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Editor’s note: Today’s Morning Shots is a Team Bulwark symposium of sorts— with contributions from my colleagues Bill Kristol, Will Saletan, Mona Charen, and Amanda Carpenter, as well my own reaction to last night’s hearing. Happy Friday!
We knew the overall picture, but the details are nonetheless horrific.
As Capitol police battled rioters, Secret Service agents feared for their lives, and legislators fled to safety, the President of the United States sat in his dining room and refused pleas to call it off. For hours, he watched television, never once calling the Defense Department, the D.C. National Guard, or anyone else in law enforcement.
Instead he dialed senators urging them to delay the certification of the presidential vote. And amidst the height of the chaos and the terror, he inflamed the mob he had sent by sending out a tweet attacking his own vice president.
Please let all of that settle in.
Trump didn’t call off the mob, because it was doing precisely what he wanted; and he was using the delay caused by the attack to lobby his allies to help execute his coup. Only when it was apparent that the assault on the Capitol had failed, did he bother to call off his Insurrection. And, as we saw on his “blooper reel” last night, he refused to say that the election was over, even after the violence, and after the congressional vote to certify Joe Biden’s victory.
My colleague, Amanda Carpenter points out, it’s not true that Trump “did nothing” while the capitol was under attack. “He specifically, deliberately, and maliciously sent out a tweet to put a target on Mike Pence’s back while Pence was being whisked away to safety from the mob.” (Make sure you read her piece in today’s Bulwark: “Where Was Kevin McCarthy?”)
The committee highlighted all of the attempts to get Trump to do something, anything, to stop the violence. The belated result was a bizarre video in which he repeated his lies about the election, and told the rioters, "Go home, we love you. You are very special.”
This apparently marked the end of Trump’s day, and folks at the White House reportedly were “emotionally drained” — even though the fighting at the Capitol continued to rage.
Here’s the reaction from Sergeant Aquilino Gonell:
It was like a medieval battleground. With our lives in peril, I would have been justified in using lethal force. But I didn’t want to spark a massacre.
Over the course of the five-hour struggle, my hands were bloodied from being smashed by a stolen police baton. My right foot and left shoulder were so damaged that I needed multiple surgeries to repair them. My head was hit with such force with a pipe that I no doubt would have sustained brain damage if not for my helmet.
In real time, Trump’s behavior appalled and disgusted his own staff. Check out these text messages from two of his top campaign aides — Tim Murtaugh, communications director for his reelection campaign, and Matthew Wolking, a campaign spokesman —a few days after the attack.
Murtaugh calls Trump’s failure to even acknowledge the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick "shitty."
Wolking agrees. “This is enraging to me. Everything he said about supporting law enforcement was a lie.”
But in a burst of clarity about the man he had supported so zealously, Murtaugh explained Trump’s silence.
“You know what that is, of course,” he wrote. “If he acknowledged the dead cop, he’s be implicitly faulting the mob. And he wouldn’t do that because they’re his people. And he would be close to acknowledging that what he lit at the rally got out of control. No way he acknowledges something that could ultimately be called his fault.
And it took you this long to realize who Donald J. Trump really was?
As usual, Liz Cheney cut to the heart of the matter:
“Can a president who was willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?"
Please take a moment to watch, listen, and share this.
What Trump Did During Those 187 Minutes
By Amanda Carpenter
Let’s put the idea to rest that Trump “did nothing” during the 187 minutes the attack on the U.S. Capitol was underway. Thanks to the Jan. 6th Committee’s Thursday hearing, we have a very good idea of exactly what Trump did.
Briefly, here it is:
At 1:19 p.m., Trump arrived back at the White House after delivering his remarks on the Ellipse, in which he told his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He was notified there was violence at the Capitol. Trump reacted by making himself comfortable in the White House dining room in front of a television playing Fox News. He ordered the White House photographer not to take any photos.
At 1:49 p.m. D.C. Metropolitan Police declared there was a riot at the Capitol. At that same moment, Trump tweeted a video of his “fight like hell” speech at the Ellipse so his followers would hear his inciting message once again.
The Senate adjourned at 2:13 p.m. At 2:24 p.m., Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” Two minutes later, Pence was evacuated to a secure location.
As senators scurried out of the chamber, Trump dialed up GOP Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Josh Hawley to encourage them to delay counting Electoral College votes.
White House call logs are mainly empty but show that he also called Rudy Giuliani twice that day. He did not call make any calls to the Defense Secretary, Attorney General, or Department of Homeland Security Secretary.
