Day 8 of the House Jan. 6 committee's public hearings kicked off around 8 p.m. ET Thursday — the second prime-time presentation of the panel's findings thus far. Congressional investigators focused on then-President Donald Trump's 187 minutes of inaction as the attack unfolded on the Capitol.
Liz Cheney’s call to be brave
Rep. Liz Cheney has displayed a deft ability to summarize the key takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee hearings. Her recent “and one more thing” comment about Trump allegedly calling a witness is now near-legendary.
But today she decided to highlight a troubling reality: The women who have complied with their legal duties and testified under oath — such as Sarah Matthews, Cassidy Hutchinson, Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman — have been subject to vicious attacks.
Leaving little to the imagination, she called out the men in their “50s, 60s and 70s” who have failed to comply with subpoenas or refused to answer and are “hiding behind executive privilege.”
Cheney often draws in black and white when it comes to these hearings. And she left little gray area here. Those who come to tell the truth and account — including many women — regardless of the repercussions, should be celebrated.
Will some of the men Cheney referenced finally come forward after tonight? We'll potentially find out during the next round of hearings in September.
The Cabinet requested a meeting after Jan. 6. It didn't happen.
At the last hearing, the Jan. 6 committee showed a brief clip of former Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, a renowned Washington, D.C. lawyer and son of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. Why — I wondered aloud to some of my Maddow Show colleagues — would Scalia have been asked for testimony unless there was some Cabinet-wide effort to intervene with Trump?
Indeed, tonight, the committee revealed that there were such efforts, and Scalia, in his respectful, gentlemanly way, seems to have been the ringleader. While he testified that he considered resigning in the wake of Jan. 6, he felt obligated “to stay the ship” in the waning days of the Trump administration. If he resigned, he would lose any ability to help stabilize the nation. So after consulting with Cipollone and Pence, Scalia wrote to the president on Jan. 8 and requested that he convene an “immediate” Cabinet meeting.
Scalia’s memo, while delicate, was also stark. Not only would a Cabinet meeting be a “natural” and “fitting exercise of presidential Leadership” following the “deeply disturbing” attack, but it would allow Trump to assure the Cabinet that he would no longer question the validity of the election and would commit to an orderly transition of power. Scalia also urged Trump to reduce “the role of certain private citizens” — ahem, Giuliani, Powell, and others — “who, respectfully, have served you poorly with their advice.” Yet for as much as Scalia coated his memo in politesse and gratitude for Trump’s treatment of Scalia’s mother and family, its rebuke of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric was clear.
To no one’s surprise, Scalia does not seem to have gotten his meeting.
The dumbest argument against the Jan. 6 committee, rebutted
One of the most frequent complaints from Trump World and the House Republican Conference is that there is no cross-examination of Jan. 6 committee witnesses. Things would be different if there were real Republicans alongside Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, they claim.
Well, Cheney had a perfect response to those grumbles:
"And for those of you who seem to think the evidence would be different if Republican Leader McCarthy had not withdrawn his nominees from this committee, let me ask you this: Do you really think Bill Barr is such a delicate flower that he would wilt under cross examination? Pat Cipollone? Eric Herschmann? Jeff Rosen? Richard Donoghue? Of course not — none of our witnesses are."
If anything, cross-examination would likely show those witnesses sticking by their guns even in the face of whatever wild non sequiturs or conspiracy theories or whataboutism was thrown their way. But this way was definitely better.
The most damning Trump video yet
It was a struggle for White House staff to convince Trump to deliver a video to the public on Jan. 7, 2021. But footage that the committee has obtained shows that it was a struggle for Trump to even deliver that speech.
Parts of it were, frankly, laugh out loud funny as the former president stumbled over the words written for him. “Yesterday is a hard word for me,” he declared at one point. Other parts were more sinister, including his refusal to admit defeat even after what had occurred less than 24 hours beforehand.
“But this election is now over,” Trump read from the teleprompter. “Congress has certified the results — I don’t want to say the election is over. I just want to say ‘Congress has certified the results’ without saying the election is over, okay?”
That was how he felt after watching his supporters storm the Capitol, and it’s how he still feels today as he continues to try to somehow un-lose the 2020 election. The election isn’t over for Trump and never will be, which may be the biggest reason to keep him from running again in 2024.
Pottinger makes clear: Jan. 6 hurt America's global standing
Matthew Pottinger, a former Marine and respected defense policy analyst before he joined the Trump administration to serve as its deputy national security adviser, is not inclined toward theatrics. So, when he testified that the destabilizing effects of Jan. 6 were not entirely domestic, he cannot be dismissed.
“When you have a presidential transition, even under the best circumstances, it’s a time of vulnerability,” Pottinger testified. “I was certainly concerned that some of our adversaries would be tempted to probe or test U.S. resolve.”
