What exactly was then-President Donald Trump doing for more than three hours on Jan. 6, 2021, while thousands of his supporters violently stormed the Capitol?
That’s what the bipartisan Jan. 6 House select committee spent a little more than two hours detailing during Thursday night’s prime-time televised hearing, which focused on how the president spent the 187 minutes between leaving his “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse at 1:10 p.m., and his 4:07 p.m. Rose Garden video, when he told the “very special” rioters that he loved them, but they should go home.
These are several key moments from the final installment of the June-July set of eight televised, public hearings that got people talking:
Trump ‘chose not to act’ on Jan. 6
Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol, led the questioning on Thursday night, with Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. The hearing made the case that Trump betrayed his oath of office and was derelict in his duty on Jan. 6, 2021, by refusing to act while an armed and violent mob attacked the seat of Congress in his name. But Kinzinger used even stronger language.
“President Trump did not FAIL to act — he CHOSE not to act,” said Kinzinger — which was the first moment of the hearing to go viral on Thursday night. Kinzinger’s name and “He CHOSE” began trending on Twitter soon afterward.
Luria agreed, saying that “when lives and democracy hung in the balance, President Trump refused to act because of his selfish desire to stay in power.”
What’s more, the committee revealed that the president knew about the attack on the Capitol within 15 minutes, but refused to act for more than three hours — which also led “15 minutes” to trend on Twitter.
No official record of what Trump was doing from between about 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. that day
Luria revealed that the White House call log for Jan. 6, 2021, is blank between 11:06 a.m. and 6:54 p.m. What’s more, the White House diary is blank from 1:21 p.m. to 4:03 p.m. And there are no photos of Trump in the White House as the insurrection was happening at the Capitol, because the White House photographer was told “no photographs,” even though she said it was important for the archives and for Trump’s history. But former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s cell phone records show that Trump called him a couple of times.
Trump spent 2.5 hours in the Oval Office dining room Fox News calling senators — some of whom were being evacuated from the Capitol
Witnesses including then-press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Sarah Matthews, who was a White House press aide at the time, testified that the president spent most of the day in the dining room adjacent to the Oval Office, watching Fox News and placing calls to senators urging them to delay or object to certifying the election for Biden. McEnany testified that he “wanted a list of senators.” But Luria noted that there is no record of which senators the president called.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone says he told the president to make a public announcement for the rioters to leave the Capitol
While Cipollone wouldn’t reveal specifics about what he spoke with Trump about, claiming executive privilege, he told the Jan. 6 committee in general terms that he was “pretty clear” with the president that he needed to make “an immediate and forceful response.” Cipollone said that almost immediately after he learned that the mob had breached the Capitol, “people need to be told, there needs to be a public announcement, fast, that they need to leave the Capitol.” And he told the committee he was joined by many of Trump’s closest advisers in saying this, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Eric Herschmann, and his own daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Footage shows Sen. Josh Hawley went from fist-pumping the rioters to fleeing the Capitol
What a difference a few hours makes. The committee showed footage of Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., raised his fist to rile up the pro-Trump crowd earlier in the day. But surveillance footage during the siege on the Capitol shows him running across a hallway to flee the same crowd he was showing solidarity with earlier. Another video clip showed him walking briskly down some stairs as he was being evacuated with other lawmakers.
Laughter was heard within the hearing room when the footage of Hawley running was played.
Some staffers were worried Trump would actually ‘make matters worse’ in a live press conference
Former press aide Matthews, who resigned following the events of Jan. 6, said Trump could have been camera-ready to give a prepared statement “almost instantly” if he wanted to. And the panel showed maps of the West Wing layout so viewers could see how close the president was to the press briefing room. “It would take probably less than 60 seconds from the Oval Office dining room over to the press briefing room. There’s a camera that is on in there at all times,” said Matthews. Or if he wanted to make an address from the Oval Office, “we could have assembled the White House press corps probably within a matter of minutes.”
But security aide Gen. Keith Kellogg told the bipartisan panel that some White House staffers were concerned that a live appearance by the president would make things worse. That’s because, during his four years in the Trump administration, “there wasn’t a single clean press conference,” and they were worried about what he would say in unscripted comments.
Members of Pence’s security detail reportedly feared for their lives and called to say goodbye to family
A White House security official revealed that members of the vice president’s security detail feared for their lives as the insurrectionists breached the Capitol. He said some made personal calls over the radio, including “calls to say goodbye to family members … the VP detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.”
Pence’s security detail was forced to move him twice, at one point coming within 40 feet of the rioters.
When Trump finally tweeted a statement, it was Ivanka Trump who convinced him to use the word ‘peaceful’
On 2:38 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 6, Trump finally tweeted: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” This was 20 minutes after his supporters had smashed the Capitol’s windows, and lawmakers were already being evacuated.
Matthews testified that she told McEnany that she didn’t think the tweet went far enough, since it didn’t condemn the violence. And she said McEnany told her in a “hushed tone” that Trump did not want to mention “peace” at all in his tweet at first. There was reportedly a back and forth going over different phrases he would be comfortable with, but it wasn’t until Ivanka suggested the phrase “stay peaceful” that he decided to include it.
Trump refused to say ‘the election is now over’
The hearing played never-before-seen raw footage of the president recording his Jan. 7 address to the nation the day after the violent assault on Congress — and he had a lot of notes. At one point, after reading the statement, “This election is now over. Congress has certified the results,” Trump is seen stopping and saying, “I don’t want to say the election’s over. I just want to say ‘Congress has certified the results.’”
So what happens next?
The committee announced Thursday that it will reconvene for three more hearings in September. The panel also plans to release a “scaled-back” preliminary report, likely in September. That’s when the select committee had originally been planning to put out a full report on its findings. But Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who leads the committee, recently told reporters that they have received so much new evidence as these hearings have unfolded that they’ve had to shift their timeline.