January 6: Latest revelations from the investigation
Documents destroyed. Suggestions to forgive violent rioters. Silent talks among cabinet members over whether then-President Donald Trump should be removed from office.
Transcripts of interviews released by House investigators in recent days — more than 100 so far — provide deeper insight into the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising and the weeks leading up to it, as Trump attempted to reverse his defeat in the presidential election. The nine-member committee has conducted more than 1,000 interviews and lawmakers are gradually releasing hundreds of transcripts after releasing a final report last week. The panel will disband on Tuesday when the new Republican-led House is sworn in.
While some of the witnesses were more forthcoming than others, the interviews tell the full story of Trump’s unprecedented scheming, the bloody chaos of the attack on the Capitol, and the fears of lawmakers and the former’s own aides. Republican president as he attempted to upend democracy. and the popular will.
Some highlights of the interview transcripts released so far:
WHITE HOUSE HELP SAY IT ALL
Cassidy Hutchinson, a little-known former White House aide, drew national attention when she testified at a surprise hearing this summer about Trump’s words and actions surrounding the Jan. 6 attack – her rage after security thwarted his efforts to get to the Capitol that day with his supporters and how he knew some of his supporters were armed.
The committee has so far released four of her closed-door interviews, revealing new details about what she said she observed in her time as assistant to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Among other revelations, Hutchinson told the committee that she saw Meadows burning documents in her office fireplace « about a dozen times » after the 2020 election.
She said she did not know what the documents were or if they were items that should have been legally kept. A Meadows spokesperson declined to comment.
Hutchinson also spoke at length about her moral struggles as she decided what to disclose – even researching Watergate figures who also testified about their work in President Richard Nixon’s White House.
« My character and my integrity mean more to me than anything, » Hutchinson said, she decided, returning to the committee with a new attorney in June after three previous interviews.
FORGIVENESS FOR ALL?
After the insurgency, Trump floated the idea of a blanket pardon for all participants, but then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone discouraged the idea, Johnny McEntee testified, an aide who served as director of the presidential personnel office. and was interviewed by the panel in March.
Trump then called for limiting pardons to only people who entered the Capitol but did not engage in violence, but that idea also met with some pushback, McEntee recalled. He said Trump seemed convinced by the advice and said he was unaware the idea was ever coming back.
Separately, McEntee said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., told him he was seeking a precautionary pardon from Trump as he faces a federal child sex trafficking investigation. Gaetz received no such pardon and has not faced any charges in connection with the investigation.
Hutchinson testified that Meadows’ office became so inundated with requests for clemency as Trump’s term ended that some turned to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to help facilitate.
THE 25TH AMENDMENT
The panel questioned several Trump Cabinet Secretaries about discussions of invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment – Trump’s forced removal from power by his own Cabinet. Although some have acknowledged that it was discussed, it seems like it was never a likely scenario.
Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he spoke briefly with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the idea after the insurgency.
« It came up very briefly in our conversation, » Mnuchin said in July. « We both thought the best outcome was a normal power transition, which worked, and neither of us seriously considered the 25th Amendment. »
Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that he witnessed a brief conversation between the two Cabinet secretaries at the White House and heard the expression « 25th Amendment ». His transcript has yet to be released, but investigators cited Milley’s interview with Pompeo and Mnuchin in their interviews.
Pompeo told the committee he did not recall the conversation. « I would have considered anyone talking about the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment as absolutely absurd, » he said.
Vice President Mike Pence later rejected the idea in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying the mechanism should be reserved when a president is medically or mentally incompetent.
Pence chief of staff Mark Short told the panel he thought the discussion was « a political game. » The process would have taken weeks to unfold, he said, and Democrat Joe Biden was due to be inaugurated on January 20.
THE TRUMP FAMILY TESTIFIES
The committee interviewed two of the former president’s children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, about their conversations with their father during the Jan. 6 attack and in the days before and after.
Trump Jr. did not respond to many questions from the committee, frequently saying he did not recall events or conversations. He explained why he texted Meadows on the afternoon of Jan. 6, as the attack was unfolding, to say his father should « condemn this s— » immediately and that Trump’s tweets n weren’t strong enough. « My dad doesn’t text, » Trump Jr. said.
Ivanka Trump, who was at the White House with her father on January 6, was also vague in several of her responses. She spoke with the committee about working with her father to write her tweets that day, encouraging him to make a strong statement as rioters stormed the Capitol. And she testified that she overheard Trump’s side of a « heated » phone call with Pence that morning as her father tried to encourage Pence to oppose congressional certification that day. Pence refused to do so.
She also testified that she received a call and text from Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who was at the Capitol because it was under siege. Collins told him that « the president needs to put out a really strong tweet telling people to go home and stop the violence now. »
“GIVE ME FIVE DEAD VOTERS”
Trump lawyer Christina Bobb says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s top allies, asked some of the former president’s advisers for evidence of fraud so he would can « defend » it after the elections. Trump falsely claimed there had been widespread fraud, despite court rulings and election officials in all 50 states saying otherwise.
Graham told the attorneys he would like to support the cause.
« Don’t tell me everything because it’s too overwhelming, » Bobb said, quoting Graham. « Just give me five dead voters; give me, you know, an example of illegal voting. Just give me a very small snapshot that I can take and defend. »
He did nothing with the information given to him, Bobb said. Graham voted Jan. 6 to certify Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
NATIONAL GUARD FRUSTRATION
The crowd that stormed the Capitol would have faced a much harsher law enforcement response had it been made up mostly of African Americans, retired Maj. Gen. William Walker testified. who was leading the DC National Guard at the time. Walker is now the household sergeant-at-arms.
« I’m African American. Child of the sixties, » Walker said. « I think the response would have been very different if it was African Americans trying to break into the Capitol. As a career police officer, part-time soldier…the response of the forces of the order would have been different. »
The National Guard did not arrive at the Capitol for several hours, leaving overwhelmed police at the mercy of the violent crowd as Pentagon officials said they were sorting out necessary approvals. More than 100 officers were injured, many seriously, as Trump supporters beat and crushed them to enter.
Walker expressed deep frustration with the delays and even considered breaking the chain of command and sending the troops in with permission. Lawyers strongly advised him not to, he said.
He said he did not believe the heist was because the insurgents were mostly white.
« I don’t think race was part of the decision paralysis in the military, » he said in his April interview, adding, « I think they just didn’t want to do it. «
EXTREMIST GROUP LEADER
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio asserted his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to some questions, with his attorney sometimes telling investigators that his client did not belong to the extremist group, whose associates now do facing rare sedition charges in a prosecuted federal case. by the Ministry of Justice. But Tarrio himself told investigators he became president of the Proud Boys after a split vote among eight « oldies » of the group. « I took this title for myself, » he said.
Tarrio, who had been released from prison on the eve of the uprising, was not present during the attack. But prosecutors say he retained command of the Proud Boys who attacked the Capitol and encouraged them from afar.
He told the panel that in the Proud Boys, the « first degree of belonging is that you are a Western chauvinist » and that you « refuse to apologize for creating the modern world ».
Tarrio met Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers, in a garage the night of January 5, before the attack. « I still don’t like Stewart Rhodes, » Tarrio said.
Rhodes, who was also questioned by the panel, was convicted in November of seditious conspiracy in what prosecutors said was a conspiracy of armed rebellion to prevent the transfer of presidential power.
Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant, Farnoush Amiri, Lisa Mascaro and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.