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CNN Special Reports
American Coup: The January 6th Investigation. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired January 08, 2023 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER U.S. ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was quizzical as to, how does the president even know Mr. Clark?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Rosen confronted Clark, who admitted he had broken the long-standing policy governing communication between the Justice Department and the White House. White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin also intervened and warned Clark to not communicate with the White House.
Clark agreed but, just two days later, escalated the situation with an email that set off a series of events that would rock the Justice Department.
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We came in on Monday, December 28th, hectic day, as they all were. And then, in the afternoon, we got that email, which I had to sit down and read more than once to make sure I understood what he was proposing.
TAPPER: What was he proposing?
DONOGHUE: He was proposing sending out a letter, signed by the three of us, the acting attorney general, myself and Jeff Clark, to Georgia but also the other states, the other swing states as well, suggesting essentially that they set aside the electors assigned to support President-Elect Biden and hold hearings.
And basically have the state legislatures pick a new slate of electors.
TAPPER: Then a letter claimed that the U.S. Department of Justice's investigations have, quote, "identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia."
Was that true?
TAPPER (voice-over): While the letter was sent solely by Jeff Clark, it was written with the help of a new Justice Department employee named Ken Klukowski, who, according to the committee, was also working with John Eastman, the architect of the multi-step plan to overturn the election.
The letter mirrored some of Eastman's unconstitutional theories.
DONOGHUE: It would have created chaos in the States. I think that would have been disastrous for our country and our Constitution.
TAPPER: But wasn't that the point of it, the letter, to create that casts?
DONOGHUE: I think so, yes.
TAPPER (voice-over): Disturbed by the letter, Donoghue immediately responded to Clark, writing, "this would be a grave step for the department to take. And it could have tremendous constitutional, political and social ramifications for the country."
DONOGHUE: I had to make it clear to him that there was no world in which I and certainly the A.G. were going to sign a letter like that.
TAPPER (voice-over): Rosen and Donoghue met with Clark later that evening.
DONOGHUE: I do remember, at the very end, saying to him, what you are proposing is nothing less than having the United States Justice Department meddle in the outcome of an American presidential election.
TAPPER (voice-over): But again, Jeffrey Clark ignored the direction of Justice Department leadership. He continued to claim falsely that there was widespread election fraud. He pushed to send out the letter again.
And on January 3rd, he told Rosen President Trump had offered him the role of attorney general. And he had accepted.
DONOGHUE: That led to a series of discussions and meetings that day. At this point, it had gone so far that we had to bring the leaders in and explain to them so they were prepared in case it happened but also to get their take on what they would do if that did happen.
TAPPER: And what did they say they would do?
DONOGHUE: They uniformly said they would resign.
TAPPER (voice-over): White House call logs obtained by the committee show that, by 4:19 pm that day, the White House had already begun referring to Clark as the acting attorney general.
That evening, Rosen and Donoghue went to the White House to argue against Trump installing Clark as attorney general. The three-hour meeting took place in the Oval Office and, by all accounts, joined the long list of wild White House meetings.
ROSEN: The president turned to me and he said, "Well, one thing we know is you, Rosen, you aren't going to do anything. You don't even agree with the claims of election fraud. And this other guy at least might do something." DONOGHUE: It was basically Jeff Clark advocating for the leadership change and everyone else advocating against it. It was a very blunt, contentious conversation. Herschmann and I were on the same level of being sort of the street fighters of the meeting.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: When he finished discussing what he planned on doing, I said, "Good, fucking --" excuse me; sorry "-- effing a-hole.
"Congratulations, you just admitted that your first step or act you would take as attorney general would be committing a felony and violating rule 6(c). You're clearly the right candidate for this job."
TAPPER: White House counsel Pat Cipollone was vehemently against the plan as well.
DONOGHUE: He referred to the letter that Jeff Clark had submitted as a murder-suicide pact, that no one should have anything to do with it. I had basically made the point to the president Jeff Clark was not even qualified to be the attorney general. He's promising you, he's going to conduct these very complex, nationwide investigations in record time.
DONOGHUE: And this is coming from a guy who's never conducted a real investigation.
Mr. Clark responded by saying that he's been involved in very significant environmental law briefing before various courts.
And that reminded me that, yes, in fact, you're primarily -- you're an environmental lawyer.
How about you go back to your office and we'll call you when there's an oil spill?
