Jul 22, 2022

What we learned from the January 6 hearings

Image: Brett Davis
Image: Brett Davis 

A round-up of every hearing.

Editor's note: At the urging of my staff, I have decided to make today's Friday post available to both free and paid subscribers, and the public.

The January 6 committee investigating the Capitol riots has now conducted eight public hearings since June 9th.

Those hearings have covered more than 1,000 interviews conducted by the committee, both publicly and privately, as well as a review of over 125,000 documents. While the committee says its work isn't complete, it looks like it is done with public hearings for now — with no more currently scheduled — and it seems likely that they won't resume any action until the fall, if at all.

So, we thought now would be a good time to review what the committee found, the story they described, and what we have learned.

Before we do, it's worth framing the committee's work. There are three main points I'd like to address.

First, it's important to note that the congressional committee's job is not to bring charges. The point of the January 6 committee is to answer questions about the events leading up to the riots at the Capitol: Was it planned or organized? What was the extent of the White House's involvement? Who knew what, and when?

The Committee was created by Congress to investigate these questions and to recommend changes in law, policy, rules or regulations in response to what they learn — and to prevent future violence or attempts at thwarting an election's certification. It was not created to charge anyone with crimes — and it won't. Instead, it will issue a formal report to Congress that may include recommendations on charges. The Justice Department has requested transcripts and evidence from the committee.

Second, as many on the right will be quick to point out, this is one of the more "partisan" congressional committees — in the literal sense — that has ever been assembled. That doesn't mean their work should be discounted, but it does mean there was more imbalance on this committee than is typical of Congressional hearings.

The origins of that story go back to the committee's formation. Democrats had tried to form a bipartisan Senate committee in the mold of the September 11th commission, but Senate Republicans blocked the formation of that committee. So, in the House, the group was designed to be made up of 13 members, five of whom were going to be picked by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

In July of last year, McCarthy tapped Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Jim Banks (IN), Rodney Davis (IL), Kelly Armstrong (ND) and Troy E. Nehls (TX) to sit on the committee and represent Republicans. Immediately, the selection of Banks and Jordan, who each voted against certifying the results of the election, drew harsh criticism. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected both, saying they would jeopardize the integrity of the investigation because they could become subjects of it. She did not, however, turn down Rep. Nehls, who also voted against certifying the results (Pelosi said that was not the criteria for rejecting Banks and Jordan).

McCarthy responded to Pelosi by threatening to withdraw all five Republicans from the panel.

"Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility,” McCarthy said. “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”

When Pelosi didn't budge on her objections, McCarthy followed up on his promise and withdrew all five of his picks. Former President Trump has criticized McCarthy for that decision — a move he says has allowed Democrats to craft the narrative they want. Pelosi selected Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), two critics of Trump, as the lone Republicans on the committee.

So, however you feel about McCarthy or Pelosi's decisions, it is only fair to preface what's to come with that knowledge.

Third, as many on the left are quick to retort, the witnesses whose testimony and communications are being used as evidence are almost entirely Republicans, Trump supporters, former Trump supporters, former Trump staffers, former members of Trump's campaign, and conservative media personalities. In no particular order, we've heard from Trump's handpicked attorney general, his former White House counsel, an aide working for Trump's chief of staff, Trump's daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, the former vice president's general counsel, the former vice president's chief of staff, the former Trump White House deputy press secretary, and even Trump's former campaign manager, among many others.

In other words, while the only two Republicans on the committee are longtime Trump critics, the witnesses and interviews include dozens and dozens of allies and former allies who were very close to the White House.

In today's edition, we aim to create a one-stop shop for what we've learned during the hearings and what the evidence is. Below, we've created eight sections — one for each hearing — with brief summaries of what was discussed, what kind of evidence and testimony was brought forward, and what the committee's takeaways were.

After that, we’ll share some questions that still remain from the hearings, some criticism of the evidence and testimony, and I’ll offer “my take,” the usual section wholly dedicated to my own opinion, separate from the rest of this newsletter.

One final reminder: Transcripts, video, and evidence from the committee's work are widely available online. We’ve sourced some of the facts and evidence here with hyperlinks, but if you are looking to verify any of the claims, you can find them in one of a few places:

We hope you find this informative and useful.

