Jan. 6 hearings: Here's what we've learned about the U.S. Capitol attack so far

WATCH: January 6 committee votes to subpoena Trump

The committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol has effectively wrapped up its series of public hearings that have shed light on the riot itself while also examining the events that led up to it.

The latest hearing in October ended dramatically, with the panel voting unanimously to subpoena Donald Trump — the “central player” in the committee’s investigation, according to members — to testify. A final report is now set to be issued later this year or by early 2023.

Throughout its hearings so far, the committee has laid out evidence showing how Trump and his allies sought to overturn the 2020 election after spreading false claims that the vote was “stolen” — inspiring anger among his supporters that ultimately led to the attack.

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Several bombshell revelations have laid out how Trump, clinging to increasingly outlandish theories of voter fraud, tried to pressure state officials and his own Justice Department to interfere in the election. The committee has also presented evidence of the involvement of multiple White House aides and Republican lawmakers, some of whom were in contact with extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who participated in the riot.

Here’s what has been revealed from the hearings that have been held to date:

The first public hearing on June 9, held in primetime and watched by at least 20 million people, laid out the committee’s case as the story of a president eager to prove the election had been stolen, and who then sat back and watched as his supporters beat police and broke into the Capitol.

Video was played from depositions with several senior Trump administration officials and chief advisers — including Trump’s daughter Ivanka — that revealed they rejected the various claims of election fraud being circulated by the president and his allies.

Evidence was also presented showing Trump not only refused to intervene when the Capitol was breached, but also appeared to support some of the rioters’ calls for his vice-president, Mike Pence, to be hanged for refusing to intervene in Congress’ certification of the election.

A U.S. Capitol Police officer, Caroline Edwards, told the committee at the hearing she was “slipping in people’s blood” after trying to hold off the initial breach of the Capitol grounds. She was briefly knocked unconscious, but got back up to rejoin the fight, an incident captured on video.

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The hearing ended with a montage of people who had stormed the Capitol, including members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, testifying they had travelled to Washington because they believed they were following Trump’s orders.

“Donald Trump was at the centre of this conspiracy,” the committee’s chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson said.

The second hearing on June 13 delved into how Trump and allies like Rudy Giuliani relentlessly spread claims about the election, only to double down when those claims were proven to be false or move on to even more outlandish theories.

In videotaped testimony, Trump’s attorney general William Barr said the increasingly “crazy” theories being spread by Trump and others were “bogus” — a message echoed by a long list of aides and advisers, whose testimony was also shown.

“He’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” Barr said in video played at the hearing, speaking of Trump.

Witnesses at this hearing included a U.S. attorney from Atlanta and a Republican election commissioner in Pennsylvania, among the hundreds of officials from around the country who investigated various fraud claims and concluded they were baseless.

At the third hearing, on June 16, the committee focused on Trump’s pressure campaign on Pence to help overturn his election loss by stopping its certification and sending the results back to the states for review.

The case for Pence to do this was laid out by lawyer John Eastman, who argued legal loopholes allowed it. But testimony from legal scholars and aides showed Trump and his allies had been told the plan was “nuts,” “crazy” and illegal, only for them to push ahead with it anyway.

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Eastman, who was shown repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid answering questions during testimony, later asked for a presidential pardon in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack, the committee showed.

After Pence refused to go along with the plan, the committee showed how Trump, knowing his vice-president was inside the Capitol, whipped the crowd into a frenzy by tweeting Pence had no “courage.” Rioters were shown chanting “Hang Mike Pence” inside the building, while a graphic showed Pence came within 40 feet of a group of rioters as he fled for a safe room underground.

“Make no mistake about the fact that the vice-president’s life was in danger,” committee member Rep. Pete Aguilar said during the hearing.

On June 21, the fourth hearing zeroed in on how Trump and others pressured state officials to go along with claims of voter fraud, including using them as an excuse to send fake slates of electors to Congress — which the president’s team was also told was illegal.

The plan, the committee revealed, was to sow enough confusion and doubt about the results that Pence and other lawmakers would have no choice but to send the election back to the states.

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But Republican officials — including Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — testified they would no go along with such schemes based on non-existent evidence.

“I didn’t want to be used as a pawn,” Bowers told the committee. He recalled telling Trump, “You are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.”

Refusing Trump’s pressure campaign opened Bowers, Raffensperger and other election officials and even lower-level workers to death threats, protests outside their homes and harassment. Wandrea Moss, a Georgia election worker, testified her life was destroyed after Trump and Giuliani named her and her mother, Ruby Freeman, as conspiring to alter and steal ballots.

“It’s turned my life upside-down,” Moss told the committee. “It’s affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies.”

Trump’s efforts to strongarm the Justice Department to validate his election fraud claims was the focus of the fifth hearing on June 23, including a failed scheme to install a loyalist as attorney general.

Jeffrey Rosen, who became acting attorney general after Barr stepped down in December 2020, testified he was bombarded by daily requests from Trump and his top allies to investigate increasingly outlandish claims of fraud.

