July 21 (UPI) — Former President Donald Trump knew within 15 minutes of ending his remarks on the Capitol Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, that his supporters had stormed the U.S. Capitol building, members of the House select committee said Thursday.
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who along with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., sought to provide a “minute-by-minute” account of Trump’s actions and inaction during the 187 minutes between his fiery speech at his “Save America” rally near the White House at 1:10 p.m. and the moment he told the rioters to “go home” at 4:17 p.m.
During that time, some witnesses have previously testified that Trump watched “gleefully” on television as the mob broke into and vandalized the Capitol. In one of his tweets that afternoon, he called the rioters “patriots” and said he loved them. It was only much later that he condemned the attack after repeated pleas from aides, friends and members of his own family.
“From 1:25 until after 4:00 the president stayed in his dining room,” Luria said Thursday, adding that he watched Fox News on television throughout that entire period.
Former White House aide Sarah Matthews, who delivered live testimony Thursday, said it would have taken Trump “probably less than 60 seconds” to get from the Oval Office dining room to the White House press briefing room to address the nation.
“There’s a camera that is on in there at all times and so if the president had wanted to make a statement and address the American people he could have been on camera almost instantly,” Matthews said.
She added that the White House press corps has offices that are located directly behind the briefing room.
“So if he had wanted to make an address from the Oval Office, we could have assembled the White House press corps probably in a manner of minutes to get them into the Oval for him to do an on-camera address,” said Matthews.
Matthew Pottinger, another former aide, also offered testimony Thursday. Pottinger was the highest-ranked White House official to resign immediately after the attack at the Capitol and Matthews also resigned later that night. Both had previously given taped depositions to the committee.
Both Matthews and Pottinger have previously cited one of Trump’s tweets during the attack disparaged Vice President Mike Pence as a “coward” for refusing to attempt to block the Electoral College certification, saying Trump was “adding fuel to the fire.”
Pottinger said that an aide handed him a sheet of paper with the tweet shortly after he saw images of “the chaos that was unfolding at the Capitol” on television, saying he was “quite disturbed” after reading it.
“I was disturbed and worried to see that the president was attacking Vice President Pence for doing his constitutional duty,” Pottinger said. “So the tweet looked to me like the opposite of what we really needed at that moment, which was a de-escalation and that’s why I said earlier that it looked like fuel being poured on the fire.”
Pottinger said that was the moment that he decided to resign.
“I simply didn’t want to be associated with the events that were unfolding on the Capitol,” he said.
Matthews said that it was “obvious that the situation at the Capitol was violent and escalating quickly” adding that the tweet about Pence was “the last thing that was needed in that moment.”
“I remember thinking that this was going to be bad for him to tweet this because 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 OK, that they were justified in their anger,” she said. “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.”
Matthews noted she worked on Trump’s campaign and had “seen the impact his words have on his supporters” in countless rallies throughout the nation.
“They truly latch onto 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,” she said.
The committee also shared testimony reiterating that Trump sought to join rioters besieging the Capitol on Jan. 6 despite being aware they were armed.
Luria presented testimony from a “security professional working in the White House complex on Jan. 6” who said that security officials were in a “state of shock” in response to Trump’s actions.
“The president wanted to lead tens of thousands of people to the Capitol. I think that was enough grounds for us to be alarmed,” the official, who had their identity hidden due to concerns of “retribution” said.
The official added that Trump’s willingness to encourage and even join the march toward the Capitol represented a shift toward a more serious tone than that of the rally that included Trump’s speech on the Ellipse earlier in the day.
“We all knew what that implicated and what that meant, that this was no longer a rally, that this was going to move to something else if he physically walked to the Capitol,” the security professional said. “I don’t know if you want to use the word — insurrection, coup, whatever — we all knew that this would move from a normal democratic, you know, public event into something else.”
In previous dramatic testimony, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, said Trump had been fully aware that rioters had weapons and ordered that metal-detecting equipment be taken away and security personnel stop searching his supporters. At another point, she said, Trump tried to physically grab the steering wheel of his limo when he was told they weren’t going to the Capitol.
Washington D.C. Police Sergeant Mark Robinson offered similar testimony, saying he was told by the Secret Service agent responsible for Trump’s motorcade that Trump had a “heated” discussion with the security detail about wanting to go to the Capitol.
Robinson added that he had been in motorcades with Trump “over one hundred” times and had not heard anything about that type of exchange before that day.
At Thursday’s hearing, the committee will also examine a tweet from Trump at 6:01 p.m. — which was later deleted — that suggested the Capitol attack was brought on by “widespread fraud” in the 2020 election.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever!” the deleted tweet read.
None of Trump’s repeated claims of election fraud have ever been proven to be true.
Thursday will be the eighth and final public hearing of the Jan. 6 committee, at least for several weeks.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the members would reconvene in September to continue laying out its finding to the American people. He noted, however, that “a number of facts are clear” about the case in the meantime.
“There can be no doubt that there was a coordinated multi-step effort to overturn an election — overseen and directed by Donald Trump. There can be no doubt that he commanded a mob. A mob that was heavily armed, violent and angry to march on the Capitol to try to stop the peaceful transfer of power,” said Thompson, who led Thursday’s hearing remotely after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
He also asserted that those responsible for the riots must be held accountable.
“If there is no accountability for Jan. 6, for every part of this scheme, I fear that we will not overcome the ongoing threat to our democracy,” he said. “There must be stiff consequences for those responsible.”
Some members of the committee have said Thursday’s hearing would be the most eye-opening hearing yet.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said that the committee has “far more evidence to share with the American people” and will spend August “pursuing emerging information on multiple fronts” before holding further hearings in September.
“In the course of these hearings, we have received new evidence and new witnesses have bravely stepped forward. Efforts to litigate and overcome immunity and executive privilege claims have been successful and those continue. Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” she said.
Members of the committee have said they expected to receive a collection of text messages from the Secret Service from Jan. 6. A government watchdog said last week that the agency had deleted text messages from both Jan. 6 and Jan. 5.