Hearing 1.

The first Congressional hearing took place on June 9th, 2022.

The focus of this hearing was an overview of the committee's work and the events that transpired on January 6th. During the hearing, we saw never-before-seen footage of the attack at the Capitol, including overhead security footage of how rioters breached the Capitol building and police lines. Perhaps most interestingly, the committee shared footage of interviews with Ivanka Trump, former attorney general William Barr, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

We hear each person’s accounts of the events of the day during those interviews. Barr told investigators that he had repeatedly informed Trump his claims of election fraud were "bulls—" and that the Justice Department could not find any evidence supporting the claims made by people around Trump. Ivanka Trump told investigators she believed Barr and had accepted what he said about the election. Gen. Milley said that Vice President Mike Pence had requested assistance at the Capitol, but that the White House response was much different.

Among other revelations, the committee:

  • Showed evidence of Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) and multiple other Republicans requesting presidential pardons after objecting to the results of the 2020 election.
  • Aired interviews where former campaign adviser Jason Miller told investigators that he repeatedly warned Trump he was going to lose, based on the numbers they were seeing.
  • Aired interviews of Trump lawyer Alex Cannon affirming that the White House could not produce any evidence of widespread election fraud.
  • Showed text messages from Fox News host Sean Hannity to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, in which he implores her to stop talking about the stolen election, and raises the possibility of the Cabinet invoking the 25th amendment and removing Trump from office.

In live testimony, the committee also interviewed veteran Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who was one of over 100 officers injured on Jan. 6. She was knocked unconscious during the riots. Edwards made the case, in very plain terms, that it was a "war scene," on the ground, “like something out of a movie.” After regaining consciousness she rejoined the police line and was tear-gassed and pepper sprayed, and at one point described slipping in fellow officers' blood.

On the whole, the committee demonstrated that there were people around Trump informing him repeatedly that he had legitimately lost the election, there was evidence that members of Congress who objected to the election results sought pardons (which the committee framed as knowledge of guilt), and there was the re-telling of what happened at the Capitol that day with footage of widespread violence and destruction, including members of Congress having to flee and hide to avoid being attacked by the mob.

The committee also made its first allegation that Trump did not want to stop the riots, that he was angry at advisers who were telling him to do more to prevent them, and that he was well aware of rioters chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" and thought that, maybe, they had the right idea (the testimony for these claims appears later).

The committee presented the first indication that Tony Ornato of the United States Secret Service (who was overseeing all presidential and vice presidential Secret Service agents that day) may have been assisting Trump in trying to get Pence out of the building and preventing him from certifying the Electoral College vote.

The most compelling evidence for this is reporting that Pence’s National Security Advisor Keith Kellogg had been told by Ornato that the USSS intended to move Pence to Joint Base Andrews. Kellog replied, “You can’t do that Tony. Leave him where he’s at. He’s got a job to do. I know you guys too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you have a chance. Don’t do it.”

Hearing 2.

In the second hearing, which took place on June 13, the committee began to narrow its focus. This time, it keyed in on what was happening inside the Trump campaign in the days immediately following the 2020 election and leading up to January 6. Primarily, the committee laid out evidence that Trump was using claims of a stolen election to fundraise, that very little of the money was actually put toward legal battles, and that people around him tried to inform him that the election was not stolen.

Through on-camera testimony from Trump's campaign manager Bill Stepien, his senior adviser Jason Miller, and his former attorney general William Barr, the committee portrayed a divided White House. The split, Stepien tried to explain, was between "Team Normal", which understood they may lose the election, and a group cozying up to Trump that was ready to interpret any potential loss as a theft.

In interviews with the committee, these former staffers said they tried to explain to Trump the reality of what was happening: The outlook for them winning was bleak, the remaining votes were going to favor Biden, and the allegations percolating of some widespread fraud were, as Bill Barr put it, "idiotic" and "complete nonsense." Members of "Team Normal" described him as becoming increasingly detached from reality, following Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and others down a rabbit hole of conspiracies. Former Acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue said the Justice Department tried to investigate claims the White House presented to them, but were always left having to debunk them to Trump.

"He wouldn't fight us on it, he would just move on to another," Donoghue said in his taped testimony.