Indeed, he cited a December 2020 attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by Iranian proxies as evidence that America’s adversaries were eager see how we’d respond. Although no similarly kinetic attacks on U.S. assets followed the events of Jan. 6, that does not mean they were harmless to our interests abroad.
“Our national security was harmed in a different way by the sixth of January,” Pottinger said. The riot and the presidential agitation that precipitated it provided “ammunition” to America’s adversaries abroad to claim that “our system doesn’t work.”
Pottinger further noted that some representatives of America’s allies reached out to express their concerns about the “health” of the American republic, a testament to their declining faith in the stability of the globe’s sole hegemony and its leading liberal democracy. That assessment from a patriot and public servant cannot be so easily dismissed.
Schumer and McConnell personally ask the Secretary of Defense for aid
'Are you serious?'
The biggest takeaway of the night comes into focus
Trump only begrudgingly told his violent supporters to leave the Capitol after it became apparent that the attack at the Capitol would not be successful and that the electoral count would be certified. Members of Congress were safe and the military was ready to go.
Words matter. Once Trump did speak to his supporters, let’s note the first thing he said. It wasn’t that the violence must stop. It was that the election was stolen. The leader of the free world then wandered his way towards a statement that the rioters should go home, but not before he thanked them and told them they were special.
After all we have heard over the course of these hearings, it is worth asking what Trump would have said if it looked like the insurrection might be successful.
When democracy is on the line, what does 'winning' even look like?
At its base, Jan. 6 is a tale of Americans’ obsession with winning — or at least, not losing — and how Trump’s refusal to accept defeat festered into a critical wound to our democracy.
As Sarah Matthews testified, even those White House staffers who believed Trump’s tweets that afternoon were insufficient and akin to “pouring gasoline on a fire” fell prey to this political fixation with victory: How can we avoid giving the other side a win?
Matthews, however, rejected that framing. Pointing at the TV, where the Capitol attack was well underway, she asked her colleagues, “Does that” — meaning the violence and chaos unfolding on the screen — “look like we’re effing winning?” For Matthews, Team America took precedence over Team Trump. But some of her colleagues, including those who shared her view that the election was long over and that the attack was an abomination, still could not see past the usual spin.
Raw footage shows Trump improvise his infamous Rose Garden video
I remember when I first saw Trump’s video tweet on Jan. 6 telling his supporters to go home. The contrast between the violence that was unfolding and the president’s mild, friendly tone was jarring, as was his repeating of the lies that caused the attack in the first place.
It was clear then too that those were Trump’s own words, rather than a speech that had been prepared by his staff. The Jan. 6 committee revealed tonight that there was a speech prepared for him, one that he chose to ignore. Here’s what it said: “I urge all my supporters to do exactly as 99.9% of them have already been doing — express their passions and opinions peacefully. My supporters have a right to have their voices heard, but make no mistake — NO ONE should be using violence or threats of violence to express themselves. Especially at the U.S. Capitol. Let’s respect our institutions. Let’s all do better. I am asking you to leave the Capitol Hill region NOW and go home in a peaceful way.”
The difference between those words and the raw footage of Trump shooting his video the committee unveiled tonight couldn’t be starker. Trump was in no way upset about the violence that his supporters had delivered — he wanted them to stay upset about his election loss.
'Fix this now': Meadows flooded with texts from GOP lawmakers, Fox News hosts
Reading into Pat Cipollone's silence
“He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat,” Cassidy Hutchinson said, summarizing a conversation on Jan. 6 between Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone. “He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.” Without saying as much, Cipollone all but confirmed another element of Hutchinson’s earlier testimony.
Cheney asked Cipollone during his deposition who in the White House hoped to see the president put out a forceful statement urging his supporters to withdraw from the Capitol. Cipollone replied emphatically and without hesitation that everyone he had contact with hoped to see the president take action.
But when Cheney asked who didn’t want to see the rioters evacuate the Capitol complex, Cipollone grew quiet. “What about the president?” Rep. Adam Schiff asked. Cipollone took a beat — a long one. “She said the staff,” he finally replied, cagily. “So, I answered.” When lawmakers further clarified that they meant anyone in the White House, including the president, Cipollone declined to answer further citing executive privilege.
Draw your own conclusions.
Trump didn't just fail to stop rioters — he gave them the 'green light'
Trump tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage” to do what he needed to do. As a reminder, what Trump wanted Pence to do is violate his constitutional duty to certify the Electoral College vote count. Pence essentially has no constitutional authority to do anything other than get out a rubber stamp that acknowledges that Biden won the election.
As former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews stated, Trump’s statement that Pence lacked courage gave the rioters the “green light” to continue their violent behavior and to target Pence. This tweet was sent as Pence came within 40 feet of the rioters and had to be evacuated for a second time. This tweet was sent as members of Pence’s security detail apparently feared for their lives as and were calling their loved ones to say goodbye..
Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson accurately described the tweet as un-American and unpatriotic.
