- Sarah Matthews, a former Trump staffer, testified Thursday before the January 6 committee.
- She accused the former president of making the January 6 riot “much worse” with his attack on Mike Pence.
- Matthews currently works as a communications official for congressional Republicans.
Then-President Donald Trump disregarded pleas from his own staff calling for him to seek an end to the January 6, 2021, violence and instead he sent a tweet attacking his own vice president that was akin to “pouring gasoline on the fire and making it much worse,” a former aide testified Thursday.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m. on January 6, 2021, a message that was read aloud to rioters as they smashed through police lines in an effort to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
At the time, Trump was angered that Pence failed to go along with an illegal plan to effectively throw out electoral votes for Biden, citing false allegations of widespread fraud in the states that he won.
—Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 10, 2021
“I thought the tweet about the vice president was the last thing that was needed in that moment,” Sarah Matthews, a former White House deputy press secretary, told lawmakers.
“It was essentially him giving the green light to these people — telling them that what they were doing at the steps of the Capitol, and entering the Capitol, was okay, that they were justified in their anger,” she added. “And he shouldn’t have been doing that. He should have been telling these people to go home and to leave and to condemn the violence that we are seeing.”
Several former administration officials, including former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, testified that Trump instead spent more than two hours watching the violence unfold on Fox News. It was not until after 4 p.m. that he called on the rioters (“We love you, you’re very special”) to “go home in peace.”
Matthews, who currently works as the communications director for Republicans on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said she had seen firsthand the power that the president wielded over his supporters.
“I worked on the campaign, travelled all around the country going to countless rallies with him,” she said. “I’ve seen the impact that his words have on his supporters. They truly latch on to every word and every tweet that he says. And so I think that, in that moment, for him to tweet out the message about mike pence — it was him pouring gasoline on the fire and making it much worse.”
“My reaction to it is ‘that’s a terrible tweet,'” he testified in a recorded deposition that aired during the Thursday hearing. “I disagreed with the sentiment and I thought it was wrong.”
“Extremely unhelpful,” Judd Greene, a former White House spokesperson, added in a deposition broadcast Thursday. “It wasn’t the message that we needed at that time. The scenes at the US Capitol were only going getting worse at that point. This wasn’t going to help that.”
Asked if he thought the tweet would inflame the situation, Greene responded: “Certainly.”
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