A committee investigating the 6 January Capitol insurrection in Washington on Thursday revealed the extraordinary efforts President Donald Trump and his team pursued in an attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden.
Testimony on Thursday showed Trump pressuring Vice President Mike Pence in vulgar private taunts and public entreaties to stop the certification of Biden's victory in the run-up to the 6 January Capitol insurrection.
The panel also revealed how Trump put his vice president's life in danger as Pence was presiding over a joint session of Congress. Rioters came within 40 feet of the place where Pence and others had been evacuated.
“He deserves to be burned with the rest of them,” one rioter is heard saying on video as the mob prepares to storm the iconic building.
A dark portrait
The committee is pulling together a dark portrait of the final days of Trump's presidency, as defeated Republican were left grasping for alternatives as courts rejected dozens of lawsuits challenging the vote.
Witness testimony on Thursday showed how Trump’s closest advisers viewed his last-ditch efforts to halt congressional certification of his loss as “nuts,” “crazy” and even likely to incite riots if Pence followed through.
A text message from Fox News’ Sean Hannity to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows about the plan in the run-up to 6 January read: "I’m very worried about the next 48 hours."
Trump aides and allies warned bluntly in private about his efforts, even as some publicly continued to stand by the president's false election claims. Nine people died in the insurrection and its aftermath.
The committee has said the plan was illegal, and a federal judge has said “more likely than not” Trump committed crimes in his attempt to stop the certification.
Thursday’s session presented new evidence about the danger Pence faced as rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” with a makeshift gallows outside the Capitol.
The president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, testified about the “heated” phone call Trump had with Pence that morning, as the family joined in the Oval Office. Another aide, Nicholas Luna, said he heard Trump call Pence a “wimp.” Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford, said she was told the president called Pence “the p-word.”
In a social media post Thursday, Trump decried the hearings anew as a “witch hunt," lambasted coverage by “the Fake News Networks”. “I DEMAND EQUAL TIME!!!” he wrote.
In another development Thursday, panel chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, said they would ask Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for an interview amid disclosures of the conservative activist’s communications with people in Trump’s orbit ahead of the attack.
“It’s time for her to come talk,” Thompson told reporters.
Possible criminal charges
The panel's yearlong investigation is piecing together Trump's final weeks in office, as the defeated president clung to “the big lie” of a rigged election even as those around him — his family, top aides, officials at the highest levels of government — were telling him he had lost.
The panel is also considering whether to send a referral for criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department. No president or former president has ever been indicted by the Justice Department. US Attorney General Merrick Garland has said he and his team are following the proceedings.
The panel, which is expected to deliver a final report on its findings later this year, intends for its work to be a record for history of the most violent attack on the US Capitol in over two centuries.
More than 800 people have been arrested for their involvement, including members of extremist groups facing rare sedition charges.