Trump didn’t merely fail to act. He gathered firewood, lit a match, and blew oxygen on the fire.
Sen. Hawley went from fist-pumping to running away
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., was one of the loudest voices arguing against certifying some of the electoral votes being counted on Jan. 6, 2021. While he never fully endorsed the conspiracies that Trump did, Hawley exploited them for his own benefit. The committee showed an infamous picture of Hawley from that day, in which he can be seen giving a fist pump of support to Trump supporters gathered outside the Capitol.
“We spoke with a Capitol Police officer who was out there at the time. She told us that Sen. Hawley’s gesture riled up the crowd,” Rep. Elaine Luria said. “And it bothered her greatly because he was doing it in a safe space, protected by the officers and the barriers.”
That safety that emboldened him didn’t last. The committee then showed footage of Hawley scurrying in fear as the mob ransacked the building. It was a beautiful moment of schadenfreude, bordering on pettiness, that highlighted the gulf between the senator’s bold rhetoric and the fear of what he had sown. (And fun fact: Just minutes before that epic dunk, Hawley was on Fox News likely talking about anything but Jan. 6.)
Sarah Matthews is already facing friendly fire
Earlier tonight, I wondered whether and how soon former Trump deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, one of tonight’s two live witnesses, would be attacked by her own former colleagues and boss. But even I didn’t think prominent Republicans, much less the official House GOP caucus, would turn on her so soon.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m., and before Matthews even said much of substance, @HouseGOP retweeted Matthews’s Twitter profile, deeming her to be “Just another liar and pawn in Pelosi’s witch-hunt.” That’s when it fell to Twitter user @nycsouthpaw to break the news to them: “She’s one of your communications directors right now, on the climate committee lol.”
By 9:03 p.m. tonight, the House Republicans’ tweet about Matthews has been deleted — but thanks to Southpaw (and screenshots), I’ll always remember how easily and quickly the GOP tried to eat their young.
Pence security detail made 'goodbye' calls to their families: W.H. official
Pence's security staff knew the rioters were armed.
“I could hear some of the units pointing out there were individuals on Constitution Avenue that were armed," D.C. Metropolitan Police Sgt. Mark Robinson testified.
An unidentified White House security official also confirmed that they were aware of the nature of the threat posed by the mob descending on the Capitol.
“We all knew what that implicated and what that meant, that this was no longer a rally, that this was going to move to something else if he physically walked to the Capitol,” the official said.
That White House security official added that the threat posed by the rioters was so acute that when they approached within feet of the vice president, his security detail was mortally terrified.
Pence’s security detail began to “fear for their own lives,” the official said, adding that there were calls to “say goodbye” to family members. They were allegedly preparing to use lethal force to defend themselves and the vice president even though some, at least, apparently believed they were going to be overwhelmed.
And still, the president did not act
‘Get Ivanka down here’
Tonight I heard one of the few positive things ever relayed about White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ behavior in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The committee showed footage of White House counsel Pat Cipollone testifying that Meadows was one of the people who wanted Trump to issue a stronger statement urging rioters to leave.
“I remember [Meadows] getting lvanka involved, because he’s like get lvanka down here because he thought that would be important,” Cipollone added. We already knew that Ivanka had attended Trump’s Ellipse speech ahead of the attack in the hopes of keeping her father calm. We also knew that she was urging her father to act during the attack. But the fact that Meadows called her in specifically that afternoon is news to me.
Adam Schiff is a former federal prosecutor, and it shows
The Jan. 6 committee played videotaped testimony from Sgt. Mark Robinson of the Metropolitan Police Department, who rode in the lead vehicle of Trump’s motorcade from the Ellipse back to the White House. Robinson corroborated Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony that Trump wanted to ride to the Capitol and was quite upset with his Secret Service detail when they told him he could not.
That would be helpful testimony in any event, but Rep. Adam Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, knew how to make it even more useful by asking Robinson to compare his experience on Jan. 6 with his prior participation in presidential motorcades. Schiff first elicited that Robinson had ridden in “probably over 100” motorcades. And then Schiff went in for the kill:
"And in that hundred times, have you ever witnessed another discussion or argument or heated discussion where the president was contradicting where he was supposed to go or what the Secret Service believed was safe."
Robinson responded simply, “No,” proving again why Schiff is not only a highly effective member of Congress, but retains solid prosecutorial chops
Confirmed: Trump was 'irate' he couldn’t go to the Capitol
When former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified at the end of June, one of the most shocking details was a story she relayed about Trump’s frame of mind after his speech on Jan. 6. She told the committee that Tony Oranato, the deputy White House chief of staff, informed her that Trump had demanded to go to the Capitol along with his supporters. When told no, he tried to grab at the wheel of the SUV he traveling in.
