The House select committee’s final hearing on the Capitol Hill insurrection before the midterm elections Thursday used new testimony and evidence to demonstrate how former President Donald Trump knew he had lost the election but still went forward with efforts to overturn the results, leading to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The committee’s hearing used new records obtained from the Secret Service and new deposition footage from former Trump Cabinet secretaries and White House officials to bolster the argument that Trump still remains a danger to democracy heading into the 2024 election.
Here are the takeaways from the committee’s latest January 6 hearing:
The committee voted Thursday to subpoena Trump for documents and testimony, marking an escalation in the panel’s efforts to obtain testimony from the former President.
The committee’s leaders argued that Trump was at the center of efforts to overturn the 2020 election that led to the violence of the insurrection, and as a result they needed Trump’s testimony to tell the complete story of January 6.
“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s top Republican. “And every American is entitled to the answers, so we can act now to protect our republic.”
And select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, argued that Trump “is the one person at the center of the story of what happened on January 6th. So we want to hear from him.”
Of course, the panel is issuing the subpoena nearing the end of recognition as a select committee, which is likely an acknowledgment that Trump is not going to comply. Should Trump object to the subpoena, it could lead to a lengthy court fight that outlives the committee.
That’s because if Republicans take back control of the House, which they’re favored to do, the January 6 committee as it’s currently constructed will cease to exist – giving the panel less than three months to issue a final report of its findings.
Still, the subpoena marks a notable escalation in taking on Trump directly. While it’s not unprecedented, congressional subpoenas to sitting or former presidents are rare. And if Trump does buck the subpoena, it would allow the committee to proclaim that it made a formal attempt to get Trump to talk to panelists, only to see him to refuse.
The committee aired previously unseen footage from Fort McNair, the DC-area Army base where congressional leaders took refuge during the insurrection and scrambled to respond to the unfolding crisis.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said during the hearing that the footage highlights how Trump administration officials and congressional leaders worked around Trump to put down the riot that he had incited. By showing these behind-the-scenes clips, the committee delivered on its promise to present new material from January 6 to the public.
The footage shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other top officials working the phones and coordinating with Trump Cabinet members and other officials to secure the resources needed to quell the insurrection and secure the Capitol.
The footage also showed two phone calls between Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence, who took on an impromptu leadership role on January 6, coordinating the emergency response.
The new footage showed Schumer dressing down then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. During their heated phone call, Schumer implored Rosen to intervene directly with Trump, and tell Trump to call off the mob. During the call, Pelosi told Rosen that the pro-Trump rioters were “breaking the law… at the instigation of the President of the United States.”
During the hearing, the panel labeled the footage as showing lawmakers at an “undisclosed location.” It has been public knowledge since January 6, 2021, that senior congressional leaders from both parties took refuge at Fort McNair, while the Capitol was overrun.
CNN has obtained additional footage from Fort McNair that wasn’t shown by the committee. The exclusive footage will air on CNN on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, during a special edition of “Anderson Cooper 360°.” The footage shows congressional leaders, after evacuating from the Capitol, gathering at Fort McNair working the phones, trying to figure out what was going on at the overrun Capitol, and begging for help as they frantically scrambled to quell the insurrection.
Elaine Chao, who resigned from her post as Trump’s secretary of Transportation a day after the insurrection, spoke in personal terms about her disgust toward the attack when she testified to the committee.
“I think the events at the Capitol, however they occurred, were shocking and it was something that, as I mentioned in my statement, that I could not put aside,” said Chao, one of the former members of Trump’s Cabinet whose recorded testimony lawmakers aired on Thursday.
“And at a particular point, the events were such that it was impossible for me to continue, given my personal values and my philosophy. I came as an immigrant to this country. I believe in this country. I believe in the peaceful transfer of power. I believe in democracy. And so I was – it was a decision that I made on my own,” she said.
CNN reported in August that Chao, who is also the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had met with the committee. But after condemning the attack in her resignation letter in early 2021, Chao has largely stayed out of the national spotlight, with her recent comments to the committee providing fresh insight into her thinking on the deadly attack.
