The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol returned after a nearly three-month break to summarize and bolster the case it made against President Trump over the summer.
Committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said that the hearing would focus on facts revealing former President Trump’s state of mind and motivations around his election loss.
Members of the committee took turns expanding on different aspects of the former president’s efforts to overturn the election results: Trump’s plan to declare victory before all ballots were counted; that he repeated false fraud claims even as his allies told him he was wrong; and that he privately acknowledged that he’d lost while still trying to change the result.
The committee closed by answering a question hanging over its proceedings for several months: Would the panel seek testimony from Trump? The committee unanimously approved a resolution to subpoena him at the end of its hearing.
“This is a question about accountability to the American people,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said ahead of the vote. “He is required to answer for his actions.”
Here are the key points the committee made during its ninth hearing:
‘Victory no matter what’
The committee presented new evidence to show that Trump intended to declare victory on election night regardless of what the vote tally showed.
“It was a premeditated plan by the president to declare victory no matter what the result was,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) said. “He made a plan to stay in office before election day.”
Trump and his allies knew that there would be a “red mirage” on election night because of a partisan divide in how people voted. Trump disparaged mail ballots even as his campaign manager Bill Stepien and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) argued that encouraging Republicans to vote by mail could help them on election day. The committee played audio of Trump advisors Roger Stone and Stephen K. Bannon saying that Trump would use the delayed mail ballot votes to his advantage.
“He’s not going down easy,” Bannon told a group of associates a few days before the election, according to audio played by the committee. “If Biden is winning, Trump is going to do some crazy s—.”
Trump privately acknowledged that he’d lost
The committee showed clips of interviews with former Trump staffers who said that he privately acknowledged that he had lost, even as he sought to overturn the results of the election.
“I popped into the Oval [Office] just to, like, give the president the headlines and see how he was doing. And he was looking at the TV and he said, ‘Can you believe I lost to this effing guy?’” former Trump White House staffer Alyssa Farah Griffin said, describing an interaction about a week after the election.
Trump also appeared to acknowledge that he lost through policymaking. In the days after President Biden was declared the winner, Trump ordered the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Somalia before Biden’s inauguration. The orders were not put into action, and the committee showed video testimony from military officials who said it would have been a disaster if they had been.
“These are the highly consequential actions of a president who knows his term will shortly end,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
After the Trump campaign suffered another legal defeat in the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2020, a Secret Service agent warned that Trump was “pissed.” Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that she witnessed a conversation between former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump, in which the former president acknowledged he lost.
“[Trump] had said something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know that we lost, Mark, this is embarrassing, figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost,’” Hutchinson said.
More evidence Trump and the Secret Service knew the crowd was armed
In past hearings, the committee has presented evidence indicating that Trump was aware that some of the people who attended his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse near the White House were armed, most notably through testimony from Hutchinson.
Though the Secret Service deleted text messages that had been sent around Jan. 6, the committee was able to retrieve more than a million emails and other electronic communications, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), adding that the panel has been going through those communications since August.
A Jan. 4, 2021, intelligence memo showed that the Secret Service received reports that there had been “calls to occupy federal buildings” and discussion of “intimidating Congress and invading the Capitol building.”
One tip, sent to the FBI and forwarded to the Secret Service in December 2020, warned that the Proud Boys, a far-right group, “think that they will have a large enough group to march into D.C. armed.”
“Their plan is to literally kill people,” the source warned. “Please, please take this tip seriously and investigate further.”
New video of congressional leaders on Jan. 6
The committee shared extensive video footage of congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and then-Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“Why don’t you get the president to tell them to leave the Capitol, Mr. Attorney General?” Schumer asked Jeffrey Rosen, then the acting attorney general.
The video also shows Pelosi speaking with former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, seeking the aid of the state’s National Guard.
“It’s just horrendous,” Pelosi said as she watched CNN footage of the Capitol attack from a secure location. “And all at the instigation of the president of the United States.”
The committee seeks testimony from Trump
After months of deliberation, the committee unanimously passed a resolution to subpoena the former president on Thursday.
While introducing the resolution, Cheney noted that more than 30 witnesses have invoked their 5th Amendment rights when asked about their interactions with Trump before and after the Jan. 6 attack, including Stone, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, Trump lawyer John Eastman and former Asst. Atty. Gen. Jeffrey Clark.
Cheney also noted the ongoing litigation against Meadows, Bannon and former Trump administration official Peter Navarro, who have all refused to comply with subpoenas.
“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion, and every American is entitled to those answers so we can act now to protect our republic,” Cheney said as she announced the resolution.