The most explosive moments so far — and to come — as the Jan. 6 committee lays out its case to show Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election and his connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
After more than a year of investigations and thousands of hours of depositions, the Jan. 6 committee is looking to prove that former president Donald Trump had a plan to overturn the 2020 election.
Today, a look at the most explosive moments so far — and to come — as the committee lays out its case to show Trump’s connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and the role he may have played in spreading debunked conspiracy theories that the election he lost two years ago was rigged.
Read the full transcript here.
Host: Gustavo Arellano
Guests: L.A. Times reporter Sarah D. Wire
Jan. 6 attack on Capitol was the ‘culmination of an attempted coup,’ panel chairman says
Trump ignored repeated warnings from Barr, advisors that election fraud claims were ‘bogus’
What’s the TV schedule for the next Jan. 6 committee hearings?
CLIP: [Insurrection ambi] This is now effectively a riot…they’ve breached the line. We need backup.
[00:00:19] THEME MUX IN
[00:00:20] Gustavo: January 6th, 2021. It wasn't just a riot on the U.S. Capitol, the deaths, including five police officers, democracy on the precipice. People wanted answers.
This past week, nearly 20 million people tuned in to the first of several live congressional hearings on the January 6th attack.
After more than a year of investigations and thousands of hours of depositions, the committee is looking to prove that former president Donald Trump had a plan to overturn the 2020 election.
I'm Gustavo Arellano. You're listening to “The Times,” daily news from the LA Times. It's THURSDAY , June 16th, 2022.
THEME MUX OUT
Bennie Thompson: This morning, we'll tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election and knew he lost an election. And as a result of his loss, decided to wage an attack on our democracy.
Gustavo: Today, a select committee of nine members of Congress — seven Democrats and two Republicans — are putting a spotlight on Trump's relationship with the January 6 Capitol insurrection and what role he may have played in spreading debunked conspiracy theories that the election he lost two years ago was rigged.
MUX fade out
Here to talk about all of this, my LA Times colleague and national security reporter, Sarah D. Wire.
Gustavo: Sarah, welcome to “The Times.”
Sarah: Thanks for having me.
Gustavo: You were there on Capitol Hill during the January 6th insurrection. And you've been covering the hearings taking place. What's the mood been like?
Sarah: It seems like there's a lot of focus on compiling whatever truth they can. This is going to be the only record of what happened at this point. Nothing else is planned when it comes to an outside committee or commission doing a full investigation.
[00:02:18] Gustavo: The committee is laying out a roadmap of Trump's role in January 6th. That started last week. What's been their strategy to present their case?
[00:02:27] Sarah: They're trying to make the argument that, you know, President Trump summoned a mob, as, kind of, a last-ditch effort. You know, he spent weeks and months pushing this, these claims that the election had been stolen and that the only way that he had lost was fraud. And that because of his words, is why people came to the Capitol and were violent that day.
Tape: riot ambi
[00:02:54] Gustavo: There's already been thousands of hours of video footage and photos depicting all the chaos and violence that we saw in January 6th. And yet the committee is also showing never before released clips as well.
[00:03:04] RIOTER: I am not allowed to say what's going to happen today because everyone's just going to have to watch for themselves, but it's going to happen.
[00:03:14] Sarah: They've hinted that they have evidence, that there was a connection between people in Trump's orbit and some of these violent extremists, like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. We haven't seen that yet. I imagine we might see that sometime next week, but the footage they've been showing, it's there to remind Americans what happened. We're talking about something that was over a year and a half ago.
[00:03:39] CLIP: USA! USA! Who's your 50? It looks like we're going to have an ad hoc march stepping off here. There’s a crowd surge heading east.
[00:03:46] Sarah: So many of us have seen that footage over and over and over. And when they're presenting brand new footage, that's a real way to capture people's attention.
[00:03:55] Gustavo: Yeah, you have all this footage, but you also have testimony from people who were there, were affected. And one of the most chilling accounts so far was from a Capitol police officer who… she got pretty graphic about what happened to her and what she was seeing.