After her testimony, multiple unnamed sources with alleged ties to the Secret Service tried to cast doubt on Hutchinson’s story. Ornato also reportedly denied telling her certain parts of the narrative. But in tonight’s hearing, the committee said that there were multiple witnesses who confirm that Trump was indeed “irate” about not being able to join his followers at the Capitol and that the debate inside the motorcade was indeed heated.
And a reminder of why this matters: It confirms just how much the president wanted to go to the Capitol after inciting a mob to interfere with the counting of electoral votes.
Why it matters if Trump watched the attack on TV
“What you will learn,” Rep. Elaine Luria informed the nation on Thursday night, “is that President Trump sat in his dining room and watched the attack on television.”
If this version of events is confirmed by witnesses Matthew Pottinger and Sarah Matthews, Trump’s deputy national security advisor and deputy press secretary respectively, it helps confirm testimony provided by Cassidy Hutchinson.
“I probably was two feet from Mark [Meadows],” Hutchinson testified. “He was standing in the doorway going into the Oval Office dining room.” She repeatedly testified that “we were watching the TV and I could see that the rioters were getting closer and closer to the Capitol.” She did not, however, confirm that the president was among those who were passively observing as the events of Jan. 6 unfolded.
We already know that the president abdicated his commander-in-chief responsibilities by failing to mobilize federal law enforcement and the military to defend the lawmakers under siege that day. We may finally learn what he affirmatively was doing: enjoying himself.
Who is Sarah Matthews?
Tonight, the committee will hear testimony from Sarah Matthews, a self-described “lifelong Republican” and former deputy press secretary in the Trump White House who resigned hours after the Jan. 6 attack.
Unlike most of the witnesses who served in that White House, Matthews remains employed in government as the communications director for Republicans on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. And both her Capitol Hill and Trump World credentials are solid: Previously a press aide to GOP members of Congress, she then became a communications aide on Trump’s re-election campaign, where she met Trump aide Kayleigh McEnany, and followed her to the White House.
To date, Matthews has not been the focus of disparaging, minimizing attacks by Trump or former White House aides. But will that change after she testifies publicly, as it did for her friend and former colleague Cassidy Hutchinson? Let’s hope not. Anyone brave enough to tell their truth under oath, and especially a young woman with much to lose professionally, deserves respect, not revulsion.
Trump's failure to 'take care'
The Constitution both gives and limits a president’s power. The so-called “Take Care Clause” provides that the president must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This grants the president significant power to execute laws, but it also requires him to do so, faithfully.
Tonight’s hearing will be about Trump’s failure to live up to that constitutional duty by refusing, for hours, to stop the attack on the nation’s Capitol. He had the ability to do so and actively decided not to. At the very least, the Take Care Clause requires that presidents not seek to violate the law. But that seems to be exactly what Trump attempted to do.
Pipe bomber's identity still a mystery
Democrat Rep. Elaine Luria, who's co-leading tonight's hearing with Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, reminds us that not only were there violent rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 — but pipe bombs were also planted outside both the Republican and Democratic National Committee offices that day as well.
A year later, the Justice Department and FBI is still searching for a suspect.
Liz Cheney's 'almost' speaks volumes
In her opening statement, Rep. Liz Cheney noted how much the Jan. 6 committee has learned in the year and a half since the attack on the Capitol. “Today, we know far more about the president’s plans and actions to overturn the election than almost all members of Congress did when President Trump was impeached on January 13, 2021, or when he was tried by the Senate in February that year,” the committee vice chair said.
What made my ears perk up was the “almost” in that sentence. Because it’s true — there were at least several members of Congress who knew a great deal about Trump’s plans and actions. Several of them have been subpoenaed to give testimony about that knowledge to the committee. All of them have refused so far. Cheney’s caveat is a reminder that there are still colleagues who she sees everyday who know more than they’re letting on.
Jan. 6 Hearings: Season Two is coming
Tonight is the last hearing in this set from the Jan. 6 committee — but the work continues this fall. In a pre-recorded video, committee chair Bennie Thompson announced that there will be more hearings when Congress returns from the August recess.
It feels unlikely that September’s hearings will follow the same breakdown among thematic lines as the previous nine meetings. But as Thompson made clear, the committee has gathered a lot of new information since the live hearings began in June. And so it only makes sense for the panel to share those details with the American public as soon as possible.
Secret Service text scandal heats up with counsel revelation
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the Jan. 6 committee, revealed tonight that some Secret Service agents have retained private legal counsel. The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General revealed to the committee last week that the agency deleted texts sent on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021. The inspector general has launched a criminal investigation into the erasure of those messages, NBC News reported.
It's certainly frustrating that the committee can't access what could be significant evidence. But it's just another startling development in this often stranger-than-fiction storyline.
Trump’s account of what he did — and did not — ask Pence to do keeps shifting
Throughout the day of Jan. 6, Trump mounted a campaign-by-tweet against his vice president, Mike Pence. Rather than pressuring Pence to overturn the election outright, he posted things like, “All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN.”
