The Jan. 6 Committee Hearings are over, what happens next?
Thursday's congressional committee hearing on the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot by supporters of Donald Trump featured a minute-by-minute account of the former president's actions, and inaction, as his supporters launched a violent attack.
In more than two hours of recorded and live testimony, the committee portrayed a president sitting idly by, watching the events on television. Meanwhile, aides, family members, and security officials grew increasingly fearful and pleaded for him to take action to quell the violence.
Witnesses testified that Trump did nothing to call off the riot when it started. Aides said he then fanned the flames with a tweet. At 2:24 p.m., after the riot was underway, he tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done”, referring to the vice president’s refusal to block the certification of President Biden’s election win.
White House officials described the tweet as a breaking point that prompted some to decide to resign. “The tweet looked to me like the opposite of what we really needed at that moment, which was a de-escalation,” Matt Pottinger, Mr. Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, told the committee.
Sarah Matthews, a former White House deputy press secretary, argued that the tweet gave Mr. Trump’s supporters permission to continue their assault on the U.S. Capitol. “It was essentially him giving the green light to these people,” she said.
Both Matt Pottinger and Sarah Mathews said the tweet prompted them to decide to step down. White House top lawyer Pat Cipollone (in the picture) said he thought about resigning, but was worried about who would replace him.
An unnamed White House security official described harrowing radio messages from Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail, asserting that some members feared for their own lives as the mob entered the Capitol.
The official said the agents came very close to having to use lethal force “or worse” and added that some called in to say goodbye to their family members.
The committee showed security footage of Senator Josh Hawley running down the halls of the Capitol in an apparent attempt to escape the rioters. They contrasted it with the now widely seen photograph of Hawley raising his fist in solidarity with Trump supporters.
Hawley has repeatedly said he doesn't sympathize with the crowd that overran the Capitol, although he has used the image of his fist-pump for his political advantage.
The committee played outtakes from videotaped remarks by Trump on Jan. 7 about the riot at the U.S. Capitol, in which he appears to be reluctant to say that the election is over. “I don’t want to say the election is over,” Trump says in the video. “I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election is over, okay?”
The committee showed texts showing frustration between Trump campaign aides over news that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick had died a day after confronting rioters at the Capitol.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh complained about the lack of acknowledgment of the death of the Capitol police officer. Matthew Wolking, the deputy director of communications for the Trump campaign, replied, “That is enraging to me. Everything he said about supporting law enforcement was a lie.”
Murtaugh responded: “You know what that is, of course, if he acknowledged the dead cop, he’d be implicitly faulting the mob. And he won’t do that, because they're his people.”
In a series of messages on his Truth Social service after the hearing, Trump challenged the testimony. He said the committee presented “so many lies and misrepresentations” and has called the committee a “sham.”
The committee wrapped up the hearings with closing remarks calling for new measures to ensure that an attack on the democratic process doesn’t happen again.
“We will recommend changes in laws and policies to guard against another Jan. 6,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the committee. But he warned, “Laws are just words on paper. They mean nothing without public servants dedicated to the rule of law.”
“Whatever your politics, whatever you think about the outcome of the election, we as Americans must all agree on this: Donald Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 was a supreme violation of his oath of office,” Kinzinger said.
“The case against Donald Trump, in these hearings, is not made by witnesses who are his political enemies; it is instead a series of confessions by Trump’s own appointees, his own friends, his own campaign officials, people who worked for him for years and his own family,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee.
“The dam has begun to break,” said Cheney, and added that the panel would return in September because more people have come forward with new evidence concerning the insurrection.
After the Jan. 6 committee returns in September with new evidence, it will be up to attorney general Merrick Garland in the Justice Department to review it and decide if the evidence presented is enough to file criminal charges against Donald Trump.