Among other things, the committee emphasized the following facts:

  • The testimony featured in this hearing was all from Republicans and Trump supporters, including Stepien — who is still working to get Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman elected in Wyoming over Liz Cheney (the vice chair of the committee interviewing him).
  • Trump and his team raised $250 million off of claims the election was stolen, much of which was never put toward actual litigation of the election.
  • Most of that money went to groups supporting Trump like the Save America PAC, Trump’s largest campaign PAC.
  • Hundreds of people are facing criminal charges for their actions, but very few of the people at the top (those most responsible for what happened) currently face any consequences.

On the whole, the committee made it clear that a large number of high-ranking, trusted officials around Trump were telling him he had lost the election, that Trump moved from one stolen election theory to another, and that Trump used the unfounded theories to raise hundreds of millions of dollars without actually spending much of that money on legal battles. Liz Cheney claimed Trump had "fleeced" his supporters.

Hearing 3.

In the third hearing, the committee focused on Vice President Mike Pence, the role he played in facilitating the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, and the so-called "Eastman memo."

Pence, in the committee's telling, narrowly escaped violence or death on January 6, and was one of the few barriers between Trump and a complete Constitutional crisis.

The committee used a recreation of the mob's movement on January 6 to show that they came within 40 feet of where Pence was hiding inside the Capitol building. The committee presented testimony showing that secret service members were attempting to get Pence out of the building, into a car and onto an evacuation route, but Pence refused — instead insisting that he wanted to finish the ceremonial count of the electoral votes.

Through Pence's lawyer Greg Jacob and retired Judge Michael Luttig, who was advising Pence on the vice presidential role leading up to January 6, the committee received testimony that Pence was being pressured by Trump both privately and publicly to try to halt or subvert the electoral count.

Included in the evidence was testimony from several witnesses — including Ivanka Trump — that on the morning of January 6, before the riots, Pence and Trump had a "heated" phone call. Witnesses from both the White House and the vice president's office testified to the call happening. Ivanka Trump testified that her father used a "different tone" than she had heard before. Ivanka's chief of staff testified that Ivanka had told her Trump called Pence a "p—sy" in the phone call. Nicholas Luna, an assistant to the president, said Trump used the word "wimp."

Fifteen minutes after rioters had breached the Capitol, Trump was informed of the situation and urged by aides to do something in order to calm the mob down. Instead, at 2:24pm EST, he tweeted that "Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done." The committee also quoted a Proud Boys informant who had told the FBI that they "would have killed Mike Pence" if given the chance.

The committee also spent considerable time focusing on John Eastman, the lawyer who helped draft a memo that laid out an illegal plan to try to halt the Electoral College count and instead count new slates of electors from battleground states like Georgia and Arizona. The committee also shared an email from Eastman after Jan. 6, in which he asked Rudy Giuliani to be put on a pardon list. Eastman pleaded the fifth over 100 times in his interviews with the committee.

Among other things, the committee emphasized:

  • Privately and publicly, before and after January 6, Trump repeatedly tried to pressure Mike Pence to intervene in the election.
  • Had Pence not held his ground, he could have taken action that would have thrown the entire country into chaos.
  • Trump knew Mike Pence was in danger on January 6, yet he encouraged the mob and continued to blame Pence anyway — even after rioters had breached the Capitol.
  • John Eastman helped draft a memo that was given to Trump which laid out a strategy to illegally interfere in the election. Eastman then asked Giuliani to be put on a pardon list and pleaded the fifth over 100 times in his interviews with the committee.
  • The day after January 6, Eastman called White House counsel Eric Herschmann and suggested a plan to contest the results of the election in Georgia. Herschmann testified that he asked Eastman if he was "out of your effing mind" and told him that he only wanted "to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: 'orderly transition.'"

On the whole, the committee tried to make it clear how close Pence came to being physically harmed because of Trump’s tweets, and how, despite that, he played a critical role in preventing the election process from being thrown into chaos.

Hearing 4.

