By Terrance Turner
June 9, 2022
Tonight, the House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection held their first day of hearings in prime time. Coverage of the hearings is being broadcast on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, Fox 26, and CNN. The proceedings began around 7 pm CST, with opening statements by Reps. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney.
”Thanks to everyone watching tonight for sharing part of your evening to learn the facts and causes of the events leading up to, and including, the violent attack on January 6th, 2021, [on] our democracy, electoral system, and country. I’m Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6th, 2021 committee. I was born, raised, and still live in Bolton, Mississippi, a town with a population of 521, which is midway between Jackson and Vicksburg Mississippi. I’m from a part of the country where people justified the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today trying to justify the actions of the insurrectionists on January 6th, 2021.”
‘’Over the next few weeks,’’ he said, ‘’hopefully you will get to know the other members – my colleagues up here – and me.” They were representing communities from all over the United States, he proclaimed, ‘”rural areas and cities, East Coast, West Coast, and the heartland. All of us have one thing in common; we swore the same oath, that same oath that all members of Congress take upon taking office and afterwards every two years if they are reelected.
We swore an oath to defend the Constitution ’against all enemies, foreign and domestic’. The words of the current oath taken by all of us – that nearly every United States government employee takes – have their roots in the Civil War. Throughout our history, the united states has fought against foreign enemies to preserve our democracy, electoral system, and country.”
When the United States capital was stormed and burned in 1814, foreign enemies were responsible. Afterward, in 1862, when American citizens had taken up arms against this country, Congress adopted a new oath to help make sure no person who had supported the rebellion could hold a position of public trust. Therefore, Congresspersons and United States federal government employees, were required for the first time to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
That oath was put to [the] test on January 6th, 2021. The police officers who held the line that day honored their oath – many came out of that day bloodied and broken. They still bear those wounds, visible and invisible. They did their duty. They repelled the mob and ended the occupation of the Capitol. They defended the Constitution against domestic enemies so that Congress could return, uphold our own oath, and count your vote, to ensure the transfer of power, just as we’ve done for hundreds of years. But unlike in 1814, it was domestic enemies of the Constitution that stormed the capital and occupied the Capitol, who sought to thwart the will of the people, to stop the transfer of power. And so they did so, at the encouragement of the president of the United States.
The president of the United States trying to stop the transfer of power — a precedent that had stood for 220 years, even as our democracy had faced its most difficult test.”
Thompson spoke about President Abraham Lincoln who fearing that his re-election bid in 1864 would not be successful, wrote a letter lamenting that he would likely not succeed and that he would be required to work with the president-elect. He had all of his secretaries sign that letter, sight unseen — following a pattern that almost every president to date had followed until Donald Trump.
”Donald Trump lost the presidential election in 2020. The American people voted him out of office. It was not because of a rigged system; it was not because of voter fraud. Don’t believe me — Hear what his former attorney general had to say about it. I warn those who are watching that this contains strong language.
He lost in the courts, just as he did at the ballot box. And in this country, that’s the end of the line. But for Donald Trump, that was only the beginning of what became a spawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election, aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans, your votes, your voice in our democracy — and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended.
Thompson continued, ”Ultimately, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down to the capitol and subvert American democracy.
Any legal jargon you hear about seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, boils down to this; January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt — as one rioter put it, shortly after January 6th — to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last stand — most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.”
Now. you may hear those words and think, ‘This is just another political attack on Donald Trump by people who don’t like him.’ That’s not the case. My colleagues and I all wanted an outside independent commission to investigate January 6th, similar to what we had after 9/11.
But after first agreeing to the idea, Donald Trump’s allies in Congress put a stop to it. Apparently, they don’t want January 6 investigated at all. And in the last 17 months, many of those same people have tried to help otherwise what happened on January 6th to rewrite history call it a tourist visit, label it ‘legitimate political discourse’ problems have adopted the words of the songwriter do you believe me or your lying eyes.’
We can’t sweep what happened under the rug. The American people deserve answers. So I come before you this evening not as a Democrat, but as an American who swore an oath to defend the Constitution. the Constitution doesn’t protect just Democrats or just Republicans. It protects all of us, we the people, and this scheme was an attempt. to undermine the will of the people. So tonight, and over the next few weeks, we’re going to remind you of the reality of what happened that day. But our work must do much more than just look backwards.
Thompson concluded, ”We must confront the truth with candor, resolve, and determination; we must show that we are worthy of the gifts that are the birthright of every American. That begins here and it begins now, with a true accounting of what happened and what led to the attack on our Constitution and our democracy. In this moment, when the dangers of our Constitution and democracy loom large, nothing could be more important. Working alongside the public servants on this dais has been one of the greatest honors of my time in Congress. It’s been a particular privilege to count as a partner in this effort to count as a friend, the gentlewoman from Wyoming, Ms. Cheney. She’s a patriot, a public servant of profound courage, devotion to her oath, and the Constitution. It is my pleasure to recognize Ms. Cheney for her opening statement.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. At 6:01 pm on January 6th, after he spent hours watching a violent mob besiege, attack and invade our Capitol, Donald Trump tweeted. But he did not condemn the attack. Instead he justified it: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!’