[00:04:09] Caroline Edwards: It was something like I'd seen out of the movies. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I mean, I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people's blood.
[00:04:27] Sarah: The officer the first day, there was just complete silence in the room when she testified. And this was one of the very first officers to be injured that day.
Sarah: When the first barricades were breached, she was shoved backwards so that her head hit a concrete step. And when she regained consciousness, she rushed back into the fray to try to keep people from, getting inside the building. And she described it as a war zone.
Sarah: Desperately trying to clean bear spray, pepper spray out of eyes and slipping in the blood of her colleagues as they endured hours of hand-to-hand combat. And in some ways, this was the committee's attempt to address the Republicans who have been downplaying what happened on January 6th as not that big of a deal.
Sarah: You know, there's the famous line that one member said that, you know, it's, “Oh, if you didn't know there were violence, you would just think it was a regular tourist visit.”
Gustavo: Coming up after the break, the reactions to the hearing so far, including the explosive moment where Liz Cheney alleged that several Republicans wanted pardons after the January 6th attack.
[00:05:47] Gustavo: Sarah, // one of the surprising revelations so far is former Attorney General Bill Barr and what he's been saying about what he remembers in the weeks leading up to January 6th, because he resigned just before that happened.
[00:06:00] Sarah: Yeah, he has stressed repeatedly to the committee that he told Trump that the fraud claims that he was presenting were false.
[00:06:07] Barr: Three discussions with the president that I can recall. I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president it was bullsh*#.
[00:06:18] Sarah: That the department of justice had looked into the ones they could, but found no evidence that would actually overturn an election.
[00:06:27] Barr: I observed, uh, I think it was on December 1st that, you know, how can we, you can't live in a world where, where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that the election, that there was fraud in the election.
[00:06:44] Sarah: We heard in the committee hearings that he finally decided that he had to say something by December 1st and after he told the Associated Press that he had seen no evidence of fraud, he went to the White House expecting to be fired that day.
[00:06:58] Barr: I told my secretary that I thought I would probably be fired and told not to, to go home. I mean, not to go back to my office. So I said, you might have to pack up for me.
[00:07:07] Sarah: He wasn't fired that day, but he said the president was very upset and it wasn't until two weeks later, when the Electoral College had actually voted and to approve Joe Biden as the winner of the election, that he had another meeting with the president and the president handed him a report of a forensic audit from a rural county in Michigan saying that that would be enough evidence to ensure that he had a second term.
[00:07:34] Barr: I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public, that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn't count in that these machines controlled by somebody else we're actually determining it, which was complete nonsense. And it was being laid out there. And I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that.
[00:08:04] Sarah: Barr told the committee that that's when he decided he..he had to go, that Trump had lost touch with reality, I believe is the quote.
[00:08:11] Gustavo: And there's other evidence that the committee is putting forth interviews with Trump's inner circle. Who's been showing up so far. And what are they saying?
[00:08:20] Sarah: You know, it's really fascinating. These depositions are things have been rumored to be out there, but we haven't been sure of. You know, there have been over a thousand depositions given in the last year of investigations but this has all happened behind closed doors. And they are really letting the people in Trump's orbit….
[00:08:42] AP: President Trump's own campaign advisors, his department of justice and his cybersecurity experts all told him the same thing. Here for example, is White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, his view was shared by many of the Trump team whom we interviewed.
[00:08:59] Clip: I thought the dominion stuff was, I never saw any evidence whatsoever to sustain those allegations.
[00:09:06] Sarah: His family…
[00:09:09] Ivanka Trump: I respect Attorney General Barr, um so I accepted what he sent was saying.
[00:09:13] Sarah: The members of his administration, his campaign, tell the story for them, rather than them do it themselves.
[00:09:22] Gustavo: In that last clip, Ivanka Trump was shown, agreeing with Barr’s assessment, that there was no electoral fraud. What was Trump's response?
