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What the Jan. 6 hearings revealed about Trump’s actions before and after the Capitol attack

A video of President Donald Trump recording a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House on Jan. 6 is played at a hearing from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, July 21, 2022. (AP) A video of President Donald Trump recording a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House on Jan. 6 is played at a hearing from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, July 21, 2022. (AP)

A video of President Donald Trump recording a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House on Jan. 6 is played at a hearing from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, July 21, 2022. (AP)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg December 9, 2022
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman December 9, 2022

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to release its final report later this month in a public presentation in Washington, D.C.

The committee interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and held nine public hearings investigating aspects of what led up to the Jan. 6 attack, what occurred minute by minute that day, and the aftermath.

CNN reported that the committee is considering whether to recommend criminal charges to the Justice Department for former President Donald Trump and some of his former aides. Such recommendations carry no legal weight; they don’t require the Justice Department to file charges. Trump is fighting a subpoena from the committee, whose power expires when the new Congress convenes in January.

Norm Eisen, who co-wrote a report at the Brookings Institution think tank that laid out potential criminal charges for Trump, said a criminal referral is more than symbolic. The referral could influence prosecutorial decision-making. Also, because the committee is bipartisan, a referral would defy criticism that any charges came from Biden’s handpicked Justice Department, Eisen said. 

"The committee has a vitally important role to play in explaining to the public why this is merited as a matter of evidence and law," said Eisen, who worked in the Obama White House.

PolitiFact watched all the committee’s hearings, here are some of the highlights.

Trump knew he lost the 2020 election, yet publicly claimed victory

The committee presented evidence that Trump knew he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, but publicly denied it.

As early as July 2020, according to what Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale told investigators, Trump talked about declaring victory regardless of the actual votes.

As results were still being tallied, Trump falsely claimed victory.

"We will win this," Trump said. "As far as I’m concerned, we already have."

But privately, Trump acknowledged that he lost, testimony from multiple White House officials showed.

About a week after the election, then-White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah said she walked into the Oval Office. Trump was watching Biden on the television.

"He said, ‘do you believe I lost to this effing guy?’" Farah told investigators.

White House officials and Attorney General Bill Barr told the committee that they also told Trump that there was no election fraud.

Trump oversaw the efforts to overturn the election 

Multiple hearings showed how Trump was intimately involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, from urging Georgia election officials to "find" just enough additional Trump votes, to pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to reject results from particular states. 

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said each element had something in common.

"Donald Trump participated in each substantially, and personally oversaw or directed the activity of those involved," she said.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican who wanted Trump to win re-election, rebuffed Trump’s personal plea to call a special session to revoke the results that confirmed Biden’s victory. 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the committee that Trump’s claims about thousands of ineligible voters (underage or dead people) were unsubstantiated. "They said that there were over 66,000 underage voters, we found that there were actually zero," Raffensperger said.

On Dec. 14, 2020, as battleground states certified their presidential election results, Republican state lawmakers and party officials supporting Trump decided that they, too, would gather as purported electors to sign certificates falsely attesting that Trump had won and submit them for approval by Congress.

This was part of a plan by Trump aides to give Pence a pretext for setting aside the official Electoral College votes Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, tried to organize the fake slates of electors.

Trump swayed rioters to go to the Capitol

By mid-December 2020, Trump was running out of options. He had lost 60 out of 61 court challenges to state election results. His top campaign and White House advisers were telling him there was no evidence of significant fraud and that he should prepare to concede. But Trump wasn’t willing to admit defeat. 

A pivotal moment came Dec. 19, when Trump tweeted at 1:42 a.m. that there would be a big protest in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, and that it "will be wild." It was one of more than a dozen tweets the president sent promoting the event. 

The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, two armed alt-right activist groups, joined conspiracy theorists and ordinary Americans in spreading Trump’s invitation across social media.

Trump and his team saw potential for violence Jan. 6

What emerged from the hearings was a picture of a president and his inner circle that knew violence was likely on Jan. 6, 2021, and behaved as if the rioters who rushed the U.S. Capitol were doing nothing wrong. 

Meadows’ aide Cassidy Hutchinson described a conversation with Meadows on the night of Jan. 2, 2021. She had just walked Giuliani to the White House exit. As he was leaving, Giuliani asked her whether she was excited about Jan. 6 and said, "We’re going to the Capitol," Hutchinson recounted.