As you will see in the hearings to come, President Trump believed his supporters at the Capitol [and I quote] “were doing what they should be doing.” This is what he told his staff as they pleaded with him to call off the mob, to instruct his supporters to leave,’ Cheney said. “Over a series of hearings in the coming weeks, you will hear testimony, live and on video, from more than a half dozen former Trump White House staff, all of whom were in the West Wing of the White House that day. You will hear testimony that [quote] ‘The President didn’t really want to put anything out’ calling off the riot or asking his supporters to leave.
You will hear that President Trump was yelling, and [quote] “really angry at advisors who told him he needed to do be doing something more.” And, aware of the rioters’ chants to “hang Mike Pence,” the President responded with this sentiment: [quote] “maybe our supporters have the right idea.” Mike Pence [quote] ‘deserves’ it.
Tonight, you will see never-before-seen footage of the brutal attack on our Capitol, an attack that unfolded while, a few blocks away, President Trump sat watching television in his dining room off the Oval Office. You will hear audio from the brave police officers battling for their lives and ours, fighting to defend our democracy, against a violent mob Donald Trump refused to call off.
Tonight and in the weeks to come, you will see evidence of what motivated this violence, including directly from those who participated in this attack. You will see video of them explaining what caused them to do it. You will see their posts on social media. We will show you what they have said in federal court.
On this point, there is no room for debate. Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful President.
President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.You will also hear about plots to commit seditious conspiracy on January 6th, a crime defined in our laws as “conspir[ing] to overthrow, put down or destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to oppose by force the authority thereof.” Multiple members of two groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, have been charged with this crime for their involvement in the events leading up to and on January 6th. Some have pled guilty.
The attack on our Capitol was not a spontaneous riot. Intelligence available before January 6th identified plans to “invade” the Capitol, “occupy” the Capitol, and take other steps to halt Congress’ count of Electoral Votes that day. In our hearings to come, we will identify elements of those plans, and we will show specifically how a group of Proud Boys led a mob into the Capitol building on January 6th.
Tonight I am going to describe for you some of what our committee has learned and highlight initial findings you will see this month in our hearings. As you hear this, all Americans should keep in mind this fact: On the morning of January 6th, President Donald Trump’s intention was to remain President of the United States despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his Constitutional obligation to relinquish power. Over multiple months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power. In our hearings, you will see evidence of each element of this plan.”
In our second hearing, you will see that Donald Trump and his advisors knew that he had, in fact, lost the election. But, despite this, President Trump engaged in a massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information – to convince huge portions of the U.S. population that fraud had stolen the election from him. This was not true.
Jason Miller was a senior Trump Campaign spokesman. In this clip, Miller describes a call between the Trump campaign’s internal data expert and President Trump a few days after the 2020 election:
Alex Cannon was one of President Trump’s campaign lawyers. He previously worked for the Trump Organization. One of his responsibilities was to assess allegations of election fraud in November 2020. Here is one sample of his testimony — discussing what he told White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows:
“There’s no there there. The Trump Campaign’s General Counsel Matt Morgan gave similar testimony. He explained that all of the fraud allegations and the campaign’s other election arguments taken together and viewed in the best possible light for President Trump, could still not change the outcome of the election.
Attorney General Bill Barr also told Donald Trump his election claims were wrong,” Cheney added. And Barr also told President Trump that his allegations about Dominion voting machines were groundless: “I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn’t count, and that these machines, controlled by somebody else, were actually determining it, which was complete nonsense. And it was being laid out there. And I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that and that it was doing great, great disservice to the country.”
“But President Trump persisted, repeating the false Dominion allegations in public at least a dozen more times even after his Attorney General told him they were ‘complete nonsense.’ And after Barr’s resignation on December 23rd, the Acting Attorney General who replaced him, Jeff Rosen and the acting Deputy, Richard Donoghue told President Trump over and over again that the evidence did not support allegations he was making in public.”
Even Trump’s own daughter distrusted his claims of voter fraud, as displayed in her testimony:
“In our third hearing, you will see that President Trump corruptly planned to replace the Attorney General of the United States so the U.S. Justice Department would spread his false stolen election claims,” Cheney said.
“In the days before January 6th, President Trump told his top Justice Department officials ‘Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.’ Senior Justice Department officials, men he had appointed, told him they could not do that, because it was not true. So President Trump decided to replace them.
He offered Jeff Clark, an environmental lawyer at the Justice Department, the job of Acting Attorney General. President Trump wanted Mr. Clark to take a number of steps, including sending this letter to Georgia and five other states, saying the U.S. Department of Justice had ‘identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.’
