News·15 min read

Key Takeaways From The Jan. 6 Hearings If You Haven’t Had Time To Watch

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in to testify.
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Jul 26, 2022

Raise your hand if you haven't been tuning into the Jan. 6 hearings. Don't worry, we got you covered. Here are the highlights you need to know to stay in the loop. Plus, what we know about the next set of hearings in the fall.

But first, a quick refresher on how we got here: On Jan. 6, 2021, a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. As Congress was certifying then-President-elect Biden’s election win. Five people died and dozens of officers were injured. Many blamed former President Trump’s false claims of a stolen election for the attack. To this day, Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong.

That’s where a special House select committee comes in. For nearly a year, they've been digging into what happened behind the scenes at the White House on that deadly day. Now, after conducting more than 1,000 interviews, they're bringing their findings to the public. Here's what we’ve learned so far.

June 9: The case against former President Trump begins

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The committee kicked things off by outlining their intentions. Including to present the “facts and causes of the events.” And make the case that Trump was ultimately responsible. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) — the vice chair and one of only two Republicans on the committee — said the former president had overseen a months-long “sophisticated seven-part plan” to overturn the 2020 election. With Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee’s chair, calling the events of Jan. 6 “an attempted coup.” Here’s what else happened on the first day:

  • A recap of the violence: Officer Caroline Edwards, who was knocked unconscious during the riot, described the attack as a “war scene.” And never-before-seen footage captured how rioters pushed through barricades, broke windows, and attacked police. 

  • A spotlight on far-right extremists: Aka the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. In recorded testimony, members of the Proud Boys said they descended on the Capitol because they thought it’s what Trump wanted. Note: The panel’s looking into whether these groups had any direct ties to people in Trump's inner circle.

  • VP Mike Pence took charge: In one clip, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Pence called for the National Guard to respond to the violence. Not Trump. And that Pence’s actions drew criticisms from the White House, where officials wanted to shape the “narrative” to Trump being in charge. 

  • Trump's daughter didn't buy the 'Big Lie': In other clips, Attorney General Bill Barr called Trump’s allegations of widespread election fraud “bullsh*t.” And the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, said she “accepted” Barr’s statements about not finding evidence of election fraud.

June 13: Trump’s fraud claims were debunked. But he didn’t care.

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The hearing focused on how Trump’s inner circle repeatedly told the president there was no merit to his allegations of fraud. But instead, Trump followed his lawyer Rudy ​​Giuliani’s approach: to promote that the election was stolen (the “Big Lie”). Testimony revealed some other key info, like:

  • “Team Normal” vs. Team “completely nuts”: In a previously recorded interview, Trump’s former campaign manager said that those surrounding the former prez broke up into two teams. Basically, those who tried to tell Trump the facts…and those who pushed lies. But… 

  • Nothing worked: Barr said Trump became “detached from reality” following the 2020 election. And he couldn’t get the president to understand the truth. 

  • Lies brought in the big bucks: Committee members said that the Trump campaign's baseless election fraud allegations led to an estimated $250 million in donations from supporters. They claimed the money would go toward fighting legal battles to overturn the election results. But in reality, it went toward a PAC that gave the money to orgs with ties to Trump admin officials. 

June 16: VP Mike Pence resisted Trump’s pressure

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Advisers to the former veep shared that he was under a major pressure campaign to help overturn the election. Trump and his lawyer John Eastman tried to persuade Pence to block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Even though it’s illegal. That day, we also found out… 

  • The efforts to persuade Pence: Trump nudged Pence in private and public to help overturn the election. White House aides described a “heated” call between both men on the morning of Jan. 6, when Trump allegedly called Pence a “wimp.” Later that day, Trump bashed Pence on Twitter for not having the “courage” to stop the electoral vote count. 

  • The VP was in real danger: Committee members have credited Pence for his courage. And said his refusal to comply with Trump put his life in danger. On the day of the attack, rioters chanted “hang Mike Pence.” And came within 40 feet of the VP. 