Maybe Trump really believed that Pence had that kind of power. Or maybe he was simply trying to exploit the language of the Electoral Count Act. Either way, members on both sides of the aisle have been contemplating amending that law to prevent any ambiguity going forward.
As Congress grapples with the ECA, Trump is trying to twist their efforts. According to Trump’s tortured analysis, if the vice president is truly powerless and has only ministerial, envelope-opening duties, why are members of Congress “working so hard to make sure there is nothing a VP can do?”
But while Trump’s frustration with calls to amend the ECA has stayed constant, his explanation of what he actually wanted Pence to do has flipflopped repeatedly. On Jan. 5, 2021, he tweeted that Pence “has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.” By the next day, however, Trump was focused on having Pence “send it back” to states to correct their mistake “in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers.”
Trump’s hindsight explanations of what he wanted and asked for are no less confused. In January of this year, he complained, Pence “could have overturned the Election” but “unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power.”
Tonight, however, Trump has changed course yet again, claiming “all I suggested he do” was “send the slates back to the States.” Not coincidentally, sending the slates back to the states was the heart of Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon’s “Green Bay Sweep” plan. As Rolling Stone explained, the goal was for Pence to “‘put the certification of the election on ice for at least another several weeks’ while Congress and the state legislatures pursued the ‘fraud’ allegations.”
I don’t understand why Trump’s story keeps changing. But his Jan. 5 tweet — along with reporting that Trump asked Pence that day either to reject certain state electors or send the decision to the House — seem to show what he really wanted wasn’t just a state-level fix.
Meanwhile, Trump pal Steve Bannon is on trial — and it's not looking good for him
Even though we all saw the Capitol attack play out before our eyes, as a result of the Jan. 6 committee hearings, we know so much more than we did before. The testimony of former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, for instance, was a revelation.
But while we are all talking about what the witnesses are saying, and what it means for whether Trump will face criminal charges, there is another legal drama unfolding down the street concerning a potential witness who has refused to say anything at all.
The trial against former White House strategist Steve Bannon will begin and likely end this week. The Department of Justice has charged Bannon with contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the Jan. 6 committee. Having no defense to these charges, Bannon has offered none at trial. You read that right. Bannon will call no witnesses and offer no defense.
Bannon should be, and likely will be, convicted.
And while it would have been helpful to hear from him, if he had complied with the subpoena, he likely would have said little and merely invoked his right against self-incrimination. If Bannon is in fact convicted, it will show that the rule of law, well, still rules. At least, sometimes.
Outtakes from Trump’s Jan. 7 speech could be key evidence of his crimes
Whatever you think of former FBI Director James Comey, you probably remember his retort to Trump’s suggestion that he would release tapes of their early 2017 meetings. “Lordy,” Comey quipped in June of that year, “I hope there are tapes.”
Fortunately for historians — and the Jan. 6 committee — there are tapes galore relating to Jan. 6. There are thousands of hours of security tapes from within the Capitol, including surveillance video of a congressional tour given on the eve of the attack. There was extensive, real-time media coverage — and a plethora of social media videos mined by volunteers like the Sedition Hunters as well as the FBI. There were even multiple documentary film crews at the Capitol that day and hovering near Trump’s inner circle in the prior days and weeks.
But last night, thanks to The Washington Post, we learned about yet another source of footage that could be devastating for Trump: outtakes from the speech he recorded on Jan. 7.
That three-minute speech — in which he “reluctantly condemned” the Capitol attack — came about only after plans to disrupt or redo the Electoral College certification failed and after Trump aides told him Cabinet members “were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.” But even then, the Post reveals, Trump “struggled” to deliver the speech:
"Over the course of an hour of trying to tape the message, Trump resisted holding the rioters to account, trying to call them patriots, and refused to say the election was over, according to individuals familiar with the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack."
You might be asking yourself: Why does it matter what Trump did, or more importantly, said, the day after the attack? And why isn’t it enough for the committee to show, as they plan to tonight, that Trump took no action to stop the violence at the Capitol for 187 minutes?
Those 187 minutes are meaningful, for sure, as proof that as president, Trump did not perform his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, but instead intended and approved of the attacks. But the Jan. 7 outtakes are something altogether different. As with a defendant who becomes a fugitive or attempts to intimidate witnesses, a person who cannot condemn transparently unlawful, undemocratic behavior might be showing their consciousness of guilt.
And that’s why, even with new clips of former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and the promise that we’ll see the same Fox News coverage to which Trump was glued on the afternoon of Jan. 6, the Jan. 7 outtakes are perhaps the thing I am most eagerly awaiting tonight.
McCarthy still struggling to defend his Jan. 6 committee botched strategy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has taken a lot of heat from Trump over his botched Jan. 6 committee strategy. As a result of McCarthy's refusal to pick Republicans to sit on the committee, the panel has been able to deliver a cohesive, effective narrative during the hearings without the distraction of Republican grandstanding.
