Thursday, June 1

House Jan. 6 committee primetime hearing focused on what Trump was doing during Capitol attack

The House Jan. 6 committee will be conducting a public hearing on Thursday, this time in primetime. It is expected to focus on what former President Donald Trump was doing during the 187 minutes after rioters descended on the Capitol and before he issued a public response. 

CBS News will broadcast the hearing as a Special Report starting at 8 p.m. ET anchored by Norah O’Donnell. 

Committee aides said Wednesday that the hearing will focus on Trump’s actions between 1:10 p.m. ET, when his speech at the Ellipse ended, and 4:17 p.m. ET, when he released a recorded video statement from the Rose Garden calling on rioters to go home.

According to aides, the committee will argue that he refused to act to defend the Capitol even as the mob swarmed the building with the aim of stopping the counting of the electoral votes. 

Capitol Riot Investigation Highlights
Former President Donald Trump speaks in a video exhibit as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing to reveal its findings on Monday, June 13, 2022.

Susan Walsh / AP

The committee will also present additional information about Trump returning to the White House against his wishes after the Ellipse speech ended, an aide said. The aide would not disclose whether the committee has interviewed Anthony Ornato, deputy chief of staff for operations, or Secret Service agent Robert Engel, who were both mentioned by White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson when she testified to the committee that Trump had demanded to be taken to the Capitol during the riot.

A source close to the Secret Service told CBS News after Hutchinson’s testimony that Engel and the driver of a Secret Service vehicle on Jan. 6 are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was physically attacked or assaulted by Trump and that the former president never lunged for the steering wheel of the vehicle, as Hutchinson claimed.

Hutchinson testified that she had called Ornato to make sure there was no plan to take Trump to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

A committee aide said Thursday’s hearing will lay out who was talking to Trump, what those people were urging him to do and when he was made aware of what was going on. These details will be provided during testimony from individuals who spoke to the former president and individuals in the west wing who were aware of what he and his inner circle were doing. The testimony will be in the form of both video and audio recordings as well as from live witnesses.

Committee aides still have not publicly confirmed who Thursday’s witnesses will be. CBS News has confirmed via a source familiar with the committee that Matthew Pottinger, a former National Security Council official, and Sarah Matthews, a former deputy White House press secretary, are set to testify. They both resigned in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

The hearing will also cover how law enforcement turned the tide against the rioters around 4 p.m., and the committee will go over what happened in the White House for the remainder of the day, the creation of the Rose Garden video, the president’s tweets he sent later that day and the fallout the day after the attack.

“One of the main points we’re going to make here is that President Trump had the power to call off the mob here. He was maybe the sole person who could call off the mob and he chose not to,” a committee aide said.

Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said Tuesday he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would not be attending Thursday’s hearing. Aides said Wednesday that he would be chairing the hearing remotely. 

Reps. Elanie Luria and Adam Kinzinger will lead the presentation. 

Jan. 6 committee staff confirmed Wednesday that the panel had received just one text message from the Secret Service. The committee had subpoenaed texts from Jan. 5 and 6, but a Department of Homeland Security watchdog told lawmakers last week that the Secret Service had deleted texts from that period. The Secret Service claimed some phone data had been erased unintentionally as a part of a pre-planned system migration, and said that any texts that was deleted “are presumed to be permanently deleted.” 

CBS News has confirmed that Secret Service employees received multiple official communications via email instructing officials to back up relevant texts, emails and communications prior to migration. At least one of those emails was sent in December 2020.

Former Trump White House staffer Garrett Ziegler testified privately before the committee on Tuesday. Ziegler was an aide to trade adviser Peter Navarro, who has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena to appear before the committee. 

Kinzinger told “Face the Nation” Sunday that the hearing will “open people’s eyes in a big way” about Trump’s behavior.

“I can’t necessarily say that the motives behind every piece of information we know we’ll be able to explain, but this is going to open people’s eyes in a big way,” Kinzinger said. He added, “I’ll give you this preview: the president didn’t do very much but gleefully watch television during this time frame.”

Kinzinger, a Republican, urged the American people, and his GOP colleagues in particular, to “watch this with an open mind” and ask, “Is this the kind of strong leader you really think you deserve?”

This will be the eighth hearing the select committee has held this summer and the ninth overall. 
An aide said Wednesday that “there’s a potential for future hearings,” especially around the release of a report on the investigation later this year.

The previous public hearings have focused on the mobilization of the rioters at the Capitol, Trump’s speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 ahead of the riot and his desire to join his supporters. The committee has also detailed Trump’s pressure campaigns after Election Day to push his baseless elections claims on Pence, the Justice Department, state lawmakers and local elections officials. 

The hearings have revealed new details about a scheme to put forward alternate electors who support Trump in seven battleground states that President Joe Biden won. Thompson said last week that the Justice Department had requested information about the scheme. 

“The only issue that we’ve engaged them on is the list of the fraudulent electors that were submitted,” Thompson told reporters last week. “That’s the first tranche that we’ve been talking to them about.”  

Rebecca Kaplan, Nikole Killion and Nicole Sganga contributed to this report.

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