Rosen and his chief deputy, Richard Donaghue, told the committee how Trump prodded the department at various points to seize voting machines, to appoint a special counsel to probe fraud claims and to simply declare the election corrupt “and leave the rest to me and (Republican) congressmen.”

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It all culminated in an extraordinary Oval Office meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, when Trump threatened to fire Rosen and replace him with Jeff Clark, an environmental lawyer who was supportive of Trump’s claims of a stolen election.

Rosen and Donaghue, already aware of Clark’s growing influence and plans to crack down on the election if appointed attorney general, told Trump such a move would cause the mass resignation of senior Justice Department leadership.

“It may well had spiraled us into a constitutional crisis,” Donaghue testified.

A surprise sixth hearing, held on June 28, was the most explosive to date.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified the president not only knew his supporters were armed and threatening violence before the riot began, but urged them to march to the Capitol anyway.

“They’re not here to hurt me,” she recalled Trump saying before his speech at a rally on the Ellipse the morning of the riot. She added he wanted security checkpoints removed so those who were armed could further bolster the size of the crowd.

She also testified she witnessed Meadows silently refusing to step in as the violence got out of control, telling White House counsel Pat Cipollone that Trump “thinks Mike deserves it” when told of rioters chanting for Pence to be hung. “He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” she recalled Meadows saying.

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Hutchinson also painted a portrait of Trump’s anger. She shared an anecdote she had heard about Trump trying to grab the steering wheel of his presidential vehicle following his Jan. 6 speech, after the Secret Service told him he couldn’t join the march to the Capitol.

At another point, she recalled the messy aftermath of Trump flinging his lunch against the wall in December 2020, after learning Barr had disputed his claims of election fraud.

At the end of the hearing, the committee’s vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney — one of two Republicans on the committee — revealed evidence of alleged witness tampering efforts by Trump allies.

The seventh hearing, held on July 12, focused on how Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020, tweet announcing a “big protest” on Jan. 6 “served as a call to action and in some cases as a call to arms” for far-right extremists, according to the committee.

Two witnesses — a rioter who has pleaded guilty to entering the Capitol, and a former Oath Keeper who described his experiences with the group — backed up the committee’s argument that Trump had incited the mob.

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“Basically we were just following what the president said,” the rioter, Stephen Ayres, testified, adding he has since realized Trump’s stolen election claims were false.

Through video testimony, the committee also detailed an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 between Trump, Giuliani, Sidney Powell and other allies that aides called “unhinged,” which devolved into “screaming” as White House lawyers pushed back on their election fraud theories. Trump’s first tweet about the Jan. 6 protest was sent just hours after that meeting ended.

The committee also revealed a draft, never-sent tweet from Trump that would have announced a march to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse, as well as other communications by rally organizers proving the march wasn’t spontaneous, but part of “a deliberate strategy.”

At the end, Cheney once again revealed a potential case of attempted witness tampering — only this time, it appeared Trump himself was trying to call a witness. She said the incident has been reported to the Justice Department.

The committee used its eighth hearing on July 21 to present a minute-by-minute accounting of the 187 minutes between the end of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse and the release of a video from the Rose Garden where he told the rioters to go home.

During that time, according to witness testimony and other evidence, Trump mostly watched TV footage of the attack and did not make a single call to the Pentagon, law enforcement or even Pence. Instead, the president continued his pressure campaign on Republican lawmakers to stall the election certification, while resisting repeated calls from his aides and family to call off the mob.

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the other Republican committee member, said the lack of action was “a complete dereliction of duty” on Trump’s part.

“President Trump did not fail to act” during those three hours, he said. “He chose not to act.”

In testimony, former national security aide Matthew Pottinger and deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews told the committee how Trump’s behaviour — particularly his continued social media attacks on Pence and calling the rioters “special” — disgusted them and led them to resign.

Outtakes from the Rose Garden video revealed Trump went off a planned script and softened language that would have condemned the attack. Similarly, while filming a video the next day, raw footage showed him refusing to say the election was over.

 

After a three-month break, the committee reconvened on Oct. 13 to document its key findings so far, using a mixture of old and new evidence and testimony to drive home Trump’s “premeditated” effort to declare victory and try to overturn the election.

Alarming messages showed how U.S. Secret Service agents — including those assigned to protect Trump and Pence — knew of the potential for violence days and even weeks before the Capitol attack.

The panel also showed previously unseen footage of congressional leaders phoning for help during the assault as Trump refused to call off the mob. The video showed how Pence, not Trump, ultimately worked to assure lawmakers order would be restored to the Capitol while helping to mobilize law enforcement.

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Testimony from Trump aides recounting how they refuted claims of election fraud directly to the president were juxtaposed with Trump spreading those same false claims days later, underscoring his refusal to admit defeat despite knowing he had lost.

“There is no defence that Donald Trump was duped or irrational,” said Cheney. “No president can defy the rule of law and act this way in our constitutional republic, period.”

At the end of the meeting, the committee voted unanimously to subpoena Trump to testify under oath. Trump is almost certain to fight the subpoena and decline to testify.

Yet Cheney also made clear that the committee is considering whether to send its findings in a criminal referral to the Justice Department, though did not say if Trump himself would be implicated.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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