What are the final revelations from the January 6 investigation?
Destroyed documents. Suggestions of pardoning violent rioters. Quiet talks among cabinet officials about whether then-United States President Donald Trump should be removed from office.
Interview transcripts released in recent days — more than 100 so far — give further insight into the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the weeks leading up to it, as Trump tried to overturn his defeat in the presidential election.
A nine-member committee in the US House of Representatives conducted more than 1,000 interviews, and the legislators are gradually releasing hundreds of transcripts after issuing a final report last week. The panel will dissolve on Tuesday when the new Republican-led House is sworn in.
While some of the witnesses were more forthcoming than others, the interviews collectively tell the complete story of Trump’s unprecedented scheming, the bloody attack on Capitol Hill and the fears legislators and the former president’s own aides had as he tried to upend democracy and the popular will.
Some highlights from the interview transcripts released so far:
White House aide tells all
Previously little-known White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson drew national attention when she testified in a surprise hearing this summer. She gave details about Trump’s words and actions around the January 6 attack: his rage after security officers thwarted his efforts to go to the Capitol that day and how he knew that some of his supporters were armed.
The committee has so far released four of her closed-door interviews, revealing new details about what she said she observed in her time as an aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Among other revelations, Hutchinson told the committee she had seen Meadows burning documents in his office fireplace “roughly a dozen times” after the 2020 election.
She said she did not know what the documents were or whether they were items that legally should have been preserved. A spokesman for Meadows declined to comment.
Hutchinson also spoke at length about her moral struggle as she decided how much to disclose. She even researched Watergate figures who had similarly testified about working in former President Richard Nixon’s White House.
“My character and my integrity mean more to me than anything,” Hutchinson said, returning to the committee with a new lawyer in June after three previous interviews.
Pardons for everyone?
After the insurrection, Trump floated the idea of a blanket pardon for all participants. But the White House counsel at the time, Pat Cipollone, discouraged the idea, according to testimony from Johnny McEntee, an aide who had served as the director of the presidential personnel office.
McEntee was interviewed by the panel in March.
Trump later asked about limiting pardons to only those who entered the Capitol but did not participate in the violence. But that idea was also met with some pushback, McEntee recalled. He said Trump appeared persuaded by the advice and said he was not aware that the idea ever came up again.
Separately, McEntee said that Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, told him he was seeking a preemptive pardon from Trump as he faced a federal child sex trafficking investigation. Gaetz did not receive such a pardon and has not faced any charges in connection to the probe.
Hutchinson testified that Meadows’ office became so inundated with pardon requests at the end of Trump’s term that some turned to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner to help facilitate them.
The 25th Amendment
The panel interviewed several of Trump’s cabinet secretaries about discussions of invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment — the forceful removal of Trump from power by his own cabinet. While some acknowledged it had been discussed, it appears that they did not think the scenario was likely.
Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he spoke fleetingly with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the idea after the insurrection.
“It came up very briefly in our conversation,” Mnuchin testified in July. “We both believed that the best outcome was a normal transition of power, which was working, and neither one of us contemplated in any serious format the 25th Amendment.”
Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee he witnessed a brief conversation between the two cabinet secretaries in the White House and heard the phrase “25th Amendment”. His transcript has not yet been released, but investigators quoted Milley to Pompeo and Mnuchin when they were being questioned.
Pompeo told the committee he did not recall the conversation. “I would have viewed someone speaking about the potential of invoking the 25th Amendment as just absolutely preposterous,” he said.
Former Vice President Mike Pence later dismissed the idea in a letter to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, saying the mechanism should be reserved for when a president is medically or mentally incapacitated.
Pence’s former Chief of Staff Marc Short told the panel he thought the talk was “a political game”. The process would have taken weeks to play out, he said, and Democrat Joe Biden was set to be inaugurated on January 20.
Trump family testifies
The committee interviewed two of the former president’s children, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump, about their conversations with their father during the January 6 attack and in the days before and after.