June 21: GOP state officials also couldn’t escape Trump’s pressure campaign

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During the fourth hearing, lawmakers focused on how Trump tried to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power on the state level. Including by pressuring Republican state officials to lie. And attempting to implement a plot involving fake electors. Election officials from states — where Biden narrowly won — gave powerful statements against the former president’s admin. Including…

  • Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger: He testified that after the election, Trump asked him to “find” 11,000+ votes so he could win. 

  • Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers: He said Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani wanted to replace Biden electors with fake ones for Trump. 

  • Where Trump allies played along: At least 14 people in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin claimed to be electors for Trump. The committee has issued subpoenas to those involved in hopes of learning more.

  • Election officials paid a price: Two Georgia election workers also gave emotional testimony. And spoke about the hateful and racist messages they received after Giuliani accused them of messing around with ballots.

June 23: Trump tried to strong-arm the Justice Dept.

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Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue confirmed Trump wanted the DOJ to “just say the election was corrupt.” Even though the department had already announced that there was no evidence of election fraud. Other former officials also spoke about the Trump admin’s inquiries into potentially seizing voting machines. And how Trump and his advisers looked into bizarre conspiracy theories to overturn the election. Here’s what we learned during the fifth hearing:

  • “Italygate”: The theory claimed that an Italian satellite flipped votes for Trump to Biden. Donoghue called it “pure insanity.”

  • Trump wanted loyalists in the DOJ: Testimonies revealed Trump wanted to replace former acting AG Jeffrey Rosen with former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. The reason: Clark was willing to go along with Trump’s false claims. 

  • Pardons wanted: The committee gathered testimonies claiming that Republican lawmakers sought pardons after rejecting some of the electoral college votes.

June 28: A surprise hearing with Cassidy Hutchinson

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The House select committee met for a surprise hearing. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to then-WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, gave bombshell testimony against Trump. Here’s what she had to say:

  • Giuliani’s foreshadowing: Hutchinson testified that Giuliani said something along the lines of “We’re going to the Capitol…the president’s going to be there, he’s going to look powerful.” And when she told Meadows, he responded by saying, “things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.” 

  • What Trump knew: Hutchinson said the former president was aware that some of his supporters were armed with weapons. And just wanted the rally to look full of people. Hutchinson recalled Trump saying, “I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me.” 

  • Trump’s actions: She detailed secondhand information about how Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol. And how he tried to grab the car’s steering wheel and allegedly tried to lunge at the throat of a Secret Service agent. 

  • Concerns about charges: Hutchinson testified that there was fear WH officials could be “charged with every crime imaginable” if Trump made it to the Capitol.

July 12: Trump’s ‘call to action’ to extremists 

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During its seventh hearing, the committee focused on how dangerous domestic extremists came together to incite violence. And laid out evidence stating that Trump and his allies mobilized the violent mob to march to the Capitol in the days and weeks leading up to Jan. 6. Here’s what we found out:

  • Trump’s tweet to action: The panel put a spotlight on the former president’s Dec. 2020 tweet, stating “​Big protest in DC on January 6th…Be there, will be wild.” Committee members argued his message motivated allies — including extremist orgs — to flock to DC.

  • The march to the Capitol was planned: Documents obtained by the committee show a draft tweet from Trump — which called for a direct march to the Capitol. Saying: “Massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal.” The tweet never went out. But the panel said this showed that the insurrection was "not a spontaneous call to action, but rather was a deliberate strategy."

  • An Oval Office face-off: In taped testimony, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone recounted a Dec. 2020 Oval Office meeting. Where advisers discussed how to seize voting machines. It all led to a six-hour screaming match between people promoting election fraud claims and others trying to convince Trump he lost. 

  • Rioters' testimony: Ex-Oath Keepers spokesman Jason Van Tatenhove said Jan. 6 was going to be an "armed revolution." And that Trump and the org continue to be a threat to America. Plus, Stephen Ayres — who pleaded guilty for his role in the attack — explained how online misinformation led him to believe the election was stolen. And said Trump's words at the Jan. 6 rally motivated him to march to the Capitol afterward.

