strong public statement condemning the violence and instructing the mob to leave the Capitol, but he did not relent until after 4 p.m. when he went out to the Rose Garden to film his now-infamous ‘go-home’ message,” he said.
According to the committee, Trump sat in the living room of the family’s residence inside the White House, sending out occasional tweets, including one at 1 p.m. telling supporters to march to the Capitol, and one at 2:24 p.m. blasting Pence for not “having courage” to overturn the election results.
Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone testified that he was aghast at the tweets.
“I thought that was terrible,” he said. “I thought it was outrageous and wrong.”
Witnesses also testified that the former president wanted to join rioters at the Capitol, but that the Secret Service prevented him from doing so.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman who was forced to attend Thursday’s hearing remotely after a COVID diagnosis, called the former president’s actions “reckless.”
“He lied, he bullied, he betrayed his oath,” he said. “He tried to destroy our democratic institutions. He summoned a mob to Washington that he knew was heavily armed and angry.”
Rep. Liz Cheney said that she anticipates the committee to reconvene in September, with a full report due this fall.