President Donald Trump was informed several times by senior aides that he lost the 2020 election, but he pressed forward with his false election fraud claims. And as his team pleaded with him to call off the mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump responded the rioters “were doing what they should be doing,” which included knocking Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards unconscious and beating her colleagues.
Those were among the findings of the House select committee investigating the riot carried out by his supporters, as revealed during a prime-time hearing Thursday. The panel also contended that as Trump was aware of the mob’s chants of “hang Mike Pence,” his vice president, Trump responded: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea” and that Pence “deserves” it.
As the attack was underway, staffers in the White House urged Trump to intervene, leaders on Capitol Hill “begged” for help — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said he was “scared” and called members of Trump’s family demanding presidential action, according to Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. Further, Trump placed no call to any element of the government to defend the Capitol on Jan. 6, Cheney said, adding that Trump “gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day, and he made no effort to work with the Department of Justice to coordinate and deploy law enforcement assets.”
Meanwhile, during Trump’s inaction, Edwards, the Capitol Police officer, regained consciousness after suffering a brain injury and continued fighting. She told the committee she rejoined the police line on the Lower West Terrace of the legislative hall only to eventually be sprayed in the eyes by an irritant. Edwards recalled that day as a “war scene” where she saw her fellow officers covered in blood and says she was “slipping in people’s blood.”
She has not been able to return to the department’s First Responders Unit since her traumatic brain injury.
Those were among the findings shared at the opening June hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee, a jam packed two-hour opening statement to the world of what led to the violent insurrection that left more than 140 law enforcement officers injured.
“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said, as she walked the public through what the committee plans to present.
Trump 'likely' violated law
Trump also pressured Pence, who was presiding over the joint session of Congress that day, to not count electoral votes, a move that “likely” violated federal law, Cheney said Thursday night.
A federal judge to whom the committee presented evidence evaluated those facts and “reached the conclusion that President Trump’s efforts to pressure Vice President Pence to act illegally by refusing to count electoral votes likely violated two federal criminal statutes,” Cheney said.
Trump’s then-attorney general, William P. Barr, told Trump that his 2020 election fraud claims were “bullshit,” contending he “repeatedly told the President in no uncertain terms that I did not see evidence of fraud, you know, that would have affected the outcome of the election.” Barr went on to resign on Dec. 23, 2020.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and then-assistant to the president, said Barr’s statement “affected” her perspective. “I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying,” she told the committee in videotaped testimony played in the Cannon House Office Building hearing room on a large projection screen.
Alex Cannon, a former Trump campaign lawyer tasked with assessing election fraud allegations, said he had informed Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff, in November 2020 that “we weren’t finding anything that would be sufficient to change the results in any of the key states.”
Trump campaign general counsel Matt Morgan said all the fraud allegations and other election arguments, taken together and in the best light, could not change the outcome of the election, Cheney recounted.
The panel also presented findings that Trump had a role in encouraging the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group that the panel says helped lead the charge into the Capitol that day and had planned to do so. Jeremy Bertino, a member of the group, told the select committee in previous testimony that membership increased “exponentially” after Trump told the group to “stand by” during a presidential debate against Joe Biden.
Graphic video at the hearing featured members of the Oath Keepers, a similar far-right group, and Proud Boys inflicting violence on police and storming into the Capitol. Both groups have members who have been charged for their involvement in the attack, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy.
The second hearing, set for Monday morning, will show, Cheney said, Trump participated in a large-scale effort to spread false information to convince many Americans that the election was stolen. The third hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, plans to present that Trump “corruptly” planned to replace his attorney general so he could use the Justice Department to spread his false election fraud claims.
The fourth hearing will home in on Trump’s efforts to pressure Pence to refuse to count the electoral votes on Jan. 6.
The final two hearings this month will show how “Trump summoned a violent mob and directed them, illegally, to march on the U.S. Capitol” and that he “failed to take immediate action to stop the violence and instruct his supporters to leave the Capitol.”
Chairman Bennie Thompson noted this was the worst assault on the Capitol since 1814, but that this one was from domestic enemies.
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup,” the Mississippi Democrat said.