[00:09:29] Sarah: You know, he said that at that point, she had already checked out and that she wasn't involved in the election and that she really didn't know what she was talking about.
[00:09:37] Gustavo: Damn. I'm surprised that some of these haven't been leaked out before, you know, especially at a time like ours, where there's all sorts of leaks coming from // D.C.
[00:09:47] Sarah: So am I to be frank. I mean, the only reason we even know for sure that people like Ivanka Trump spoke to the committee is because you had reporters standing in a hallway waiting to see who came out from giving a deposition. They have not broadcast who violated a subpoena versus who actually showed up, you know, voluntarily, who presented them with these hundreds of thousands of pages of documents. And I talked to committee members and they've really stressed that they are trying to boil down a mountain. And even now the public is only going to get a small glimpse of the evidence that they've managed to collect.
[00:10:25] Gustavo: Sarah, one of the standout moments that people are talking about so far is when Republican Scott Perry was allegedly among multiple Republican congressmen who sought a pardon in the wake of the January 6th attack. What has been the reaction to that on Capitol Hill?
[00:10:39] Sarah: Explosive. Because you don't often have a member of Congress make that kind of accusation about other members of Congress in a public hearing.
[00:10:49] AP: Representative Scott Perry, who was also involved in trying to get Clark appointed as attorney general has refused to testify here. As you will see, representative Perry contacted the White House in the weeks after January 6th to seek a presidential pardon. Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles and attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
[00:11:15] Sarah: People want to know who are among these other Republicans, obviously representative Perry and his staff deny that this happened. But the committee has been very careful so far to make sure that they don't state anything that they cannot verify with some kind of evidence, whether it's documents or testimony. And so they've promised that the public is going to see this evidence at some point in the next two weeks.
[00:11:40] Gustavo: There were efforts at first to make this a bipartisan committee, but that mostly failed because the Republican party leadership, they got angry when committee members that they suggested from their party were rejected for allegedly being too loyal to Trump. So what's the significance of having someone like Wyoming representative, Liz Cheney, being one of the few Republicans on the committee?
[00:12:04] Sarah: We've seen already in the hearings that she is kind of the biggest firebomb thrower. I mean, all the really gasp-worthy moments have come from Liz Cheney,
[00:12:18] AP: Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power. In our hearings, you will see evidence of each element of this plan.
[00:12:33] Sarah: Liz Cheney was the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress before the committee was created, but she was cut out of House leadership because she kept commenting and kept blaming Trump for what happened on January 6th. And she's already lost more than almost any other Republican. She was publicly criticized by the Republican National Committee. President Trump is endorsing her opponent and Republicans are flocking there to support her opponent. We kind of joked earlier today, she's taking no prisoners. She believes that she's saving the Republican party.
[00:13:12] AP: And aware of the rioters chants to hang Mike Pence.
Ambi: Hang Mike Pence. Bring Him out.
AP: The president responded with this sentiment, quote, maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence, quote, deserves it.
Ambi up and then out?
[00:13:25] Gustavo: On the other hand you have had also a lot of people who were crucial to the Trump administration, just refusing to testify. Steve Bannon, I'm thinking, Peter Navarro, they're getting hit with criminal contempt, right? For not showing up?
[00:13:40] Sarah: Yeah. The committee has pursued criminal contempt of Congress charges for a handful of people in Trump's orbit who worked in the administration. Those are all tied up in court right now. And so, the committee is moving forward with the evidence they have and the information they have. The one thing they really did was go around some of these key players by interviewing their aides or people who were maybe in the room and took notes. And so that's a lot of the information we're going to see is maybe from not these big key players. Vice President Mike Pence is very unlikely to testify, but we're going to hear from the people who are in the room with him.
[00:14:20] Gustavo: What threats have committee members been receiving?