TAPPER (voice-over): Donoghue also informed President Trump that, upon Clark's appointment, Justice Department leaders would resign en masse.
STEVEN ENGEL, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president turned to me and said, "Steve, you wouldn't leave, would you?"
I said, "Mr. President, I've been with you through four attorneys general, including two acting attorneys general, but I couldn't be part of this.
TAPPER (voice-over): Finally persuaded, Trump decided against the idea. When Clark was subpoenaed by the January 6th committee earlier this year, he refused to answer questions, pleading the Fifth more than 125 times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you discuss this draft letter to Georgia officials with the president of United States?
JEFFREY CLARK, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Fifth.
TAPPER (voice-over): Coming up, inside the plot to pressure the vice president.
J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, RETIRED U.S. FEDERAL JUDGE: It would have immediately plunged the country into a paralyzing constitutional crisis.
TAPPER (voice-over): On December 14, 2020...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unanimously cast 16 votes for Joseph R. Biden.
TAPPER (voice-over): -- when the electors in each state gathered...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All 16 electors cast their ballots for Joseph R. Biden.
TAPPER (voice-over): -- so did fraudulent electors in seven swing states that Biden had won, such as Arizona.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald J. Trump, of the state of Florida, number of votes, 11.
STEPHEN MILLER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: An ultimate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote. And we're going to send those results up to Congress.
TAPPER (voice-over): This desperate scheme to overthrow the election results had been conceived weeks earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you remember being involved in those early discussions around Thanksgiving time, regarding having alternate electors meet?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO MARK MEADOWS: Mr. Giuliani, several of Mr. Giuliani's associates, Mr. Meadows.
TAPPER (voice-over): One of the biggest supporters of this outrageous attempt to subvert American democracy was law professor and Trump attorney John Eastman.
JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: The entire executive branch is headed by one guy.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Trump saw him on FOX News. And shortly after that he was in the Oval Office. TAPPER (voice-over): Fraudulent electors were just step one in Eastman's plan, which he outlined in these memos and justified with false claims of, quote, "illegal actions by state and local election officials."
Step two in his plan would have to be executed by vice president Mike Pence on January 6th while presiding over the opening and counting of electoral ballots.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What you can do is you can say, due to these disputes in these seven states, we're going to send this back to the states and the states would then be able to help Donald Trump win the election.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY), VICE CHAIR, U.S. HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6 ATTACK: It was a lie. In fact, on December 19, 2020, just four days before Dr. Eastman sent this memo, Dr. Eastman himself admitted in an email that the fake electors had no legal weight, referring to the fake electors as, quote, "dead on arrival in Congress."
TAPPER (voice-over): Trump campaign aides and outside lawyers shared their concerns about the scheme and emails reported on by "The New York Times'" Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater.
TAPPER: And did they think what they were doing was legal?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": In one email, a lawyer working in Arizona literally describes them as quote-unquote "fake electors" and says, so what we would be doing is sending these fake electors, he has taken quotes, to go cast ballots.
In another email, there was a discussion about fear from some officials this would be seen as quote-unquote "treasonous."
TAPPER: What might have happened, had Pence tried to go through with this idea, that he could reject electoral votes and send them back to the states Biden won, such as Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia?
LUTTIG: He would have immediately plunged the country into what I characterized would be tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis.
GREG JACOB, FORMER LEGAL COUNSEL TO PENCE: There's just no way that the framers of the Constitution, who divided power and authority, who separated it out, who had broken away from George III and declared him to be a tyrant, there was no way that they would have put in the hands of one person the authority to determine who is going to be President of the United States.
TAPPER (voice-over): But President Trump now saw Vice President Pence as the man who could keep him in the White House for four more years.
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): On December 23rd, President Trump retweeted a memo from an individual named Ivan Raiklin, entitled "Operation Pence Card," that called on the vice president to refuse the Electoral College votes from certain states that had certified Joe Biden as the winner.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: He had been pressuring him behind the scenes. So now, he's going public, he's trying to get public pressure on Mike Pence.
TAPPER (voice-over): The January 6th committee's interviews with White House attorneys made it clear that Pat Cipollone, Eric Herschmann and many others were appalled.
JASON MILLER, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: The way it was communicated to me was that Pat Cipollone thought the idea was nutty.
And had at one point confronted Eastman, basically with the same sentiment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were your prior interactions with Eastman?
HERSCHMANN: He described for me what he thought the ambiguity was in the statute. And he was walking through it at that time.
