By Shane Madden
The Jan. 6 select committee rounded out the final hearing until September by focusing on former President Donald Trump’s three-hour refusal to publicly condemn the violence that unfolded at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Secret Service activity log
The first phase of the hearing was spent establishing the magnitude of what happened on this historic day. Using recorded Secret Service Comms synced with Capitol CCTV, we saw the few minutes prior to the evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence and heard the severity in the voices of Pence’s service detail.
But the most damning testimony of the day came from inside the Secret Service comms room, from an employee in charge of documenting activity, someone who was able to hear all communications and see all angles on the cameras. This witness remained nameless, and their voice was altered to ensure their safety.
“At 2:24 (in the secret service audio logs), what was meant by the comment that the Secret Service agents ‘did not sound good right now?’” asked Rep. Elaine Luria (D, Virginia).
“The members of the VP detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of very personal calls over the radio. It’s very disturbing, I don’t like talking about it. But there were calls to say goodbye to family members. For whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail thought this was about to get very ugly,” the witness testified.
“What about that prompted you to create an entry for the record? (why did you write this down)”. Luria asked.
“If they are running out of options and getting nervous, it sounds like we came very close to (Secret) Service having to use lethal options or worse. At that point I don’t know, is the VP compromised? But if they are calling out to say goodbye to their families, they thought it was about to go to a whole other level,” the witness replied.
Everybody but Trump
The committee took time to elaborate the pressure being exerted within the White House as the attack on the capitol was underway. They presented video testimony from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner stating that they urged Trump to make a statement denouncing the mob, followed by texts from at least four primetime Fox News personalities (and other notable Trump allies). Finally, and although his claims of executive privilege (a refusal to speak on conversations with the president) have been honored, a telling exchange with Former White House Chief Counsel Pat Cippollone played.
This exchange involves the response of White House staff following Trump’s 2:18 p.m. tweet to “Stay Peaceful” even though the riot was in full swing and had been for an hour.
“Who in the White House did not want people to leave the Capitol?” Representative and co-chair Liz Cheney (R, Wyoming) asked.
“I can’t think of anybody on that day who didn’t want people to get out of the capitol once the violence started. I mean…” Cippollone took a few seconds to think and be sure.
“What about the President?” Rep. Adam Schiff (D, California) chimed in and was seconded by Cheney.
“She said the staff, so I answered,” Cippollone replied.
“No, I said the White House,” Cheney clarified.
“Oh, I apologize, I thought you said on the staff,” Cippollone then looked to his lawyer and for the next 15 seconds, received whispered counsel.
“I can’t reveal communications. But obviously, I think you know, yeah,” Cippollone finished.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R, Illinois) made sure to spell it out for the Americans watching at home.
“Let’s pause on that last statement. Although Pat Cippollone is being careful about executive privilege, there really is no ambiguity about what he said. Almost everybody wanted President Trump to instruct the mob to disperse, and President Trump refused,” Kinzinger said.
In closing, Luria made sure to drive home the point that at no time throughout the day had Trump made an attempt to contact, check on, or protect anyone in the capitol, stating the committee had “confirmed in numerous interviews with senior law enforcement and military leaders, Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, and DC Government officials: None of them—not one—heard from President Trump that day.”
The committee noted that they would adjourn for the month of August to follow new leads and has clearly mentioned letting the Department of Justice catch up in post hearing interviews.