For the past two weeks, a number of the twice-impeached former president’s staunchest apparatchiks and most faithful lieutenants were closely following the televised Jan. 6 committee hearings — not with Trumpian ire, but under the weight of their own sustained anxiety.
They weren’t worried about the moral implications of the hearings’ damning portrait of a president the officials worked for, nor were they worried about our frayed democracy or any potential criminal exposure for Donald Trump. Quite simply, they were worried about themselves.
Three witnesses who have been interviewed by the committee or have handed over tranches of their emails and communications tell Rolling Stone that they are each aware that the investigators are in possession of a variety of their private messages — relating to Trump’s final weeks in office and the Capitol riot — that have not been publicly revealed yet. Some of the messages include these witnesses (each still in good standing in former President Trump’s political and social orbits) exclaiming rough or embarrassing things about the then-president, his daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his then- White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and other MAGA figures. One of the witnesses, all of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about their fears, recalled writing that the riot was “disgraceful” and that they “hated” Trump for starting it.
Despite their grievances during and after Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, these sources — following the lead of every Republican politician and conservative honcho who mattered — each quickly found their ways back to embracing Trump and his ilk in his post-presidency, body counts and anti-democratic plotting be damned. None of them know for sure if the Jan. 6 committee is going to publicly broadcast any of their embarrassing communications, but each has been watching the big screen hanging above the congressional panel, waiting to see if their dirty laundry gets aired, thus potentially jamming up their personal and professional connections.
“I’m probably going to get screamed at…by Trump and maybe some others [if some of those private messages come out],” one of the sources concedes. “Hopefully [the committee doesn’t] see the point in using them.”
Ever since the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot began holding public hearings this month, Trump — the ex-president responsible for instigating the deadly 2021 Capitol attack — for his part has generously indulged in pervasive ritual of his presidency: Gluing himself to the media coverage, yelling at the TV, and irately dictating lengthy, fanatical press releases about nonexistent problems.
“Trump is convinced Democrats will be sorry about going down this road, [in part] because he says he’s been promised by elected [officials] in Congress that when Republicans take back the House, they’ll hold hearings to get to the bottom of the 2020 ‘fraud,’” says a source who’s discussed the committee and recent hearings with Trump. “He’s been watching the [Jan. 6] hearings, and I don’t think I need to tell you that he’s incredibly pissed off at what he has been seeing so far.” (Obviously, there isn’t much to “get to the bottom of” with regards to the 2020 presidential contest, in the sense that Trump’s claims about the election outcome consist of authoritarian lies. It is also unclear if lawmakers’ supposed promises to Trump will result in the exact kind of congressional probes that he craves.)
Just a couple short weeks in, these hearings have already exacerbated existing battle lines in MAGAland, and have even opened up some fresh ones. The committee’s interrogation on Monday of former senior Trump advisor Jason Miller prompted Miller to reveal his impression that Rudy Giuliani was “definitely intoxicated” on election night when the former New York mayor urged Trump to declare victory despite the long odds against him.
Giuliani denied that he was drunk on election night and tweeted that he was “disgusted and outraged” by the testimony from Miller, who had worked on Rudy’s own campaign for the White House in 2008. Beyond his denials and professed disgust, the testimony made Giuliani hungry for at least rhetorical payback. On Twitter, the former mayor and Trump lawyer tweeted a four-year-old story about Miller’s legal battles with his former girlfriend, A.J. Delgado. Nor was Giuliani the only former Trump aide to criticize Miller for his testimony. Roger Stone, a former Trump counselor who occasionally maintains contact with the ex-president, blasted Miller as a “backstabbing asshole” for the allegation.
In one of Giuliani’s concurrent broadsides, the Trump-aligned attorney also attacked Trump’s reelection campaign manager Bill Stepien, who had been scheduled to testify at a hearing but missed the appearance after informing the committee that his wife had gone into labor. Giuliani, who appears to have seen Stepien’s videotaped interview that was played by the committee, linked to a story about the former Gov. Chris Christie aide’s connection to the infamous “Bridgegate” scandal, which cost Stepien his job. (Of course, at the time, Giuliani downplayed the scandal as a “partisan witch hunt.”)
Trump’s attempt to throw his daughter Ivanka under the proverbial bus, however, is perhaps the most eyebrow-raising of the rifts opened by the public hearings. While many Trump aides have fought subpoenas from the committee in court or exposed themselves to criminal liability through outright defiance, Ivanka appeared before the panel willingly in April without the leverage of a subpoena against her and was reportedly cooperative.
When the committee released excerpts of Ivanka’s recorded interview last week acknowledging that she “accepted” former Attorney General Bill Barr’s contention that the election had been conducted without any meaningful fraud. Trump took to his Truth Social account and criticized his own daughter having “long since checked out” of her work on the campaign by the time Election Day had come.
Barr’s testimony also proved a flashpoint, not just in continuing and inflaming the feud between Trump and his former attorney general, but in among others in the as well. Barr’s open ridicule of Dinesh D’Souza’s bogus, conspiracy-riddled documentary “2,000 Mules,”
“I haven’t seen anything since the election that changes my mind” about the before pausing and adding, “including the 2,000 Mules movie.”
Barr exacerbated his existing feud with Trump and his devotees with an unprompted aside during his videotaped deposition with the panel. In excerpts broadcast last week, Barr reiterated that he hadn’t “seen anything since the election that changes my mind” that it had been conducted without results-altering feud and added a dig at a bogus conspiracy-riddled documentary by MAGA pundit Dinesh D’Souza. “Including the ‘2,000 Mules’ movie,” Barr said with a chuckle and added that both he and Georgia law enforcement were “unimpressed” with the claims at the heart of the film.
The film, which posits a number of unhinged and unsupported allegations about massive fraud in 2020, has become an endless subject of Trump’s posts on his social media platform Truth Social and a lucrative source of income for its creator, D’Souza. But despite the success it’s brought D’Souza personally, Barr’s comments still triggered a days-long series of tweets, insults, and recorded retorts from the pundit to the former attorney general’s chuckles.
“Bill Barr is the stereotypical small-town sheriff, overweight and largely immobile, whose rank incompetence results in the whole town being robbed from under his nose,” D’Souza fumed after the clip of Barr’s appearance played.
Other election-deniers and Trump dead-enders are getting equally emotional about the Jan. 6 hearings, albeit for varying reasons. MyPillow CEO and Trump pal Mike Lindell — who personally bankrolled several events and legal efforts to challenge the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump — had the following to say on Wednesday about his fellow Trump sidekicks who have aided the congressional investigators: “Bill Barr is the biggest liar and one of the biggest traitors in USA history and anyone else who testified that the election was not stolen is also a traitor!”
Lindell, whose phone records were subpoenaed by the committee, also claims that he’s offered to testify in a televised grilling by the Jan. 6 panel lawmakers. The committee, apparently, had no interest in hearing from the Trumpist pillow mogul.