  • Trump allies’ ties to extremism: The committee focused on how Trump allies like Roger Stone and Michael Flynn had ties to extremist groups. Lawmakers said Stone had been communicating with leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers via encrypted chats. And Flynn apparently rallied with the Proud Boys. 

  • Witness tampering warning: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said Trump tried to contact a committee witness who’s yet to publicly testify. And that the panel alerted the DOJ. She also said any attempt at witness tampering will be taken “very seriously.”

July 21: A spotlight on Trump’s actions as the Capitol came under attack

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On July 21, the committee — in its second prime-time hearing — accused Trump of a “dereliction of duty." Aka he failed to fulfill his oath as commander in chief by not stopping the attack. Lawmakers focused on what exactly the former president was (or wasn’t) doing while a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol. Reminder: It took Trump more than three hours to call on the rioters to stop. Here’s what we learned from the eighth hearing:

  • Trump refused to act: The panel said the former president knew “within 15 minutes” of leaving his rally that the Capitol was under attack. But instead of intervening, he watched the rioters live on Fox News. The committee said that Trump ignored his family’s, allies’, and White House aides’ calls to condemn the violence. And witnesses testified that he never called law enforcement or any gov agency to get things under control.

  • Fuel to the fire: Former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews said Trump’s tweet against Pence gave rioters a “green light.” And that his message went out at a time when it was clear that the violence was escalating. A committee member said Trump “put a target on his own vice president's back.”

  • Security feared for their lives: An anonymous White House security official testified that Secret Service agents protecting the VP were scared they might not make it out of the violence. And that the agents called family members to say goodbye.

  • Efforts to delay the vote continued: Witnesses said that while the attack was unfolding, Trump called senators to ask them to delay or object to the certification process. It’s unclear who Trump reached out to because there's a gap in the White House call logs during the time the attack went down. (More on that here.) 

  • Donald Trump Jr. deposition: Reportedly for the first time, the committee aired audio from Don Jr’s deposition. In it, the committee asked him about his text message exchange with Meadows. Including when Don Jr. said “he has to condemn this sh*t ASAP.”

  • Spotlight on Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO): The panel showed an image of Hawley raising a fist outside the Capitol in solidarity with Trump’s supporters before they made it inside the building. And then revealed a new video of the senator running away as rioters broke in. The committee said Republicans like Hawley were responsible for riling up the mob. 

  • Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony got some backup: A retired DC police sergeant testified that he also heard Trump got into a “heated” discussion about going to the Capitol. It comes after Secret Service officials reportedly contradicted Hutchinson’s testimony. 

  • Trump’s messages fell flat: Hours after the mob had broken into the Capitol, Trump finally called on his supporters to “go home.” But told them “we love you, you’re very special.” New video at the hearing also showed outtakes from a Jan. 7 speech in which Trump changed prepared remarks condemning the violence. The former president refused to say the election was over. 

What’s next in the investigation?

The committee will reconvene for more hearings in September. In the meantime, the panel plans to gather new evidence and testimony throughout August. And to look into allegations that the Secret Service deleted text messages in the days surrounding the Jan. 6 attack. Also coming up in the fall: the committee’s initial report of its findings. With a final report coming later this year.

It’s still unclear whether lawmakers will make criminal referrals against Trump or his aides to the Justice Dept. But in the end, it’s up to the DOJ to pursue those charges. It’s worth noting that no former president has ever been prosecuted by the Justice Dept. Not to mention, an indictment could sow even deeper divisions among Republicans and Democrats ahead of the midterm elections

theSkimm

The Jan. 6 attack has left a stain on American democracy. Now, lawmakers are working to uncover the facts about what happened on that dark day. But it’s unclear what all of the evidence and hearings will lead to in terms of accountability. 

Updated on July 26 with a recap of the eighth hearing.

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