In the fourth hearing, the Jan. 6 committee focused on the pressure Trump put on state officials in order to help him overturn the results of the 2020 election, the role other Congressional Republicans played in the scheme, and the consequences of those false allegations being publicized. Once again, the committee presented testimony from almost exclusively Trump supporting Republicans: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his deputy Gabe Sterling, Arizona House of Representatives Speaker Rusty Bowers, and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

Raffensperger, Sterling and Bowers all told the committee a different version of the same story: Trump and his team repeatedly pressured them to subvert the election by trying to install their own pro-Trump electors and ignoring the audited results they had from their election investigations. Among other things, the committee emphasized that:

  • Each witness said Trump was personally involved in contacting them and exerting pressure to overturn their state's results.
  • On the morning of Jan. 6, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) called Bowers and asked him to support the decertification of his state's electors.
  • The committee showed text messages from an aide to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (WI) to an aide to Mike Pence, in which Johnson's aide asks how to hand-deliver a set of illegitimate electors from Michigan and Wisconsin that had not been delivered to the National Archives. Pence’s aide responds by telling him not to give them to the vice president.
  • Five GOP House members, including Biggs, have still not complied with subpoenas from the committee for their testimony.

In the later parts of the hearing, the committee allowed Bowers to share how attention from the president impacted his daily life. Bowers testified about "disturbing" protests that happened at his home, and how his daughter was gravely ill at the time of protests. He read passages from his journal about friends who had turned on him because they believed he was no longer loyal to Trump.

Then, in the second half of the day, the committee interviewed Wandrea "Shaye" Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, two election workers from Atlanta. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and One America News Network made false claims about Moss carrying out a fake ballot scheme during the election. In her testimony, Moss said that people threatened to hang her for committing treason, that her son received death threats, and that people visited her grandmother's home in an attempt to make a citizen's arrest. She had to go into hiding for two months after the FBI warned her that her life may be in danger.

In sum, the committee made the case that Trump's efforts to overturn the election were multi-faceted, that he was personally involved, and that there were serious real-world consequences for the people he and his team falsely accused of orchestrating election fraud.

Hearing 5.

The fifth hearing was led by Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and turned its focus to Trump's unsuccessful attempts to weaponize the Justice Department in order to stay in power. The committee used this hearing to connect several threads of their story, emphasizing that Trump and his team were simultaneously pushing Mike Pence, members of Congress, their supporters, state legislators, state officials, and members of the Justice Department to overturn the results of the election in a multi-faceted and coordinated effort.

Instead of Republican officials, this time the committee called forward three Trump appointees: former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who led the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.

Through the testimony of these witnesses, the committee described a high-stakes oval office meeting in December of 2020 where President Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and installing Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official in the environmental division. Trump wanted to fire Rosen because he refused to publish a letter alleging that the election in Georgia was corrupt. Donoghue testified that Trump wanted the Justice Department to "just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest up to me and the Republicans."

Clark, meanwhile, had expressed support for using the powers of federal law enforcement officials to encourage state lawmakers to overturn Trump's election loss, and he had the support of Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, who introduced him to Trump.

Rosen, who was in the room for the meeting, described Clark taking heavy criticism from other Justice Department officials. Donoghue said he tore into Clark's credentials in the meeting, and the absurdity of the idea that he could serve as attorney general. In his deposition, Donoghue said he told Clark, "You're an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office, and we'll call you when there's an oil spill." Witnesses also testified that Trump was informed there would be mass resignations at the Justice Department if he tried to fire Rosen and install Clark as attorney general.

The committee also revealed that Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Scott Perry (R-PA) had all requested pardons from the president.  Brooks also sent an email to the White House, which the committee obtained, requesting a mass pardon for every congressman and senator who voted to reject the Electoral College vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Among other things, the committee emphasized that:

  • Trump wanted to fire the acting attorney general and install an underqualified replacement specifically to overturn the result of the election.
  • Trump only backed off from the plan after the Oval Office meeting where all of the high-ranking members of the Justice Department talked him out of it by threatening to resign en masse.
  • Three witnesses said top officials were pushed to investigate wild conspiracies, like the idea that Italian satellites had changed votes from Trump to Biden.
  • President Trump suggested to officials that they should seize voting machines.

Right before the hearing, Clark's home was raided by federal law enforcement, an investigative move the committee said it was not aware was going to happen.

Hearing 6.