And I said, hold on a second. I want to understand what you're saying. You're saying that you believe the vice president, acting as President of the Senate, can be the sole decision maker as to, under your theory, who becomes the next President of the United States?
And he said yes.
And I said, are you out of your effing mind?
TAPPER (voice-over): The vice president decided he could not buy in to Eastman's theories.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Short, was it your impression that the vice president had directly conveyed his position on these issues to the president?
MARC SHORT, FORMER PENCE CHIEF OF STAFF: Many times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And had been consistent in conveying his position to the president?
SHORT: Very consistent.
COLLINS: You basically cannot overstate the pressure that Trump was putting on Pence in the leadup to January 6th.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I hope that our great vice president, our great vice president comes through for us. He's a great guy. But if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much.
TAPPER (voice-over): That night, Pence's outside lawyer, Richard Cullen, phoned retired Judge Michael Luttig, an esteemed conservative Republican, for help and advice.
LUTTIG: He said, Judge, do you know John Eastman?
And I said, yes. John was a clerk of mine about 20, 25 years ago.
And he said, well, John's advising the president and the vice president that the vice president does not have to accept the Electoral College votes as they have been cast.
I said, well, Richard, you can tell the vice president that I said he has no such authority whatsoever.
TAPPER: Why did you take to Twitter?
LUTTIG: Well, the next morning, Richard calls. And he said, look, we have to get your voice out to the country immediately within the next hour or two.
TAPPER (voice-over): Judge Luttig, with the help of his son, sent his first ever Twitter thread.
LUTTIG: My son sent me Twitter instructions on how to tweet a thread of individual tweets that were under 140 characters. I had no earthly idea what any of this was about. I just told my son, send it to me right now or I'll cut you out of the will.
TAPPER (voice-over): He read me some of that thread.
LUTTIG: So the only responsibility and power of the vice president under the Constitution is to faithfully count the Electoral College votes as they have been cast. The Constitution does not empower the vice president to alter in any way the votes that had been cast, either by rejecting certain of them or otherwise.
TAPPER (voice-over): That Twitter thread spread and garnered attention around the world. But with just one day before Congress was set to certify Biden's Electoral College victory, Trump continued to apply maximum pressure.
In this tweet, quote, "The vice president has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors."
And when they met at the White House, on January 5th.
AGUILAR: In the book, "Peril," journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa write that the president said, quote, "If these people say you have the power, wouldn't you want to?"
The vice president says, quote, "I wouldn't want any one person to have that authority."
The president says, "No, no, no, you don't understand, Mike, you can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this." TAPPER (voice-over): Trump would not relent. At 1 am on January 6th,
he tweeted, quote, "If vice president Mike Pence comes through for us, we will win the presidency. Mike can send it back."
And then there was the morning phone call, in which the president bullied and belittled the vice president for refusing to go along with this potential coup.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I remember he said, you are a wimp, you'll be a wimp. Wimp was the word I remember.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's also been reported that the president said to the vice president that -- something to the effect that you don't have the courage to make a hard decision.
GEN. KEITH KELLOGG, FORMER VP PENCE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Words -- I don't remember exactly but something like that, yes.
TAPPER (voice-over): Soon after the call ended, Trump would repeat his dangerous lies and put a target on Vice President Pence.
TRUMP: I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us.
TAPPER (voice-over): As that speech neared its end, inside the Capitol...
MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate and House of Representatives are meeting in joint session to verify the certificates and count the votes of the electors.
TAPPER (voice-over): But outside, headed their way...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got three men walking down the street in fatigues, was carrying AR-15s.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are thousands of people here already, this line wraps around Washington and the president is scheduled to speak in ...
HUTCHINSON: As Mr. Giuliani and I were walking to his vehicles that evening, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, Cas, are you excited for the 6th?
We're going to the Capitol, it's going to be great. The president's going to be there. He's going to look powerful.
CHENEY: On January 3rd, the Capitol Police issued a special event assessment. Congress itself is the target on the 6th.
STEVE BANNON, ADVISER TO FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Now we're on, as they say, the point of attack.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen to what Mr. Bannon said that day after the first call he had with the president.
BANNON: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. All I can say is, strap in.
MURRAY: And then he had Donald Trump talk again. And we don't know what the contents of those calls were, because of course, Donald Trump has not provided that information. And Steve Bannon has not provided that information.
