It’s been well documented that people around former President Donald Trump advised him to do something to quell his supporters as they stormed the Capitol last Jan. 6. Instead, Trump made it worse, tweeting at 2:24 p.m. that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what was necessary.” The Jan. 6 committee revealed on Thursday that Chief of Staff Mark Meadows informed Trump of the riot before he sent the tweet, and that the tweet “immediately” caused rioters inside and outside of the Capitol to “surge.”
The committee played clips of Trump supporters outside the Capitol incensed that Pence had “betrayed” the president after the tweet was sent, as well as testimony in which Sarah Matthews, a former aide to Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, recounted learning about the tweet. “I remember getting a notification on my phone,” she said. “We knew it was a tweet from the president. We looked down and it was a tweet about Mike Pence.”
“The situation was already bad,” Matthews added. “It felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.”
A former aide to Kayleigh McEnany told the committee that on January 6 she told McEnany she thought Trump needed to tweet something to call off his mob, but then she got a ping on her and saw Trump posting a tweet about Pence instead pic.twitter.com/6nbfmr2Bih
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 16, 2022
The committee’s third hearing focused on Trump’s pressure campaign to convince Pence to block the certification of the Electoral College. Testimony has made clear that John Eastman, the former Trump lawyer who helped orchestrate the scheme, was aware the plan was illegal, as were others in Trump’s orbit. Eastman even said so during a meeting with Trump two days before the attack on the Capitol, according to former Pence legal counsel Greg Jacob.
Nevertheless, Trump continued to apply pressure to Pence. The committee played video of testimony in which several witnesses — including Ivanka Trump — recounted a “heated” phone conversation between Trump and Pence on the morning of attack. The committee also noted that Trump revised his speech at the rally that preceded the riot to include criticism of Pence. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the mob of his supporters who would descend on the Capitol soon thereafter made clear that they were targeting the vice president. The committee pointed out that the mob came within 40 feet of where Pence was sheltering. It also pointed out that a federal informant said the extremist group the Proud Boys said they would have killed Pence if they had the chance.
Trump’s supporters were also chanting or Pence to be hanged as the stormed the Capitol. The committee revealed during its first hearing last week that Trump told staff Pence “deserved” it.