The sixth hearing of the January 6 committee was inarguably the most dramatic (and the most controversial). It drew the most headlines, with descriptors like "shocking” or "blockbuster", and dominated social media for days. The committee’s biggest "surprise" was calling back Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Mark Meadows, President Trump's chief of staff at the time of January 6. Hutchinson had already testified four times to the committee behind closed doors, and she had recently abandoned an attorney supplied by Trump's team in order to find her own representation.

Hutchinson relayed several new claims about January 6, President Trump, and conversations she had overheard in the White House. Included in her claims were:

  • Allegations that Trump was upset his supporters were being put through metal detectors at his rally, and that he insisted: "They're not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here."
  • Allegations that President Trump had lost his temper because the Secret Service refused to take him to the Capitol after his rally, and that an agent had relayed a story to her in which Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the SUV transporting him.
  • Allegations that Trump lost his temper when the DOJ released a statement in December asserting there was no widespread voter fraud, in which he smashed his lunch against the wall and that she had helped aides clean it up.

Along with the testimony from Hutchinson, the committee presented National Security Council chat logs as evidence. In the logs, NSC officials are discussing and monitoring the movements of Trump, and at one point reference a route being cleared for him to head to the Capitol building. This contradicted Mark Meadows, who wrote in his book that Trump never intended to go to the Capitol building.

“MOGUL’s going to the Capital … they are clearing a route now,” a message sent to the chat log said (MOGUL was President Trump’s secret service code name). "MilAide has confirmed that he [Trump] wants to walk," another 12:32 p.m. message reads. "They are begging him to reconsider."

Hutchinson also testified about conversations she overheard in the Oval Office. In one, she alleges that Pat Cipollone, a White House lawyer, told Mark Meadows to "do something more" to stop the riots at the Capitol.

"They're literally calling for the vice president to be f**king hung," Hutchinson recalled Cipollone saying.

"'You heard him, Pat. He [Trump] thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong," Hutchinson said Meadows responded.

Finally, Hutchinson testified that Trump ultimately conceded that Biden had won the race on January 7th only because there was a concern that Pence and the Cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from power.

The committee emphasized that President Trump knew his supporters at the rally were armed, dangerous, and had the potential for violence. Yet he still urged them to march to the Capitol, and further encouraged them once the Capitol had been breached.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee also suggested it had evidence of witness tampering for its proceedings. One witness, the committee said, was told by someone in Trump's orbit that Trump was "thinking about you" and that "he knows you're loyal" and hopes that "you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition."

Hearing 7.

In the seventh public hearing, the Jan. 6 committee focused on how Trump's public speeches and tweets "summoned" a mob after all legal avenues proved fruitless. It also focused on the loose affiliations between Trump, his informal political advisers, and members of far-right militia groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. As evidence of their closeness to the administration, the committee played video of former Trump advisor Roger Stone taking the Proud Boys oath.

The committee used testimony from Trump’s aides, right-wing media and militia members to show that Trump's supporters believed the election was stolen because of his own words, and thought they were acting on his behalf. The committee also made the case that Trump viewed these various groups as his troops on the ground. Among other things, the committee emphasized:

  • On December 19th, 2020, Trump tweeted: “​Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
  • This tweet led many in right-wing media and far-right militias to begin rallying support and organizing for that day.
  • Supporters like Stephen Ayres, whose testimony was shared in the hearing, said “I was hanging on every word he was saying." Ayres was not planning to rush the Capitol, but decided to go after hearing Trump's speech.
  • The committee shared a never-sent draft tweet that said: “Making a big speech at 10:00 A.M. January 6 south of the White House. Please arrive early. Massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!” They used this tweet as evidence that the march to the Capitol was pre-planned, not spontaneous.
  • One text message that supported this claim came from rally organizer Kylie Kremer to MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell that said, "It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly.’”

Along with the pre-planned nature of the rally, the committee also shared more testimony from Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. He described walking into an Oval Office meeting where White House lawyers were facing off with Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, who wanted Trump to seize voting machines in an attempt to prove fraud. President Trump, at one point, tried to appoint Powell as special counsel to investigate election fraud claims (he would later distance himself from Powell, after she failed to provide the White House promised fraud evidence).