Trump accepted a call from a then-House “scared” GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who begged him for help. Trump promptly ignored McCarthy’s pleas for help and, according to Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, told McCarthy: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
As White House Counsel Pat Cipollone testified, Trump ignored all the staff who wanted the rioters to leave the Capitol. When specifically asked by the committee if Trump wanted the rioters to go, Cipollone could not answer “yes” and, painfully, struggled to invoke executive privilege. Cassidy Hutchison said her boss Mark Meadows heard Trump say, “He thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong” about those who wanted to hurt Pence.
Finally, at 4 p.m. Trump, reluctantly, recorded a video showering the rioters with love, perpetuating the lie about the stolen election, and asking them to go home. Outtakes shown by the committee showed that Trump stumbled to avoid saying the election was over, called the rioters “patriots,” and was careful not to accuse them of wrongdoing. By that point, Pence and congressional leaders–sans GOP leader Kevin McCarthy–were scrambling to take control of the situation. Trump was not part of those conversations, either.
So now everyone can be clear on what Trump did during those 187 minutes. He watched TV, he lobbied senators to delay the vote count, he put a target on Pence’s back, ignored pleas for help, sat around while other leaders organized plans, and then blew the rioters a kiss on their way out the door.
Trump chose not to secure the peace. He, alone, chose violence. He was derelict. That’s pathetic, but it sure ain’t “nothing.”
This Is Who Trump Is
By Will Saletan
The committee’s last two hearings have clarified something that was previously obscured: the extent to which Trump privately condoned violence.
Defenders of the former president always point out that in his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, he said the crowd would march to the Capitol to express its anger “peacefully.” But at the committee’s July 12 hearing, Rep. Stephanie Murphy explained that “the word ‘peacefully’ was in the staff- written script.” All Trump did was read the line. His ad-libs, Murphy noted, were about fighting,
Trump’s apologists also cite his 2:38 p.m. tweet on Jan. 6, in which he urged his supporters to “stay peaceful.” But at Thursday’s hearing, his former deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Matthews, revealed that Trump had resisted the P-word. According to Matthews, then-Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany—who was in the room as Trump’s aides and family implored him to stop the attack—told her that “the president did not want to include any sort of mention of peace in that tweet.”
On Thursday, the committee also played audio of an interview with Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. She described a Jan. 6 phone call in which House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told Trump that the mob had invaded the Capitol and that McCarthy’s aides were “running for their lives.” But Trump rebuffed McCarthy’s plea to call off the mob, saying, “I guess they’re just more upset about the election ... theft than you are.”
Each of these disclosures sheds light on Trump’s attitude toward violence. He spoke of peace only when others put the word in his mouth. Even then, he resisted. And when he received a desperate call about the ongoing assault—and was told that people were fleeing for their lives— he defended the assailants.
Strip away the speechwriters, and that’s who Trump is.
Hawley Deserved It
By Mona Charen
These hearings have been a model of dignity and seriousness.
Not once have we winced at cheap shots, maudlin appeals, or low demagoguery that are all too common in congressional proceedings.
But there was one moment in last night’s presentation that brought a moment of schadenfreude – the image of Josh Hawley’s disgusting raised fist to the mob followed by shots of him running for his life. Hawley was the first senator to announce that he would object to the certification of Electoral College votes.
The perfidious coward deserved it, and more frankly. He is a stand-in for all of the spineless Republicans who brought us to the brink of a constitutional crisis.
The January 6 committee has not conducted hearings, in the traditional sense, so much as a multi-part documentary. Wise choice.
The purpose is to educate the American people and to cement in the public memory the infamy of Trump’s final days. They have succeeded magnificently. Every member of the committee has conveyed a sense of righteous outrage – whether because her family were refugees from communism like Stephanie Murphy, or because they personally put their lives on the line serving in the military, like Adam Kinzinger and Elaine Luria, or because they come from a tradition of service like Liz Cheney, or because they hail from a community that was enslaved and oppressed and fought for dignity like Bennie Thompson. These are Americans who represent what is best about the country – its freedom, its openness to immigrants, its repudiation of its racist past, and its commitment to the Constitution.
The effects of the committee’s work may not be evident in the short term (though there are some indications that the hearings have weakened Trump’s grip on the GOP), but they will be felt in the medium and long term as the import of what happened ripens in the national consciousness.
The committee, relying almost entirely on Republican voices, has cut through the lies and fog the Trump industrial complex has generated, and left us with a clear verdict: Trump is an evil menace who must never be anywhere near power again.
By Bill Kristol
The Committee did an excellent job. It's been like watching a skilled painter fill in a black and white outline sketch. They've applied all manner of colors and shades to the canvas, and have also made some minor alterations of the original sketch, so that the painting is now far more lifelike, more realistic, more profound.
Yet at the end of the day, one has to say that while we learned a lot from the hearings, we fundamentally knew the truth on January 7th. The Republican votes against impeachment and conviction a year and a half ago seem even more indefensible now. But let's not kid ourselves. They were indefensible then.