New footage of Trump struggling through his January 7 video message says it all
“I don’t want to say ‘the election is over.'"
There was an absurd amount of memorable testimony packed into Thursday’s primetime January 6 committee hearing, which focused on Trump’s activities (including watching a ton of Fox News) on the day of the insurrection. If you missed any part of it and want to get up to speed, please check out my comprehensive video thread of highlights beginning here. But for tonight’s newsletter, I want to begin by focusing on one clip that I think encapsulates Trump’s culpability.
The committee obtained and played remarkable raw video of the filming of video messages posted to Trump’s social media channels on January 6 and 7. The former was the video in which Trump offered an apologia for supporters of his who had just violently ransacked the Capitol with comments like, “we love you.” It quickly resulted in his banishment from major social media platforms. You can watch that footage here.
But the raw footage of the January 7 video message is especially interesting. In it, you can see an angry Trump resisting the text prepared for him by White House officials as his daughter Ivanka tries to coach him through reading it. Notably, Trump at one point rejects the line “this election is now over,” saying, “I don’t want to say ‘the election is over,’ I just want to say ‘Congress has certified the results.’”
Why does this matter? Because the rest of the hearing hammered home that throughout January 6, just about everyone in Trump’s orbit (with the notable exception of Rudy Giuliani) urged him repeatedly to do something, anything, to call off violent insurrectionists who were clearly inspired by his lies about the election and calls for them to “fight.”
The two former Trump officials who provided live testimony to the committee on Thursday, Matthew Pottinger and Sarah Matthews, were among a number of Trump staffers who quit on January 6 because they were so disgusted by Trump’s obvious complicity in the attack against the constitution. And yet here was Trump a day later still refusing to concede anything. In fact, more than 18 months later Trump is still actively trying to overturn his loss.
But it was even worse than that. Trump not only did nothing to quell the violence on January 6 — as it was happening he and Rudy Giuliani were still working to persuade members of Congress to delay certification of his loss.
The committee made the case against Trump with testimony from hardcore MAGAs — and they aren’t done
As Cheney pointed out in her closing statement, the evidence presented on Thursday and in earlier hearings doesn’t come from anti-Trump Democrats. Instead, it is “a series of confessions by Donald Trump's own appointees ... and his own family."
On Thursday, for instance, the committee played a deposition clip of Jared Kushner saying Trump had an obligation to ensure a peaceful transition of power, and another of McEnany providing incriminating details about Trump’s activities on January 6.
And when they weren’t indicting Trump with their words or text messages, administration officials like former White House counsel Pat Cipollone were speaking volumes with awkward silences that pointed toward Trump’s guilt.
Cheney began Thursday’s hearing by announcing that more hearings will take place in September. Elaine Luria signaled that missing Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6 will be a major focus.
"The forces Donald Trump ignited that day have not gone away,” Adam Kinzinger said in his closing remarks. “We the people must demand more of politicians and ourselves.”
Three more clips from Thursday’s hearing deserve attention
— The committee played harrowing radio traffic of Secret Service agents fretting about whether they’d be able to safely evacuate Vice President Pence from the Capitol as insurrectionists breached the building.
— It also played a short clip of Josh Hawley, who infamously egged on the Trump mob on the morning of January 6 by pumping his fist at them, literally running out of the Capitol under duress hours later. Suffice it to say the juxtaposition between the fist pump photo and Hawley hightailing it out of there hours later is not a good look for the junior senator from Missouri, who even after the insurrection voted to reject the election results.
— Finally, the committee also played new audio from late October 2020 of Steve Bannon telegraphing exactly how Trump planned to try to steal the election if Biden led on election night.
That hopefully gets you caught up with the January 6 hearing. But there were a couple other developments Thursday that I want to touch upon before calling it a night.