The hearing reiterated the committee’s central conclusion that Trump was the “central” player in a “multipart,” monthslong conspiracy to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol.
Trump and his supporters have dismissed the investigation as a partisan witch hunt. But Bennie Thompson, the committee’s Democratic chairman, noted that the “most striking fact” about the panel’s investigation is “that all of this evidence came almost entirely from Republicans.”
The hearing showcased excerpts of interviews with former Trump Cabinet secretaries, as well as previously unseen footage showing congressional leaders pleading with officials for military assistance.
Here are six key takeaways from the hearing:
Trump had a ‘premeditated’ plan to declare victory
The panel previously alleged that the plan to undo the 2020 election results had been in the works for months before Jan. 6. But panel members used Thursday’s hearing to advance another allegation: Trump long had a “premeditated” plan to stay in power.
Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren said Trump had planned to declare victory “before any of the results had been determined.”
“It was a plan concocted in advance to convince his supporters that he won,” Lofgren said.
As far back as July 2020, Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale has told the committee, Trump planned “that he would say he won the election, even if he lost,” according to Lofgren.
And shortly before the election, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon made a similar point in comments to a group of associates from China, Lofgren said.
“Trump will declare victory, but that does not mean anything,” Bannon said in an excerpt from an audio recording played during the hearing. “He is not going out easy. If Biden wins, Trump is doing some crazy stuff.”
Trump ordered immediate troop withdrawals
While publicly claiming victory, privately Trump admitted to aides that he had lost the election, according to testimony from several former Trump administration officials.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson recalled Trump telling his chief of staff Mark Meadows in December 2020 “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. … I do not want people to know that we lost.’”
Knowing that his term was coming to an end, Trump signed a memo on Nov. 11 ordering an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Somalia, Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the panel, revealed.
Trump’s order had been previously reported. During Thursday’s hearing, the committee aired excerpts of its recent interviews with top officials corroborating the directive.
General Mike Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee in a deposition that by issuing the order, Trump was effectively trying to “pass the issue to the next guy, meaning President Biden.”
Inside the Trump administration, national security and military leaders warned that the order would have catastrophic consequences.
The Trump administration had agreed with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. The Biden administration extended the deadline and eventually pulled out the military at the end of August.
Had Trump’s immediate withdrawal order been carried out, “It would have been a debacle,” said retired General Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence.
Secret Service knew about the potential for violence
In recent months, the panel received nearly 1 million pages of internal Secret Service emails, recordings or electronic records that shed light on the events of Jan. 6 and the days leading up to it, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said.
While the committee’s review of the records is ongoing, the panel revealed excerpts of internal Secret Service communications showing that the presidential protection service had been warned about the possibility of violence at the Capitol.
A Dec. 24, 2020, email warned that protesters could “march into the chambers,” while a December 31, 2020, intelligence brief issued a warning about a proposed “movement to occupy Capitol Hill.”
“The hashtags #WeAreTheStorm, #1776Rebel, and #OccupyCapitols have gained attention as the protest on January 6, 2021, approaches,” it read.
A Jan. 5, 2021, Secret Service email warned about right-wing groups “responding from across the nation and establishing ‘quick reaction forces’ in Virginia.”
Congressional leaders sought help during the attack
The panel aired previously unseen video of top congressional leaders being evacuated to a secure location as the Capitol came under siege.
The video, shot by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, showed Pelosi and other leaders reaching out to administration officials and governors of neighboring states for military assistance to protect the Capitol.
Pelosi has been criticized by Republicans for security failures at the Capitol. But the footage aired on Thursday showed her calling the governors of Virginia and Maryland for support.
At one point, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pleaded with then Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, the nation’s top law enforcement official, to “get the president to tell them to leave the Capitol.”
Chiming in, Pelosi told Rosen, “They’re obviously ransacking our offices. That’s nothing. The concern we have is about personal safety. It just transcends everything.”
Cabinet secretaries gave depositions
The committee aired excerpts of depositions from two Trump Cabinet secretaries interviewed in recent months.
Former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the committee that he believed the election was over on Dec. 14, 2020, when the Electoral College met to elect Biden.
Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and resigned the day after the Jan. 6 attack, testified that the episode was so “shocking” that it made it “impossible” for her to remain in her job.
“I came as an immigrant to this country,” she said. “I believe in this country. I believe in the peaceful transfer of power and democracy.”
Committee seeks Trump’s testimony
The committee voted unanimously to subpoena Trump for “documents and testimony” in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.
Thompson said “the need for this committee to hear from Donald Trump extends beyond fact-finding.”
“This is a question about accountability to the American people,” he said.
But the subpoena is seen as largely symbolic because Trump is not expected to comply and the Justice Department is not likely to pursue the matter.
On his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote that the panel waited until the last minute to subpoena him because “the committee is a total ‘BUST’ that has only served to further divide our country…”
Voice of America