destroyed documents. Suggestions for pardoning violent rioters. Discreet conversations between cabinet officials about whether then-President Donald Trump should be removed from office.
Transcripts of interviews released by US House investigators in recent days – more than 100 so far – provide more insight into the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the weeks before, when then-President Donald Trump Tried it. reverse his defeat in the presidential election. The nine-member panel conducted more than 1,000 interviews, and lawmakers are slowly releasing hundreds of transcripts after releasing the final report last week. The commission will be dissolved on Tuesday, when the new Republican-led lower house is sworn in.
While some witnesses were more forthcoming than others, the set of interviews tells the full story of Trump’s unprecedented machinations, the bloody devastation of the Capitol Hill attack, and the fears of lawmakers and the former Republican president’s own aides while he was trying to To destroy democracy and the popular will.
Here are some highlights from the interview transcripts released so far:
White House Assistant Tells It All
Little-known White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson gained national attention when she testified last summer during a surprise hearing about Trump’s words and actions regarding the January 6 attack: his attempts by his security team to go to the Capitol that day. His furious reaction after thwarting his supporters, and how he knew some of his supporters were armed.
So far, the commission has released four of his closed-door interviews, which reveal new details about what Hutchinson said during his time as an aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. In other revelations, Hutchinson told the panel that he had seen Meadows burn documents in his office fireplace “about a dozen times” after the 2020 election.
He said he did not know what documents they were or if they were things that should have been legally protected. A spokesman for Meadows declined to comment.
Hutchinson also spoke at length about his ethical struggles and deciding how much to disclose: he also examined Watergate characters who similarly testified about working in President Richard Nixon’s White House. .
“My character and my integrity matter to me more than anything else.” Hutchinson says she then made up her mind and returned to the panel with new counsel in June after three previous interviews.
After the mutiny, Trump floated the idea of a blanket pardon for all participants, but White House counsel Pat Cipollone discouraged the idea according to testimony from aide Johnny McEntee, who served as the president’s director at the time. Personnel Office and who were interviewed by the panel in March.
Trump then asked for ways to limit the pardon to only those who entered the Capitol and did not engage in violence, but that idea was also met with some pushback, McEntee recalled. He said Trump seemed to agree with the advice, adding that he was not aware of the idea coming up again.
Separately, McEntee said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., told her he was seeking a pre-emptive pardon from Trump because he faced a federal investigation into child sex trafficking. Getz received no such apology, but did not face any charges in connection with the investigation.
Hutchinson testified that Meadows’ office was so inundated with clemency requests toward the end of Trump’s term that some turned to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner to help smooth things over.
The panel interviewed several of Trump’s cabinet secretaries about discussions of invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution: Trump’s effective removal from power by his own cabinet. While some have acknowledged that the idea was debated, it appears to have never been a possibility.
Steven Mnuchin, a former Treasury secretary, says he briefly talked with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the idea after the mutiny.
“It came up very briefly in our conversation,” Mnuchin testified in July. “We both believed that the best outcome was a general change of power, that it was working, and that neither of us saw the 25th Amendment in any serious format.”
Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel that he overheard a brief conversation between two cabinet secretaries at the White House and heard the phrase “25th Amendment”. His transcript has not yet been released, but investigators cited Milley’s interviews with both Pompeo and Mnuchin in their interviews.
Pompeo told the panel that he did not remember the conversation. He said, “I would have assumed that someone was talking about the ability to enforce the 25th Amendment.”
Vice President Mike Pence later scrapped the idea in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying the mechanism should be reserved only when a president is medically or mentally incapacitated.
Pence’s chief of staff, Mark Short, told the panel that he thought it was “a political game”. The process would take several weeks to unfold, he explained, and Democrat Joe Biden was scheduled to take office on Jan. 20.
Trump family testifies
The commission interviewed the former president’s two children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, about their interactions with their father during the Jan. 6 attack and in the days before and after.