McCarthy tried once again to defend his strategy, which Trump has called "very foolish," during an interview last night with Fox News' Sean Hannity. It didn't go well.
As Steve Benen wrote for MaddowBlog today:
"The California congressman has had plenty of time to come up with a defense for his strategy. His comments to Hannity suggest he hasn’t come up with much. Right off the bat, the idea that this process isn’t 'fair' is an increasingly tough sell: The House select committee has members from both parties; it has a Republican vice-chair; and most of the witnesses who’ve delivered public testimony have been Republicans."
Rage and dread: What’s being done to stop this from happening again?
Rage and dread. These are the two emotions I tend to fluctuate between when watching the Jan. 6 committee hearings. Rage for what happened and dread that it could happen again.
The committee has done a masterful job of bringing us a temporal snapshot of everything that led up to the insurrection at the Capitol. And everytime they do, it is hard not to scream at the screen for someone, anyone, to thwart Trump’s plan to stay in power.
We have heard, repeatedly, that Trump’s advisers told him, over and over again, the 2020 presidential election was not stolen and that there was no rampant voter fraud. We have also heard that Trump lied many times, saying the election was in fact stolen. We know that he used this lie to gin up an already angry mob. We know he knew members of that mob were armed when he sent them to the Capitol.
Tonight, we will finally hear the details of what actually happened during the more than three hours of violence in our nation’s Capitol. And perhaps most importantly, we will hear how Trump’s failure to act amounted to a dereliction of duty that endangered the lives of our public servants and elected officials.
Imagine a general who sends his troops into an illegal battle. That alone is bad enough. But now imagine that people around the general plead with him to tell his troops to turn back. Prepare for more rage and dread tonight as we hear how close our nation came to a potential civil war, and how little has been done to prevent this from becoming a recurring nightmare.
If Ornato and Engel dispute Hutchinson’s claims, they must speak out
Prior to Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony before the Jan. 6 committee, we did not affirmatively know what Trump was doing in the time that elapsed between the breaching of the Capitol and the National Guard’s response. We know what he wasn’t doing: ordering the armed forces and law enforcement to put the riot down. Hutchinson’s allegations provided us with damning insight into the president’s mindset and his intentions.
But in the hours that followed her testimony, some called into question Hutchinson’s claim that she heard Trump had lunged violently at his Secret Service detail when they refused to drive him to the Capitol on Jan. 6. An anonymous Secret Service source told CNN that Bobby Engel, the detail leader on Jan. 6, and Tony Ornato, Trump’s White House chief of operations and a Secret Service veteran, disputed the claim. Neither Engel nor Ornato have publicly commented on Hutchinson’s testimony.
In the interim, though, the urgency around this alleged discrepancy has faded. Conspicuously, the Secret Service deleted text messages that were sent on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021 — a “potential unauthorized deletion,” according to the National Archives — which frustrates the committee’s mission. If the committee has made progress in the effort to secure additional testimony from Engel and Ornato, we haven’t heard about it.
This discrepancy cannot be allowed to fester in the imaginations of Americans who want to see this committee discredit itself. Those who are invested in that outcome leveraged the ambiguity around Hutchinson’s testimony to claim that all of her allegations are disputed and should be disregarded. That popular mythology cannot be allowed to stand. If these individuals want to dispute Hutchinson’s claims on camera, they must have the opportunity. If they don’t, the committee must say as much. And if the committee’s investigation is being obstructed, that, too, must become public record. What the committee cannot do is pretend that this never happened.
A not-so-secret Jan. 6 texting debacle
Americans likely believe — or at least want to believe — that the Secret Service is one of the most elite security forces in the world. After all, we entrust them with the lives of our most prominent and powerful politicians. Hollywood’s decades-long love affair with the agency has certainly helped burnish its reputation. But in reality, the agency is far from infallible.
Exhibit A: The apparent deletions of text messages sent during and after the Capitol riot — messages that could shed light on the movements of key players during that time. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has begun a criminal investigation into the destruction of those text messages. And the whole affair has highlighted how badly the agency needs a change at the top.
As MSNBC columnist Frank Figliuzzi wrote today:
“While there is no direct evidence that the loss of text messages was intentional, the damage has been done.” And one important step toward repairing that damage is selecting a new leader from the outside. “For real change to happen, the next director should come from outside the agency and should have a proven record: not necessarily as a special agent but as an agent of change. That new director will need to better balance the need for the Secret Service to be trusted by the people it protects and trusted by the American people.”
A new Jan. 6 committee witness lashes out
Garrett Ziegler is not a name that I had heard before this week. The young man was an aide to Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and is, to be blunt, a character. He met with the Jan. 6 committee earlier this week and apparently followed that appearance up with a profane, sexist and racist rant posted to Telegram.