[00:14:24] Sarah: The U.S. Capitol police won't comment on anything having to do with member safety, but I'm hearing that the phone lines into these committee offices are pretty packed and there are enough threats coming through that warrant being forwarded to Capitol police. The people are worried, you know, I was in a member's office this week as a Capitol police officer just popped his head in the door and said, you know, everyone, okay in here? Most members of Congress don't get that just routinely. But the Capitol police have really stepped that up since the hearings have started just physical checks on each of the members. You know, in the Monday hearing,
Sarah: We even saw that the chairman Bennie Thompson asked the audience to stay put while the Capitol police escorted the members of the committee out of the room.That's not normal behavior for a committee hearing.
Gustavo: More…after the break.
Gustavo: Sarah, the committee so far has teased big bombshells. Have they happened yet?
Sarah: We're starting to see drips and drabs. I had to laugh a little bit on Monday when people were saying that, you know, that hearing was not as exciting as the first one. And it's like, oh, there were 51 Watergate hearings, they weren't all exciting either. Sometimes it’s just setting up the narrative and laying the groundwork, but I imagine we're going to hear some bombshells. The biggest thing that came out of Monday's hearing was a member of the Trump campaign saying directly that Rudy Giuliani appeared to be intoxicated on election night while he was telling Trump that he had to declare victory, despite a large number of the votes not having been counted.
Rudy intoxicated tape:tell me more about that. What was your observation about his. Uh, potential intoxication during that, that discussion about what the president should say, uh, when he's addressed the nation on election night and the mayor was definitely intoxicated, but I do not, um, know that his level of, to intoxication when he spoke, uh, with the president, for example.
Sarah: You could actually hear an audible gasp in the committee room when that happened.
Gustavo: All the humongous issues in our country, going back decades, the most famous one of course is Watergate. How does the January six hearings so far compare to that? Or maybe other hearings from the past?
Sarah: I was talking to an expert the other day and he said that a successful history changing hearing has a handful of things. One is that it's not that partisan, which this committee is not because Republicans largely chose not to participate. Another was that they don't let the members of Congress talk too much. Instead they let the staff ask questions or let the witnesses do most of the talking. And so far, those two things have happened. And the third thing is obviously, you know, keeping Americans' attention and that's the one that's really going to be the big question here is, you know, how do you keep American's attention on something that happened a year and a half ago that doesn't seem to directly affect their daily lives. And when I talk with the members of Congress, they say that they're going to talk about the long-term ramifications of just because the attempt to steal the election didn't work this time doesn't mean they didn't set up a template for how to do it in the future. They're hoping that at some point they can really drive that home, that this is an ongoing threat to democracy, not just one that happened in the past.
Gustavo: How long are these hearings expected to continue? And what else can we expect?
Sarah: The committee is going to talk about the campaign to convince the department of justice to say that there was election fraud and that certain states should not certify their electors. Trump's plan to replace the acting attorney general with a Trump supporter because he wouldn't comply. They're expected to talk about the pressure campaign on vice president, Mike Pence. And then next week, we're going to hear about kind of that last mad scramble, the involvement of some of these domestic extremism groups and what president Trump was doing for those 187 minutes between his speech at the Ellipse and when he sent out the video telling his supporters to go home and that they were well loved.
Gustavo: Finally, I just want to remind listeners that we've had you on The Times with your own experience covering the January 6 insurrection and what happened to you there at the Capitol. Do these hearings so far change anything about that for you?
MUX fade in
Sarah: No, I, I remind myself a lot that what I experienced that day was a small sliver of what was happening on Capitol grounds.
Sarah: I was in the House chamber. I was with members of Congress. I was in a safe room. Whereas, you know, I have colleagues who were in the crowd. I know reporters who were beaten and bloodied that day. I know people whose lives were threatened.
Sarah: Watching these hearings, brings some of that back. I'm learning as much as our listeners are.
Gustavo: Sarah, thank you so much for this conversation.
Sarah: Thanks for having me.
Gustavo: A special thanks to our national and D.C. team for their live coverage of the hearings. Editors, reporters, video and digital — all of y'all's are the real MVPs. They're live blogging, tweeting notes and analysis on the hearings at latimes.com or on Twitter at LA Times. Be sure to follow us there.
Outro mux in
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