Thursday’s Jan. 6 hearing — which no longer appears to be the committee's "final" public event — focused heavily on a pretty surprising theme: Trump’s knowledge.
Specifically, his awareness that he’d lost the 2020 election fairly, his knowledge of a plan to declare himself the winner on election night regardless of the results; his knowledge of an illegal plot to have fake electors certify his election victory; his knowledge that attendees of the Ellipse rally that preceded the Capitol attack were armed; and his refusal to authorize defense officials to help stem the attack.
By the hearing’s end, the picture was clear: Trump had tried to bend reality around his fascist wishes, but neither he nor his followers were strong enough.
A few things stuck out to me. Here’s my recap.
Cassidy Hutchinson recounts Trump’s pitiful sulking
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, offered bombshell testimony months ago. The committee on Thursday revealed there was even more to glean from her interactions with White House officials on Jan. 6.
In a clip of her testimony presented Thursday, Hutchinson alleged that she had heard Trump admit to Meadows that he lost the election. This was allegedly done in private, of course, because Trump has publicly (and falsely) claimed that he was the true winner. According to Hutchison, Trump said "something to the effect of, 'I don't want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing.'"
GOP talking points get torched before the midterms
Republicans have spent the past two years trying to sharpen a couple of dubious lines of attack, with their eyes clearly set on this year’s midterm elections. Those attacks went up in flames Thursday as we got new revelations from the committee.
One GOP claim alleges that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deliberately hampered the defense effort while the Jan. 6 siege was underway last year. But stunning footage the committee released Thursday showed she did no such thing. In fact, she was seemingly leading the defense effort, coordinating with governors and defense officials as Trump watched the carnage unfold.
Another GOP line of attack claims President Joe Biden bears sole responsibility for the chaotic and deadly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year. The committee showed evidence that picked this claim apart, as well. Specifically, they revealed testimony from multiple former Trump administration defense officials who said Trump committed the U.S. to pulling nearly all troops out of Afghanistan against the advice of defense staff. Ultimately, 13 Americans and dozens of Afghan civilians were killed in an attack at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport in the final weeks of the U.S. withdrawal from the country.
Though Trump has eagerly sought credit for the Afghanistan withdrawal, Republicans have fought to turn it into a Biden scandal, with some even claiming he should resign or be impeached over it. Thursday’s testimony reinforced that Trump wasn’t just aware an abrupt withdrawal was ill-advised and potentially catastrophic, he pushed for it to be completed by Jan. 15, 2021 — days before Biden even took office.
Roger Stone’s fascist quotes align with Trump’s Election Day plan
The committee revealed footage of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone talking to fellow extremists just before the 2020 election. He boasted that he was encouraging Trump to declare himself the winner on election night, even before all the results had been counted.
We also learned details about Team Trump’s involvement in a plan for Trump to do just as Stone suggests: declare himself the winner before the results had been fully counted. The committee shared a draft speech sent from right-wing activist Tom Fitton to Trump White House staffers, which called for Trump to prematurely announce that he had won the election. Trump did just that, of course.
All of this shows clear correlation between Stone’s plans and Trump’s behaviors.
Paging Fani Willis
The committee revealed some evidence that seems to show Trump was aware of the fake electors scheme, in which his supporters tried to falsely certify some states' votes for him rather than for Biden, the actual winner in those states. The scheme is being probed by several investigators nationwide, perhaps most notably in Georgia, by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and the special grand jury she requested to aid in the probe. The committee shared footage of Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel admitting that Trump put her on the phone with lawyer John Eastman, a key architect of 2020 election subversion efforts, to discuss how the GOP could assist.
Greg Jacob, former counsel to Vice President Mike Pence, testified that Eastman himself told Trump on Jan. 4, 2021, that the scheme was likely illegal. The committee also showed an email Eastman sent Jacob on Jan. 6 claiming he’d told Trump that Pence didn’t have the legal authority to dispute or overturn the election results.
Lingering questions about Secret Service involvement
Thursday’s hearings left us with more questions than answers about the Secret Service's actions leading up to and during the Jan. 6 violence. The committee revealed tips sent to the Secret Service from people who said extremists were planning “to literally kill people” and “outnumber the police so they can’t be stopped.”
This shows the Secret Service had advance warning of the attack. And the committee revealed emails between some Secret Service agents that suggest they weren’t all that troubled that Trump was inciting anger toward Pence for refusing to try to overturn the 2020 election results.
On top of that, the committee obtained Secret Service documents that largely corroborate claims made by Hutchinson about an alleged exchange between Trump and Secret Service officials over their refusal to drive Trump to the Capitol as violence unfolded. Some unnamed officials have disputed Hutchinson’s claims behind the scenes, and former officials may have even disputed the claims under oath in testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee.