Roughly three hours of frenzied violence almost made Donald Trump into a king Jan. 6, 2021.
At least, that was the apparent goal.
The House Jan. 6 committee’s public hearing Thursday night — the eighth so far — will highlight Trump’s refusal to quell the violence at the Capitol over the 187 minutes that followed his fascist speech at the Ellipse to his first condemnation of the attack.
The “187-minute hearing,” as some committee aides are calling it, will focus on the then-president’s “dereliction of duty” during the gravest domestic attack on the United States in modern history. Former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger and former deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews — both of whom resigned Jan. 6, 2021 — are slated to provide in-person testimony Thursday. Their remarks are expected to help paint the picture of a frantic White House with staffers and Cabinet members desperately urging Trump to do something — anything – to end the violence he had encouraged.
And let’s be clear: That violence was meant to keep Trump in power indefinitely.
Public statements and witness testimony from the Jan. 6 committee have already given us some insight into the chaos unleashed as members of Trump’s inner circle tried to get him to act. Former White House aide Stephanie Grisham has said Trump watched the riot “gleefully” on television as it unfolded. Those claims were bolstered by news reports and in testimony to the committee.
On top of that, late last year, the committee released a slew of texts turned over by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, showing that many top MAGA allies, including Fox News hosts and Trump's own children, knew Trump had enough sway over his followers to call off the riot and were apoplectic that he hadn’t.
- A text from Fox News host Laura Ingraham reportedly read, “Mark, the president needs to tell the people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
- Donald Trump Jr. pressed Meadows to coordinate an address for his father to deliver from the White House (which ultimately came hours after the attack started). ”He has to lead now,” Trump Jr. allegedly said via text. “It has gone too far. And gotten out of hand.”
- Fox News host Sean Hannity allegedly sent a text to Meadows urging him to get Trump to tell the violent rioters to leave the Capitol. Hannity was also in contact with Trump and other White House officials about Jan. 6 before and after the attack, according to the committee.
Along with the texts, former Trump White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony in June included several anecdotes about White House officials deliberating over ways to get Trump to get the rioters to stop. In one conversation she recalled, White House counsel Pat Cipollone pushed Meadows to get Trump to call off the attack, but Meadows said Trump believed it, and rioters’ targeting of then-Vice President Mike Pence, were justified.
"Mark had responded something to the effect of, ‘You heard him, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,'" Hutchinson testified.
As the riot waged on, Trump sent a tweet disparaging Pence for not attempting to overturn the 2020 election results.
The texts and the testimony we’ve seen thus far all drive home the committee’s fundamental argument: Trump encouraged an armed mob to do everything in its power to keep him in office, and sat on his hands as they stormed the Capitol because they were acting on his wishes.
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.
The House Jan. 6 committee will hold its eighth public hearing on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real-time on our live blog at msnbc.com/jan6hearings.