Cassidy Hutchinson, the former top aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, provided new testimony to the committee relaying anecdotes of Trump acknowledging he had lost the election.
Hutchinson’s testimony had been some of the most damning against Trump during the summer hearings, as she provided detailed accounts about Trump’s actions on the day of January 6.
On Thursday, the committee showed new video deposition from Hutchinson where she spoke to Meadows about Trump’s January 2021 call where he urged the Georgia secretary of state to “find” the votes he needed to win.
“I remember looking at Mark, and I said ‘Mark, he can’t possibly thing we’re going to pull this off. Like, that call was crazy.’ And he looked at me and just started shaking his head. And he’s like, ‘No, Cass, you know, he knows it’s over. He knows he lost. But we’re going to keep trying,’” Hutchinson told the committee.
Hutchinson also said that she witnessed a conversation between Meadows and Trump where he was furious the Supreme Court had rejected a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election result.
“The President said … something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost,’” Hutchinson said.
In roughly three months since the last January 6 committee hearing, the panel has obtained more than 1 million records from the Secret Service, and the panel revealed some of what they learned during Thursday’s hearing.
While there are still questions surrounding erased text messages from Secret Service agents around the insurrection, the panel obtained messages and emails showing the agency receiving warnings before January 6, 2021, about the prospect of violence, as well as real-time reports of weapons in the crowd ahead of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse.
Days before January Trump’s communication adviser, Jason Miller, boasted to Meadows that he “got the base FIRED UP,” and shared a link to a pro-Trump webpage containing hundreds of threatening comments about killing lawmakers if they went ahead with certifying Joe Biden’s legitimate electoral victory, according to a new text message the panel showed Thursday.
“I got the base FIRED UP,” Miller texted Meadows on December 30, 2020, appearing to take credit for amplifying the violent rhetoric about January 6 that was circulating on the pro-Trump website The Donald dot win.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said in Thursday’s hearing that that the Secret Service received alerts of online threats made against Vice President Mike Pence ahead of the Capitol insurrection, including that Pence would be “‘a dead man walking if he doesn’t do the right thing.’”
On January 6, one Secret Service agent texted at 12:36 p.m., according to the committee, “With so many weapons found so far; you wonder how many are unknown. Could be sporty after dark.”
Another agent responded minutes later, “No doubt. The people at the Ellipse said they are moving to the Capitol after the POTUS speech.”
The committee also revealed new evidence Thursday that Trump had devised a plan, well before any votes were counted, to declare victory no matter what the election results were.
“It was a premeditated plan by the President to declare victory no matter what the actual result was,” committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren said during Thursday’s hearing. “We also interviewed Brad Parscale, President Trump’s former campaign manager. He told us he understood that President Trump planned as early as July that he would say he won the election, even if he lost,” she added.
The committee played previously unseen video from its deposition of Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob. In the clip, Jacob describes how he and Pence’s then-chief of staff Marc Short had prepared, ahead of time, for Trump to declare victory on Election Night, regardless of the results.
After their conversation on November 3, 2020, Jacob drafted a memo to Short, which the committee said it obtained from the National Archives and presented for the first time on Thursday.
“It is essential that the Vice President not be perceived by the public as having decided questions concerning disputed electoral votes prior to the full development of all relevant facts,” the memo reads.
The committee also revealed new emails conservative legal activist Tom Fitton sent to two Trump advisers a few days before the election. One email contains a draft statement for Trump to declare victory on Election Night.
One person whose testimony was noticeably absent from Thursday’s hearing was Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Committee members interviewed Ginni Thomas last month but ultimately her testimony was not featured as part of the panel’s last hearing before the midterm election.
Despite saying for months that they wanted to hear from Thomas, members of the panel downplayed the significance of her testimony following her interview, and it was clear ahead of Thursday that she was not expected to be a central part of the hearing that was instead solely focused on Trump.
But her absence was notable considering the panel did use testimony from several other high-profile witnesses who had been interviewed since the committee’s most recent hearing earlier this summer.
And while the committee did play video from its depositions with Trump Cabinet members, the 25th Amendment was not mentioned.
This story has been updated with additional developments.