Finally, the hearing included two in-person witnesses who spoke about their radicalization and how their lives had changed since that day. One was Jason Van Tatenhove, a former national spokesman for the Oath Keepers, who said the country was "lucky" there wasn't more bloodshed. The other was Ayres, a convicted rioter, who said he lost his job, sold his house and is now a criminal because of his radicalization and because he believed Trump's lies.

Once again, Cheney ended the hearing by warning about attempts to influence witness testimony, indicating that a witness who had recently testified has received (and ignored) a call from Donald Trump in the last two weeks. Instead, the witness alerted their lawyers, who raised the issue to the committee, which then passed the information to the Justice Department. The committee had previously disclosed efforts by Trump allies to reach a witness who turned out to be Cassidy Hutchinson (from Hearing #6).

Hearing 8.

The most recent — and, for now, final — hearing occurred last night, Thursday, July 21st. In this hearing, the committee focused on Donald Trump's refusal to take any action on January 6 that could have quelled the crowd. The committee emphasized that several witnesses — including Trump's family, his top aides, Fox News personalities, and more — were trying to convince Trump for three hours to take action to calm down the rioters but he refused. Instead, he "poured gasoline on the fire" by encouraging them.

Among other things, the committee focused on witnesses with firsthand accounts and documentary evidence that showed:

  • Trump did not want to say "stay peaceful" in his tweets, and the Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews (who resigned on January 6) did not think his tweets went far enough to stop the attack.
  • Trump did not place a single call to law enforcement or national security officials as the attack was unfolding. Gen. Mark Milley expressed astonishment at this fact: “You know, you're the Commander in Chief,” he said in his testimony. “You’ve got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America, and there's nothing? No call? Nothing? Zero?"
  • In never-before-seen outtakes from Trump's January 7 address, he says he does not want to say that the "election is over."
  • Members of the secret service feared for their lives so much that they placed calls to loved ones.
  • The committee confirmed in interviews with senior law enforcement, military leaders, the vice president's staff, and D.C. government officials that Trump did not contact anyone that day for help quelling the violence.

Among their new evidence, the committee shared radio chatter from Pence's security detail in which panicked voices can be heard saying "we need to move now" to evacuate Pence, and "if we lose any more time we may lose the ability to do so." The committee also showed video footage immediately following Trump's 2:24pm tweet, in which the crowd becomes noticeably more agitated. It showed outtakes from Trump's January 7 address, in which he is reluctant to say the election is over. It also showed video footage of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), not long after lifting a fist to the crowd in solidarity outside the Capitol, running through the hallways to safety inside the Capitol.

The committee's argument in this hearing was that Trump's dereliction of duty put Congress, Capitol police, and his own vice president in danger. It contrasted his behavior with Vice President Pence's, who was working the phones from inside the Capitol building trying to get assistance. The committee also emphasized that once the rioters breached the Capitol premises, Trump didn't just not call for help, but egged rioters on, tweeting that Mike Pence did not have the courage to act. The hearing covered the 187 minutes between the time Trump called on his supporters to march to the Capitol until he told them all to "go home" in an address where he repeated claims he had actually won the election, but insisted there had to be peace.

Finally, the committee also alluded to evidence partially corroborating the story of Cassidy Hutchinson, in which two witnesses — one a former White House employee and the other a retired Washington, DC, police Sgt. named Mark Robinson — both said Trump had "heated" conversations with secret service and attempted to get them to take him to the Capitol after his rally.

The committee chairs said they will be resuming their hearings in September, but no dates have been set.

The questions.

With all of this testimony and evidence in mind, it's also worth acknowledging a few of the counterpoints out there.

For starters, as we mentioned at the top, many Trump supporters insist the committee is irredeemably biased. Without any allies of the president on the committee, his team is incapable of calling his own witnesses to counteract any of the testimony that has been heard over the last two months. Among many other things, those criticizing the committee's work focus on a few omissions and facts about the testimony:

  • At his rally, President Trump calls on supporters to be peaceful. He says, directly, "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard." He also suggested people get out and vote if Republicans don't fight for him: "If they don't fight, we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don't fight," Trump said. "You primary them. We're going to let you know who they are."
  • According to The New York Times and Washington Post timelines, the first breach of outer perimeter Capitol barriers was a little before 1 p.m. EST, about 20 minutes before Trump's speech ended. Rioters did not break into the Capitol building until somewhere between 2:11 and 2:16 p.m.. At 2:38 p.m., Trump tweeted his first plea to rioters: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” Trump wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Rather than waiting "three hours," as the committee suggests, Trump's supporters contend he pleaded for peace just 23 minutes after the Capitol was breached.
  • Members of the committee have conceded they are not corroborating their witness testimony that may undermine their narrative. When Cassidy Hutchinson's story about Trump attempting to grab the steering wheel of SUV was called into question, and evidence undermined her suggestion about where and when she saw a White House lawyer, the committee's Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) conceded in an interview that the committee did not try to corroborate Hutchinson's testimony. “We never call in witnesses to corroborate other witnesses or to give their reaction to other witnesses,” Lofgren said. But the committee has repeatedly done that when attempting to negatively frame Trump.
  • The committee has not spent any time probing security failures from the day of January 6. Despite multiple witnesses testifying that they knew violence may be imminent on January 6, there was very little police presence. Trump actually called for National Guard troops to be present, though he believed they'd be there to protect "his people" while other officials worried about armed guards surrounding the Capitol during what was supposed to be a peaceful transfer of power. In fact, the outgoing Capitol police chief says he was turned down when suggesting the National Guard protect the Capitol, and that House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, overseen by Pelosi, thought it would be "bad optics."
  • At least one series of text messages presented to the committee by Adam Schiff were edited on-screen to make it look like a Republican member of Congress was instructing Mark Meadows to have Pence unilaterally throw out votes to overturn an election. But the text messages Schiff presented as screenshots were actually edited to remove context that it was a forwarded message from Washington attorney and former Department of Defense Inspector General Joseph Schmitz. Trump supporters have argued this is just one egregious example of the committee doctoring evidence to negatively frame Republican members of Congress.
  • There are also still outstanding questions about the day that many want investigated. Namely, what kind of federal law enforcement presence there was, what happened to the purported bombs that were placed around the Capitol, and what deleted text messages from secret service agents reveal from that day (some believe they will undermine testimony we’ve heard so far in the hearings).

Despite all the hype, critics of the January 6 hearing still contend that — at the end of the day — there is no evidence that Donald Trump encouraged rioters to enter the Capitol, to break in, to bring weapons, or to hurt anyone. There is still doubt about whether Trump will personally face any charges, and there is no testimony that he communicated directly or privately with anyone who broke into the Capitol that day. While members of Trump's team have purportedly had contact with violent extremists, one of the few pieces of evidence we have of those contacts was an unnamed White House official rebuffing an attempt to contact the president.

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. It is meant to be one perspective amid many others. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, you can reply to this email and write to me directly or, if you are a paying subscriber, leave a comment.

In the most concise manner possible, I'm going to try to summarize what we now know about January 6 and the efforts to overturn the election.

As the final returns began to trickle in on election night, several high-ranking officials on Trump's team understood that the race would be tight and the president could lose — and most knew the vote tally could take days to complete. Despite that, Trump responded by prematurely announcing he had won the election, against his aides’ advice. A few days later, when it became increasingly clear Trump was falling behind in critical swing states, his top data analyst informed him he was going to lose. Trump responded by insisting the results were wrong, stolen or corrupted.

Rather than concede his campaign may have failed, Trump used the power of the presidency to try to change the outcome.

Over the course of a few months, he trotted out a team of lawyers who claimed they had evidence of corrupted voting machines (which they never produced). He pressured lawyers at the Justice Department to produce evidence that the election was stolen (which they could not find). He then pressured those officials to state to the public the election was corrupt (which, having no evidence of, they refused to do). Failing to get the Justice Department to act, the president turned his attention to state and federal legislators and officials, including those from critical swing states like Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

In various calls, the president asked these officials to submit alternate electors, find enough votes via recount to change the election results, refuse to certify election results, or produce legal challenges to election tallies that had already been certified.

Meanwhile, high-ranking members of the president's team produced memos claiming the election was stolen and lawyers drafted multi-pronged plans to send invalid electors to Congress. The fake electors plan was so extensive that they actually met in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on December 14, 2020. Many of the electors met at the direction of the White House, despite being advised that their plan was illegal.