In that 27-minutes of audio, a voice CNN identifies as Ziegler’s can be heard describing the committee’s efforts as “a Bolshevistic anti-White campaign” that targeted him as a “young Christian.” (By the way, calling people “Bolsheviks,” the Communist faction that triumphed after the Russian revolution is often an antisemitic dog whistle, according to the head of the Anti-Defamation League.) Ziegler also had choice (read: horribly demeaning) words for Cassidy Hutchinson and Alyssa Farrah Griffin, who both worked in the White House and have cooperated with the committee’s investigation.
It seems unlikely that the committee got much useful info out of Ziegler given that the audio post claims a lot of the day was spent “saying that I invoke my right to silence.” But who knows? It may be a case where the gentleman doth protest too much — after corroborating what other witnesses have said.
Rep. Elaine Luria will lead tonight's hearing. Here's a preview.
"This is a dereliction of duty of the president," Luria told MSNBC on Wednesday. "We're going to talk in depth about the events that happened almost minute-by minute in the White House during that day."
She said the committee will show the news reports Trump was likely watching on TVs in the West Wing as the Jan. 6 violence was unfolding and reference conversations that were taking place in the White House at the time.
It promises to be an illuminating presentation.
Harvard study states the obvious (but it’s good to say it again)
NBC News reporters got their hands on a soon-to-be-released study from Harvard researchers that has some important albeit perhaps obvious conclusions about what motivated the Capitol riot.
After analyzing the motivations of 417 people charged with participating in the riot, Joan Donovan, director of Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and Kaylee Fagan and Frances Lee, research assistants at Shorenstein, confirmed that Trump’s calls to action were the biggest factor on Jan. 6. More than 40% of those charged either cited their support for Trump or the false belief that the election had been stolen as their primary motivation on Jan. 6.
Interestingly, participation in “revolution, civil war, or secession” was the third most cited reason, followed by “peaceful protest” (7%) and a “general interest in violence” (6.2%). These conclusions shouldn’t really shock anyone who spent 2021 and 2022 awake and sentient, but more confirmation is never a bad thing.
Read more about the study and NBC News’ exclusive reporting on it here.
What the Jan. 6 committee has done in 13 months is nothing short of remarkable
As we approach the so-called season finale of the Jan. 6 hearings, it’s worth considering how we got here. After all, unlike most congressional committees, which persist from each two-year session of Congress to the next, the Jan. 6 committee was created not even 13 months ago. And barring its reauthorization in the next Congress, the committee will turn back into the proverbial pumpkin come January 2023.
And it strikes me — especially when evidence of a robust, Justice Department investigation of Trump World is in short supply — that what the Jan. 6 committee has done in those 13 months is remarkable.
Through its professional staff and members alike, the committee has interviewed or deposed more than 1,000 witnesses. Those witnesses run the gamut from low-level domestic extremists to senior White House aides, including former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner; Cabinet members like former Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and former Attorney General Bill Barr; and even members of Trump’s post-election legal team, such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The breadth and volume of the witness roster is notable, especially for an operation that wasn’t in existence until relatively recently.
But perhaps more impressive is how the committee obtained its evidence: through a combination of creative, dogged lawyering, behind-the-scenes negotiations, and an effective public persuasion campaign. Together, those efforts have enabled the committee to make the complex, multimedia presentations we’ve seen over the last several weeks. Each has featured live testimony from credible, understated witnesses alongside carefully curated texts, emails, handwritten notes, and memos, video clips from other witnesses’ deposition and the attack on the Capitol and even floor plans of the West Wing.
I’m also intrigued by the committee’s ability to persuade a slew of GOP loyalists to headline its hearings. From Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers to Steve Engel, the former head of DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, and Greg Jacob, former counsel to Pence, to former Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, committee witnesses have reminded America that what we witnessed on Jan. 6 was anything but ordinary or acceptable — and that the efforts to overthrow the election might have succeeded but for a combination of others’ incompetence and their own intervention.
Tonight, I’ll watch as the committee reconstructs the 187 minutes during which Trump did nothing to stop the Capitol attack, and as two more witnesses, former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger and former deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews, share their experiences from that fateful day. But I won’t soon forget the committee’s cumulative efforts to trace what happened on Jan. 6 from the boots-on-the-ground in Norse helmets to the guy in the red tie. And neither should you.
Thompson in quarantine for Jan. 6 hearings season finale
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., won’t be in the room when the final Jan. 6 hearing begins this evening. The committee chair announced in a statement this week that he tested positive for Covid on Monday and is experiencing “mild symptoms.”
While resting is the best thing you can do even with mild cases of Covid, Thompson will still be chairing tonight’s hearing remotely, a committee aide told reporters on Wednesday. While this would normally have the potential to disrupt the flow of a hearing, Thompson appearing via Zoom (or whatever system the House uses) likely won’t have much of an impact on the content of the hearing itself.
