The Jan. 6 committee plans to use its Thursday-night hearing to call out insurrection-friendly lawmakers who cowered during the Capitol attack but have since downplayed the insurrection’s severity, according to two sources familiar with the committee’s planning.
“They have plans to paint a really striking picture of how some of Trump’s greatest enablers of his coup plot were — no matter what they’re saying today — quaking in their boots and doing everything shy of crying out for their moms,” one source tells Rolling Stone. “If any of [these lawmakers] were capable of shame, they would be humiliated.”
Throughout its hearings, the committee has made extensive use of photo and video evidence, including, at times, footage of lawmakers reacting to a mob of Donald Trump supporters who fought through a police line to break into the Capitol.
The committee has at times switched plans at the last minute, and it remains unclear which specific lawmakers the committee could call out. But at least some Republicans have already had their attempts to downplay or justify the attempted coup undone by footage from the day of the attack. When Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) claimed the insurrection “a normal tourist visit,” social media users quickly located photos of the Georgia Republican gasping in terror and hiding behind an armed Capitol police officer pointing a handgun at a barricaded entrance to the Senate floor.
In the 18 months since the insurrection, Republican lawmakers have tried to whitewash it through a series of contradictory talking points. Republicans have alternately downplayed the attack by calling it “a peaceful protest,” claimed it was violent but that the violence was carried out solely by nonexistent “antifa” or federal informants at the Capitol, or that Democrats were to blame for failing to adequately defend the Capitol against the protesters they variously claim weren’t violent or a threat.
Republicans like Reps. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Paul Gosar have gone so far as to cast alleged rioters held in pretrial detention as unjustly accused political prisoners.
The bulk of the Thursday-night hearing is expected to focus on Trump’s actions during the insurrection, including whether he took any action to defuse the riot at a time when lawmakers were under attack. But using photos and footage to slap down MAGA lawmakers’ claims of a “tourist visit” from “peaceful patriots” is part of a broader effort to bring reality to bear on a fictitious, pro-Trump reimagining of Jan. 6.
That mythology, peddled widely in conservative media, claims Trump and his allies planned a peaceful rally to highlight credible reports of systemic election fraud, exercising their First Amendment rights in an effort to protect democracy. In that warped telling, the peaceful demonstrations were hijacked by a small number of violent extremists with no connection to Trump or his team. And, as the lie goes, Democrats have since wildly overstated the violence as a political ploy.
Through interviews with more than 1,000 individuals and reviews of more than 125,000 records, the Jan. 6 committee has debunked every part of that narrative. Instead, the committee has demonstrated that Trump attempted to steal an election he was repeatedly told he’d lost. And that his efforts to steal it included directing a wildly unconstitutional phony-electors scheme — and priming his supporters for a Capitol attack.
As Trump spoke at his preplanned rally near the White House, he called for a march on the U.S. Capitol, bolstering a crowd of people who violently clashed with law enforcement. Testimony given to the committee indicated that Trump and members of the administration were aware of the potential for violence, and witnesses have alleged that Trump went so far as to ask for security at his Ellipse rally to be loosened so armed individuals could enter the crowd. Trump’s team has attempted to distance itself from any of the Capitol events, but the committee has revealed that the former president’s call for his supporters’ march was premeditated.
The committee obtained a draft of an unsent tweet in which Trump teased a march to the Capitol following his speech at the Ellipse. “I will be making a Big Speech at 10 a.m. on January 6th at the Ellipse (South of the White House),” read the draft tweet, preserved by the National Archives. “Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the steal!”
The committee also displayed a text exchange on Jan. 4 between White House Ellipse rally organizer Kylie Kremer and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, in which the pair discussed a secret plan to have Trump call for protesters to march to a second location, either the Supreme Court or Capitol, on Jan. 6. In the exchange Kremer urged Lindell to keep the plans secret, since they did not have permits for the march.