Puzzled, Hutchinson said she asked Meadows what Giuliani meant.

"There's a lot going on," Meadows said, according to Hutchinson. "Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6."

Hutchinson said that just days before Jan. 6, the national security adviser and the Secret Service received reports about violence and weapons expected on Jan. 6.

Minutes before Trump spoke to his followers Jan. 6 on the Ellipse, a park south of the White House, Hutchinson said, Trump expressed anger that the secured space in front of the stage was not packed with people. When he was told that many people didn’t want to pass through security because they would have to give up their weapons, Hutchinson said Trump was dismissive.

"They're not here to hurt me," Trump said, according to Hutchinson. 

She said Trump also ordered the removal of security metal detectors: "Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here."

Trump’s advisers disagreed with his actions on Jan. 6

Two former White House staff members testified about the chaos inside the White House that afternoon. Matthew Pottinger, a member of the National Security Council, resigned that day, when Trump’s first tweet after the riot started didn’t call for peace. 

Pence refused to comply with Trump’s scheme to reject the electoral votes from a handful of states, a move that would deny Biden’s legitimate victory.

Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews told the committee that Trump’s initial tweet "felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire."

The committee detailed how Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, tried to persuade her father to tell the rioters to stop. So did sympathetic Fox News hosts who always enjoyed an open door to the president, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and the top White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Trump was inactive for hours during the violent attack

Trump made no effort to connect with security forces during the Jan. 6 rampage. The committee showed video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calling for reinforcements from the National Guard and nearby police.

The committee detailed the 187 minutes that passed before Trump sent a video message telling his supporters to leave the Capitol. White House officials testified that they tried to get him to act earlier.

As the riot unfolded, Trump instead tweeted that Pence lacked "courage." 

Republican Congressional leaders and Fox News pundits contacted Meadows asking him to have Trump call off the rioters. Trump didn’t tell the rioters to go home until 4:17 p.m., while praising them, "We love you. You’re very special." 

PolitiFact senior correspondent Louis Jacobson contributed to this article.

RELATED: All of our fact-checks related to Jan. 6

RELATED: Electoral reform: What would updating the Electoral Count Act do?

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Our Sources

Jan. 6 Committee, Website, Accessed Dec. 8, 2022

NPR, Jan. 6 panel is planning to release its final report the week of Dec. 19, Dec. 7, 2022

NBC, Jan. 6 committee plans to issue criminal referrals with its final report this month, Dec. 7, 2022

ABC, What we've learned from the Jan. 6 committee hearings, Oct. 13, 2022

AP, Jan. 6 hearings: What we’ve learned, and what’s next, July 13, 2022

Brookings, Trump on trial: A guide to January 6th hearings and questions of criminality, June 2022 ​​

NPR, Here's every word from the 9th Jan. 6 committee hearing on its investigation, Oct. 13, 2022

PolitiFact, Jan. 6 hearing details Trump’s inaction as Capitol riot unfolded, July 22, 2022

PolitiFact, What are the backgrounds of Trump aides Sarah Matthews and Matthew Pottinger? July 20, 2022

PolitiFact, ‘A call to action’: Jan. 6 hearing shows Trump’s sway on rioters with words, tweets, July 13, 2022

PolitiFact, Six takeaways from White House insider Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to Jan. 6 committee, June 29, 2022

PolitiFact, Jan. 6 hearing focuses on Donald Trump’s pressure on states to overturn the vote, June 22, 2022

PolitiFact, Jan. 6 hearing piles on evidence: Pence didn’t have power to change 2020 election, June 17, 2022

PolitiFact, In Jan. 6 hearing, former AG Bill Barr discredits ‘2,000 Mules’ voter fraud film, June 13, 2022

PolitiFact, Jan. 6 hearings: What insiders told Trump about him losing the election, June 13, 2022

PolitiFact, Key takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee’s prime time hearing, June 10, 2022

PolitiFact A fact-checker’s guide to Ginni Thomas’ texts to Trump’s chief of staff March 25, 2022

Telephone interview, Norman Eisen (ret.) is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings,  Dec. 9, 2022

Email interview with Mark Osler, law professor at the University of St. Thomas, Dec. 9, 2022

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