Trump Jr did not answer many of the committee’s questions, frequently saying he did not recall events or conversations. He did explain why he texted Meadows the afternoon of January 6, as the attack was unfolding, to say that his father needed to “condemn this s**t” immediately and that Trump’s tweets had not been strong enough.
“My father doesn’t text,” Trump Jr said.
Ivanka Trump, who was in the White House with her father on January 6, was also vague in many of her answers. She spoke with the committee about working with her father to write his tweets that day, encouraging him to make a strong statement as the rioters broke into the Capitol.
And she testified that she heard Trump’s side of a “heated” phone call with Pence that morning as her father tried to encourage Pence to object to the congressional certification that day. Pence refused to do so.
She also testified that she received a call and a text from Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who was in the Capitol as it was under siege. Collins told her that “the president needs to put out a very strong tweet telling people to go home and to stop the violence now”.
‘Give me five dead voters’
Trump lawyer Christina Bobb testified that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top ally of Trump, asked some of the former president’s advisers for evidence of fraud so he could “champion” it after the election.
Trump falsely claimed there had been widespread fraud, despite court rulings and election officials in all 50 states who said otherwise.
Graham told lawyers he would love to support the cause.
Numerous state and federal courts evaluated and rejected the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud, including judges appointed by Trump himself.
Many of these courts issued scathing opinions criticizing the lack of evidence that President Trump and his allies advanced. pic.twitter.com/WhCl16Vh83
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) December 19, 2022
“Don’t tell me everything because it’s too overwhelming,” Bobb quotes Graham as saying. “Just give me five dead voters; give me, you know, an example of illegals voting. Just give me a very small snapshot that I can take and champion.”
He did nothing with the information he was given, Bobb said. Graham voted on January 6 to certify Biden’s presidential election win.
National Guard frustration
The mob that stormed the Capitol would have faced a much harsher law-enforcement response had it been comprised mostly of African Americans, testified retired Army Major General William Walker, who led the DC National Guard at the time. Walker is now the House sergeant at arms.
“I’m African American. Child of the ’60s,” Walker testified. “I think it would have been a vastly different response if those were African Americans trying to breach the Capitol. As a career law enforcement officer, part-time soldier … the law enforcement response would have been different.”
The National Guard did not arrive at the Capitol for several hours, leaving police officers overwhelmed as Pentagon officials said they were sorting out the necessary approvals. More than 100 officers were injured, many seriously, as Trump’s supporters beat them and ran over them to get inside.
Walker expressed deep frustration with the delays and says he even considered breaking the chain of command and authorising the troops to go in. Lawyers advised him strongly not to do so, he said.
He said he did not think the Pentagon hold-up was because the insurrectionists were mostly white.
“I don’t think race was part of the military’s decision paralysis,” he said in his April interview, adding, “I think they just didn’t want to do it.”
Hardline group leaders
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to some investigators’ questions, with his lawyer at times saying his client did not belong to the hardline group, whose associates are now facing rare sedition charges.
But Tarrio himself told investigators he took the title of chairman.
Tarrio, who had been released from jail on the eve of the insurrection, was not present during the attack. But prosecutors claim he kept command over the Proud Boys who attacked Congress and cheered them on from afar. The Proud Boys were some of the first rioters to break through the Capitol perimeter.
He told the panel that the first degree of membership in the Proud Boys is “that you are a Western chauvinist” and that you “refuse to apologise for creating the modern world”.
Tarrio met Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the hardline group Oath Keepers, in a garage the night of January 5, ahead of the attack. “I still don’t like Stewart Rhodes,” Tarrio said.
Rhodes, who was also interviewed by the panel, was convicted in November of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors said was a plot for an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power. They said Rhodes rallied his followers to fight to defend Trump and discussed the prospect of a “bloody” civil war.
In his February testimony to the panel, Rhodes declined to answer any questions about his involvement on January 6 and amassing weapons. He said he feels like a political prisoner.
“I feel like a Jew in Germany, frankly,” Rhodes told the committee.