Jan 6. committee displays a Jan. 4th text exchange between rally organizer Kylie Kremer and Mike Lindell discussing secret plans to have Trump call for protesters to march to second location, either the Supreme Court or Capitol on the 6th. pic.twitter.com/KFfi2mDMQ2
— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) July 12, 2022
A second text message, from Ali Alexander, written on Jan. 5 outlined that plan for the next day. “Tomorrow: Ellipse then US Capitol. Trump is supposed to order us to capitol at the end of his speech but we will see.”
Rolling Stone this spring reported that top Trump officials held a phone call with Kremer during which they actively planned for the march.
Trump’s team has also sought to portray Trump as opposed to the Capitol violence, but the committee revealed he actively resisted efforts to quell the violence — including by refusing to call the actions “illegal” when prompted to do so.
In her bombshell testimony before the committee, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed that she had drafted a statement for President Trump asking protesters who had entered the Capitol “illegally” to leave. According to Hutchinson, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows took the draft statement to Trump, who scratched out the word “illegally” and refused to issue it. Hutchinson was told there would be no “further action on that statement.”
Hutchinson note on statement dictated by Meadows for Trump to put out.
Meadows came back after meeting w/ Trump and said “we don’t need to take further action on that statement,” and it was never issued, Hutchinson testifies. pic.twitter.com/dAIMnnwZC2
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) June 28, 2022
Stephanie Grisham, former chief of staff and press secretary to First Lady Melania Trump, later tweeted out a screenshot of a text exchange between her and the first lady on Jan. 6, in which Melania refused to issue a statement condemning “lawlessness and violence” by protesters. Grisham resigned from her position later that day.
— Stephanie Grisham (@OMGrisham) June 28, 2022
Indeed, Trump has since continually considered ways to lessen the legal consequences for the Capitol rioters. Hutchinson also revealed that Trump wanted to include language in his Jan. 7 speech about pardoning his supporters who stormed the Capitol, and that Meadows agreed with the inclusion of such language. According to previous testimony given by Hutchinson, the pardon offer was ultimately removed from the speech on the advice of the White House counsel’s office.
Trump wanted to include a mention about pardons for January 6th rioters in January 7th speech. Meadows was encouraging it pic.twitter.com/Zf2EMURGom
— Acyn (@Acyn) June 28, 2022
The possibility of pardons has remained in the president’s mind since he left office. At a January rally in Houston, he told supporters, “If I run, and if I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly. And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons, because they are being treated so unfairly.”
The Jan. 6 insurrection was the highest-profile part of a broader effort to steal the 2020 election, but it was far from the only way Trump and his team tried to overturn the results. The committee has revealed that Trump took a “direct and personal role” in efforts to pressure states to change their results or appoint phony electors who’d contravene voters by throwing their support to Trump.
In the committee’s fourth hearing, lawmakers described Trump pressuring individual state legislators to go back into session and declare him the true winner of the 2020 election. Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, was told by the former president to “find” the votes necessary to give him the state.
A separate scheme was concocted by Trump lawyer John Eastman to send two slates of alternate electors, declaring Trump the winner, to the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote and having Vice President Pence use the false electors in the vote. Eastman knew the scheme was illegal, and admitted so in front of Trump days before the Electoral College certification. The committee revealed on June 21 that this scheme culminated in an attempt by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to deliver the fake electors to Pence on Jan. 6.
None of this was in response to credible information about systemic election fraud, and Trump knew that — or at least he would have, had he listened to multiple high-level members of his administration.
During its first hearing, the committee played recorded testimony from Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr. In his testimony, Barr told the committee that he had been clear with the former president that his claims that the 2020 election had been stolen from him were “bullshit.” Barr would go on to testify that attempts by him and other advisers to convince Trump that the 2020 election was legitimate were futile, and described Trump as being “detached from reality.”
Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue also testified to the committee that he unsuccessfully attempted to reach through to President Trump: “I tried to, again, put this in perspective and try to put it in very clear terms to the president. I said something to the effect of, ‘Sir, we’ve done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed.’”