This letter is a lie. The Department of Justice had, in fact, repeatedly told President Trump exactly the opposite – that they had investigated his stolen election allegations and found no credible fraud that could impact the outcome of the election,” Cheney charged. “This letter, and others like it, would have urged multiple states to withdraw their official and lawful electoral votes for Biden.”
“Jeff Clark has invoked his 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify. Representative Scott Perry, who was involved in trying to get Clark appointed as Attorney General, has refused to testify here. As you will see, Representative Perry contacted the White House in the weeks after January 6th to seek a Presidential Pardon. Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought Presidential Pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”
Also testifying was Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who opened her testimony by describing herself as the “proud granddaughter” of a Marine who served in the Korean War. “I’d like to think that he would be proud of me,” she said.
“I was called a lot of things on January 6, 2021, and the days thereafter,” she said “I was called Nancy Pelosi’s dog, called incompetent, called a hero and a villain. I was called a traitor to my country, my home and my Constitution. In actuality, I was none of those things.”
“I was an American standing face-to-face with other Americans asking myself how many time — many, many times — how we had gotten here. I had been called names before, but never had my patriotism or duty been called into question,” she added.
This morning, the hearings continued. Representative Thompson opened the proceedings and then opened the floor to Representative Cheney for her opening statement. She focused on several salient points. “First, you will hear first-hand testimony that the president’s campaign advisors urged him to wait for the counting of votes and not to declare victory on election night. The president understood even before the election that many more Biden voters had voted by mail because President Trump ignored the advice of his campaign experts and told supporters only to vote in person.
Donald Trump knew before the election that the counting of those mail-in ballots in several states would not begin until late in the day and would not be completed for multiple days. This was expected, reported, and widely known. President Trump rejected the advice of his campaign advisors on election night and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani, to just claim he won and insist that the vote counting stop — to falsely claim everything was fraudulent.”
“I now welcome our first witness. We are joined today by former Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt. Bill Stepien, Trump’s former campaign manager, was subpoenaed to be here and was prepared to testify,” Thompson said. But Stepien had to leave the proceedings because of a family emergency: his wife went into labor! “Due to the depth and rigor of our investigation, we have [several] hours of testimony” from when the panel interviewed Stepien in February, Thompson said. And that audio was played throughout the proceedings.
“What was going on in the Trump White House on election night? Do you remember where you were on the night of the election, November 3rd?” asked an investigator. “I was at the White House.,” answered former White House advisor Ivanka Trump.
“Where specifically over the course of that night?”
“There was an event that was organized in the residence. So I moved between the residents, a room sort of off the residence where some of my family members were,” Ivanka stated.
Where was the president? Jared Kushner: “He was upstairs. We were kind of on the first floor so not upstairs, mostly with Ivanka and her brothers and a couple of other people who were coming in and out.”
“Can you describe the atmosphere? What were people expecting?”
“I think that there was – typically for people who show up there on election night, it’s going to be a self-select more positive environment. I think people were a little bit nervous not knowing what was going to happen with the ‘Red Wave’, or the ‘red mirage’, as the debate was being carried out,” said White House advisor Jason Miller. Audio was then played of Fox News calling the state of Arizona for Biden in November 2020.
“The Fox News decision desk is calling Arizona for Joe Biden. That is a big get for the Biden campaign.” That audiowas followed by a film of question and answer with the investigators and Mr. Stepien.
Arizona’s call — do you remember that?
Q: What do you remember happening, where you were when Arizona was called?
A: There was a surprise at the call.
Who was surprised?
Most everyone in the room.
You being one of them?
Yes.From Stepien’s testimony
“Did that shift the atmosphere or the attitude at the White House?”
“Completely,” says Jason Miller.
How so? Can you describe that?
Because Fox News was the first one to go out and say that.
House committee: So was their anger sort of directed towards Fox News for making a call more so than a disappointment that maybe the campaign lost Arizona?
Miller: All of the above.
So both anger and disappointment on both.
Miller: Both disappointment with Fox and concern that maybe our data or numbers weren’t accurate.From Jason Miller’s testimony
Investigators asked: “Were you in the White House residence during the sort of past midnight into the early morning hours of November 4th?”
“Yes, I’m sure it went over beyond midnight, yes,” Giuliani says.
“Do you remember Rudy Giuliani being at the White House on election night and into the early hours the next morning?
“I do,” Stepien answered.
“What do you remember about when he came?”
“He was… there were – I heard that he was upstairs you know in the aforementioned reception area and he was looking to talk to the president and it was suggested instead that he come talk to several of us down off the map room.”
“Did you end up talking to him? What was that conversation?”
“A lot of conversations were directed my way. A few of us, myself, Jason Miller, Justin Clark, Mark Meadows, gathered in a room off the map room to listen to whatever Rudy presumably wanted to say to the president.”
Investigators asked Miller: “Was there anyone in that conversation who, in your observation had too much to drink?”
“Tell me more about that. What was your observations about his intoxication during that discussion about it?”
“The mayor was definitely intoxicated but I did not know his level of intoxication when he spoke with the president, for example.”