Trump Jr. did not answer many of the committee’s questions, often saying he had no recollection of the events or the conversation. Instead, he explained why he texted Meadows on the afternoon of January 6, as the attack was occurring, to say that his father needed to immediately denounce “this sh–t”, and Trump’s tweets. They weren’t strong enough. “My dad doesn’t text,” Trump Jr. said.
Ivanka Trump, who was at the White House with her father on January 6, was also vague in many of her responses. He spoke to the commission about working with his father to write his tweets that day, and they encouraged him to make a strong statement when rioters stormed the Capitol. He testified that he only heard his father during a “heated” phone call with Pence that morning, when his father tried to encourage Pence to challenge his congressional certification later that day. Pence refused to do so.
He also testified that he received a call and text message from Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was at the Capitol when the building was under siege. Collins told him that “the president needs to send a very strong tweet asking people to go home and stop the violence now.”
“Give me five dead voters”
Christina Bobb, a Trump lawyer, testified that one of Trump’s main aides, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, asked some of the former president’s advisers to provide evidence of fraud so she could “advocate” for him after the election. . Trump falsely claimed that there was widespread fraud in all 50 states, despite court rulings and election officials saying otherwise.
Graham told the lawyers that he would love to support the cause.
“Don’t tell me everything, because it’s too overwhelming,” Bob quotes Graham. “Just give me five dead voters. You know, give me an example of illegal voting. Just give me something very small that I can take and advocate.”
Bob said he did nothing with the information given to him. Graham voted on January 6 to certify Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Desperation of the National Guard
The crowd that stormed the Capitol would have faced a stronger police response if the majority of the rioters had been black, said retired Army Major General William Walker, who led the District of Columbia (DC) National Guard at the time. Walker is now in charge of bringing order to the House of Representatives.
“I’m African-American. Child of the sixties,” Walker testified. “I think if it were black people trying to break into the capitol it would have been a very different reaction. As a career police officer, part-time soldier … the reaction from law enforcement would have been different.”
The National Guard did not arrive at the Capitol until hours later, leaving heavily armed police officers at the mercy of the violent mob, with Pentagon officials saying they were waiting for necessary approvals. More than 100 officers were injured, many seriously, when Trump supporters pushed and shoved inside.
Walker expressed deep frustration at the delay, saying that he even considered breaking the chain of command and sending in troops with authority. Lawyers strongly advised him not to do so, he said. He said he did not believe the delay was due to the majority of the rebels being white.
“I don’t think race was part of the decision paralysis in the military,” he said in his April interview. “I think they didn’t want to do that,” he said.
extremist group leader
Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys group, invoked his right against self-incrimination according to the constitutional Fifth Amendment in response to some questions. His attorney told investigators on a few occasions that his client was not a member of the extremist group, whose members now face rare treason charges in a federal case being prosecuted by the Justice Department. But Tarrio himself told investigators that he became president of the Proud Boys after the vote was split among eight “elders” of the group. “I took that title for myself,” he said.
Tarrio, who was released from prison on the eve of the insurrection, was not present for the attack, but prosecutors say he maintained control of Proud Boys elements attacking the Capitol and cheered for them from afar.
He told the panel that in the Proud Boys, “the first degree of membership is that you are a Western extremist” and that you “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
Tarrio met Stewart Rhodes, founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers, in a driveway on the night of January 5 before the attack. “I still don’t like Stewart Rhodes,” Tarrio said.
Rhodes, who was also interviewed by the panel, was convicted in November of treasonous conspiracy, in what prosecutors said was a plot to stage an armed rebellion to prevent the transfer of presidential power.
He said Rhodes rallied his supporters to fight to defend Trump and discussed the possibility of a “bloody” civil war.
In his February testimony before the panel, Rhodes spoke at length about his worldview, but declined to answer questions on January 6 about his involvement and the creation of the weapons. He said that he felt like a political prisoner.
“I feel like a Jew in Germany, frankly,” Rhodes assured the panel.
Associated Press writers Noman Merchant, Farnoush Amiri, Lisa Mascaro and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report