If anything the sharp, focused presentations that the committee has constructed mean that as long as Thompson stays on script, his quarantine shouldn’t make much of a difference. (Though let’s hope that someone sets up his camera to prevent a mishap that could distract from the evening’s testimony.)
How to understand Merrick Garland’s election memo
On Monday night, Rachel Maddow reported on a May 25 memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland that extended a 2020 rule mandating no investigation of a “declared candidate for president or vice president” can happen without the attorney general’s prior written approval. Barr’s rule essentially created one more line in the sand prosecutors would need to cross in order to charge, say, the president of the United States with a crime.
The memo caused a bit of a stir, especially given Trump has not yet officially declared a 2024 presidential bid. Could Trump evade accountability (again) by winning a national election (again)? Not so fast, according to MSNBC columnist Dean Obeidallah.
“It’s laughable for Trump to think he could avoid prosecution by announcing a run for president,” Obeidallah wrote.
The armed forces' seemingly terrifying response on Jan. 6
Tonight's hearing is only the second to take place in prime time, and the committee has chosen the proper subject for such an extraordinary setting. The committee is expected to focus on the fateful 187 minutes in which the Capitol was under siege, and the president did nothing in response.
This will be the first time the committee has devoted itself to this subject since committee chair Liz Cheney affirmed on day one of the panel’s public hearings that Trump abdicated his role as commander in chief.
“He placed no call to any element of the United States government to instruct that the Capitol be defended,” she alleged. “He did not call his Secretary of Defense on Jan. 6. He did not talk to his attorney general. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day, and he made no effort to work with the Department of Justice to coordinate and deploy law enforcement assets.”
Cheney further asserted that then-Vice President Mike Pence simply assumed for himself the powers of the presidency. He, not Trump, issued the orders to deploy the National Guard and relieve the nation’s besieged lawmakers. But there exists no constitutional mechanism that allows the vice president to usurp the command of the armed forces or federal law enforcement. Those presidential powers do not devolve to the sitting vice president.
It was surely a justified usurpation amid an acute national emergency and a vacuum of executive leadership, but that doesn’t render this event any less grave. If these events unfolded as Cheney described, then the constitutional order broke down. The armed forces responded to the commands of a figure outside the chain of command, and that’s terrifying.
The events of Jan. 6 cannot be undone. The sacking of the Capitol by a violent mob was once unthinkable. No longer. It occurred, so it will be thought. Likewise, the military’s alleged responsiveness to extra-constitutional orders was once unthinkable. No longer. If the committee demonstrates that this occurred, it could occur again.
'Look at all of the people fighting for me'
Trump's love of television is well-documented. After all, much of his empire was built on the back of reality TV, and his personal reputation as a showman. That obsession not surprisingly left its mark on Trump's White House tenure. According to former Trump staffer Cliff Sims, Trump would routinely brag to VIP guests "about how many television sets there are in the West Wing.” Indeed, the president often started his day with tweets that felt ripped from the mouths of his beloved "Fox and Friends" morning hosts.
And so, on Jan. 6, as an angry and armed mob stormed the Capitol, Trump turned on his TVs. As committee members and witnesses will undoubtedly highlight again tonight, Trump appeared enthralled by the violence playing out on West Wing screens. And we know this because of the many, many staffers who have already detailed it.
“All I know about that day was, he was in the dining room gleefully watching on his TV as he often did, [saying] ‘Look at all of the people fighting for me,’ hitting rewind, watching it again,” former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN. “That’s what I know.”
As Rep. Adam Kinzinger notes, see for yourself.
Ex-Trump aides Sarah Matthews and Matthew Pottinger to testify
Both Matthews, who served as White House deputy press secretary, and Pottinger, a member of the National Security Council during the Trump administration, resigned in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack.
Matthews expressed public support for Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, when she testified before the committee last month.
"Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson’s role or her access in the West Wing either doesn’t understand how the Trump WH worked or is attempting to discredit her because they’re scared of how damning this testimony is," Matthews tweeted at the time.
A support system of former Trump White House aides has clearly formed during the Jan. 6 hearings. Who else will emerge from this group to tell their story?
Trump's 187-minute dereliction of duty on full display
The House Jan. 6 committee will focus tonight's prime-time hearing on Trump's refusal to call on his supporters to end their attack on the Capitol. In the span of 187 minutes, from the moment he ended his Jan. 6 rally speech to the tweet he eventually sent urging the rioters to stop, Trump spent a good chunk of his time watching the violence unfold on TV, the committee is expected to say.
As Ja'han Jones wrote for The ReidOut Blog today:
"The 187 minutes Trump spent not stopping the violence were effectively 187 minutes of peak Trumpism, with sulking, paranoia, obsessive and self-absorbed TV-watching, and ultimately, fascist violence. Thursday’s hearing will describe existential danger his actions — and silence — posed to the country Jan. 6."