Many of the House Jan. 6 hearings that preceded Thursday’s hearing discussed how Trump’s advisers constantly informed him that there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to overturn the election results, and that efforts to suggest there was such evidence were pointless. But focusing on what Trump was told still permitted the theoretical possibility that he didn’t believe it, and that he was irrational and blinded by emotion in his bid to find any information that could keep him in office.
On Thursday the committee presented testimony ruling out this scenario, and indicating that Trump was lucid and aware that he had lost the race. According to testimony from Alyssa Farah, a former White House aide, while Trump was watching then-president-elect Joe Biden on television a week after the election was called, he said, “Can you believe I lost to this f---ing guy?”
He was on a mission to inspire an authoritarian mob usurp the legislative branch of the U.S. government using lethal force.
Although Thursday’s hearing included a significant amount of evidence that wasn’t new, taken as a whole the presentation still felt new, in that it pooled together and framed critical pieces of information to establish something important: Trump’s malicious intent in the run-up to and on the day of the 2021 insurrection.
The hearing definitively hammered home how Trump had full awareness and agency in inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol and bolstered the argument using newly obtained messages circulated within the Secret Service to show the White House knew what the crowd believed and wanted to do on that day.
Even if we believed that Trump’s mental state couldn’t be ascertained, he’d still be to blame for the insurrection because of his dishonesty and violence-inducing rhetoric. But the evidence suggests Trump knew exactly what he was doing. It’s no exaggeration to say that the evidence suggests he was on a mission to inspire an authoritarian mob usurp the legislative branch of the U.S. government using lethal force.
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, said that Meadows told her that Trump told him: “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out.” She also reported Meadows told her: “A lot of times he’ll tell me that he lost but he wants to keep fighting it.”
The committee presented evidence that the Secret Service knew that Trump supporters were preparing for an armed assault on the U.S. Capitol as early as Dec. 26, 2020. According to testimony from Trump aide Judd Deere, the night before the insurrection, Trump could hear raucous crowds on the streets near the White House and acknowledged they were “angry” because they believed “the election was rigged.” On the morning of the insurrection, Secret Service agents informed Trump that thousands of people near the Washington Monument were not entering the rally area because they were likely armed. Trump not only didn’t care — he wanted them to be let in and march with them to the Capitol.
The committee also pointed out that Trump’s desperation to push through legacy-defining policies shortly after Election Day, including an executive order calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Somalia, indicated he knew his time was up. If Trump had been truly convinced that he’d been defrauded and that signs of foul play would emerge, it seems less likely that he would’ve been bent on ramming through such a hugely consequential policy maneuver, which would normally require debate and preparation.
So multiple sources say Trump didn’t just constantly hear that he had lost, but that he himself knew it and acted like it. We also know that he saw Jan. 6 as his last resort for changing that reality.
Trump was not a madman who, ensnared in rage over not finding the fraud that fulfilled some bizarre hunch he had about his invincibility, irresponsibly encouraged a rowdy crowd to march to the Capitol on his behalf, where things got out of control. It was far worse. Trump knew he had lost; encouraged a violent mob; learned that this violent mob was indeed going to show up; and then did everything he could to get them to overthrow his own government.
In the short-term, many of these details will not matter to Trump diehards. But these details are vital for documenting — and defending against — the sinister and coherent nature of Trump’s anti-democratic project.