At one point, the president went as far as suggesting the military seize voting machines, and an executive order to that effect was even drafted (which his lawyers then tried to hide from the committee). As these various efforts to overturn the election failed, the president simultaneously called a rally for January 6 in Washington D.C. — the day the electors were to be ceremonially counted — and began a full-court press on his vice president to halt or derail the counting of those electors (which marks the official conclusion of the election). Trump continued to pressure Pence privately until the morning of January 6, when several aides and the president's own daughter testified to a combative phone call between the two, in which Trump repeatedly questioned Pence's courage because of his refusal to throw the country into a Constitutional crisis.

As Trump delivered his speech on January 6, his supporters began to breach the outer perimeter of the Capitol, at which point Trump concluded his rally and invited those supporters to "peacefully and patriotically" March to Congress and make their voices heard. He then attempted to join them in that march, but the secret service detail guarding the president that day refused. As Trump became aware that his supporters, some of whom he believed to be armed, had breached the Capitol, he first responded by repeating the claim that it was Pence's fault the election was being certified against him. Shortly after, he communicated to his supporters that the police were not their enemy, and asked them to keep the "peace."

After the Capitol building had been breached and ransacked, Trump released a video once again claiming that the election had been stolen, but also insisting his supporters go home. This sort of tightrope walking — where the president was both insisting that the race was stolen but also insisting his supporters not do the rational thing if that were really true (which is to fight the process ) — persisted into the next day. According to several witnesses interviewed by the committee, Trump reluctantly conceded the election had been certified (without saying it was over) for fear that his Cabinet might invoke the 25th amendment and remove him from office.

As I've said before, these transgressions are not all equal. We could debate how many times the president uttered the word "peace" or what person in Trump's orbit had contact with a far-right militia member or whether Trump actually tried to grab the steering wheel of the SUV or if Adam Schiff unfairly edited a text message from Rep. Jim Jordan to make him look as bad as possible.

But all of that is just small potatoes — minor details washed away in a sea of far more serious and incriminating realities laid out above, all of which we have clear evidence for.

The president called Republican state officials in swing states in an obvious attempt to find votes or de-certify elections, which is substantiated by audio recordings and emails. He attempted to weaponize the Justice Department to produce evidence he wanted, so much so that his own appointees threatened to resign, which we have sworn testimony of. And worse than all of that is what we have heard documented evidence of: Trump’s staff produced plans to divert from the legal process of tallying legitimate state electors, and Trump and his team drafted an executive order calling on the military to seize voting machines.

Either or both of those events, with sufficient participation, would have set off a true constitutional crisis and almost certainly a wave of political violence in the streets. Trump and his legal team used every avenue possible to try to keep him in power after he lost an election that was certified and stamped for approval by every state authority responsible for deciding whether elections are free and fair.

I've long resisted the most serious language about Trump and January 6, waiting to see the evidence that was presented, but the sum total of these events — the attempt to use the Justice Department, the desire to illegally seize voting machines, the pressuring of state officials, the creation of fake electors, the pressuring of the vice president — all of it together is closer to an attempted coup than it is to mere sour grapes. And we have a great deal of evidence supporting that narrative.

That’s why a lot of people are changing their minds. Some legal experts now believe Trump may be vulnerable to charges. It has led writers like Batya Ungar-Sargon to concede there was a lot more to learn than she thought. And it’s made people like me feel as if things were a good deal worse than we initially understood — and I always thought it was a disaster.

Again: There are details up for debate. And there are still questions pending about the violence at the Capitol, the involvement of federal law enforcement informants, the extent to which some politicians supported this effort, and how many people involved truly believed the election was stolen.

But it is what was happening out of sight — in the oval office, in Congress, at the state level, and behind closed doors — that is the most damning. It's not a hoax and it's not a witch hunt. It may be deeply political, and Democrats are certainly using every available tool to make their opponents in Congress look as bad as possible, but the actions of the former president and his allies who participated in these schemes didn't make it particularly hard to do.

Note: A previous version of this article referenced Trump attempting to grab the steering wheel of The Beast, the famous vehicle that often transports the president. In fact, he was driving in an SUV at the time of the purported incident.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.