TAPPER: The night of January 5th, you were among those summoned to the Oval Office?
SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY FOR TRUMP: Yes. So I was brought into the Oval Office that evening and the entire press team was assembled in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gates opened just a few minutes ago.
MATTHEWS: The president had the door to the Rose Garden open. And you could hear the crowd on the Ellipse already assembled. And you could tell he was feeding off that energy and that he was really excited for the next day.
SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER: The president was making notes that, talking then about we should go up to the Capitol.
What's the best route to go to the Capitol?
TAPPER (voice-over): The January 6th committee's presentation of testimony and documentation left no doubt that Trump had every intention of joining his supporters' march to the Capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president tell you this, that he wanted to speak at the Capitol?
NICK LUNA, FORMER ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: Correct, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the power in numbers. We came here to protect our republic.
TAPPER (voice-over): The morning of January 6th, supporters began gathering for the rally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden did not win this election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fraud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not made up.
TAPPER (voice-over): Meanwhile, the president's insistence on joining their march to the Capitol...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking this country back.
TAPPER (voice-over): -- had White House lawyers, such as Pat Cipollone, very worried.
HUTCHINSON: Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy, keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.
TAPPER (voice-over): But nobody could change Trump's mind. And as he, family and aides arrived at the rally, his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was keeping the president's hopes alive.
HUTCHINSON: Prior to Mr. Trump taking the stage that morning, he was under the impression via Mr. Meadows that it was still possible.
TAPPER (voice-over): At the rally, the president had a more immediate, familiar concern, crowd size.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we were in the off stage at a Knott's Berry tent behind the stage, he was very concerned about the shots.
MURRAY: For the pictures that were shared, he wanted to make sure that the rally space was full. And so he's being told it's not that people are waiting to get through these mags, through these metal detectors; people don't want to go through them because they have weapons with them.
TAPPER (voice-over): During the hearings, the select committee showed a Secret Service report that, quote, "some members of the crowd are wearing ballistic helmets, body armor and carrying radio equipment and military grade backpacks."
CHENEY: Let's listen.
TAPPER (voice-over): The committee also played police radio transmissions from that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the individual was entering. He's got blue jeans and a blue jean jacket. And underneath the blue jean jacket, complainants both saw some with AR-15s.
He's going to be with a group of individuals, about 5-8, 5-8 other individuals. Two of the individuals in that group, they had Glock- style pistols in their waistbands.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got three men walking down the street in fatigues, carrying AR-15s. Copy at 14th and Independence.
TAPPER (voice-over): Yet Trump wanted the metal detectors, the magnetometers or mags, removed.
HUTCHINSON: When we were in the off-stage announce tent, I was in the vicinity of a conversation, where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me.
Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away.
CHENEY: Let's reflect on that for a moment. President Trump was aware that a number of the individuals in the crowd had weapons and were wearing body armor. And here's what President Trump instructed the crowd to do.
TRUMP: We're going to walk down and I'll be there with you. We're going to walk down, anyone you want, but I think right here we're going to walk down to the Capitol to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.
TAPPER: How would you characterize Donald Trump's speech at the Ellipse on January 6th?
HABERMAN: Inciting. He said "peacefully and patriotically" that he was telling people go up there. And it's hard not to see that that was fomenting and telling people that he had been harmed and they should be angry on his behalf.
TRUMP: You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
TAPPER (voice-over): Trump's national security advisors believe the president code named, Mogul, was going to join the procession.
CHENEY: Mogul, the president, was, quote, "going to the capitol" and, quote, "they're finding the best route now."
TAPPER (voice-over): The chat log continues, "Military aide has confirmed that he wants to walk. They are begging him to reconsider. Current route will be 15th to F, F to 6th, 6th to Penn, Penn to the Capitol."
"So this is happening."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's millions of us here, don't let them lie to you.
TAPPER: What was he going to do up there?
HABERMAN: I think just lead his people, lead his base, be with his base.
HABERMAN: I don't think this was something that he had thought out too well, other than he was acting like somebody who didn't think he had anything to lose. TAPPER (voice-over): After more than an hour on stage, the president wrapped up his speech this way.
TRUMP: We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. So let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you. And God bless America.
HUTCHINSON: When he got off the stage and everybody was making the movement back to the motorcade, I had overheard Mr. Meadows say to him that he was still working on getting an off-the-record movement to the Capitol.
TAPPER (voice-over): What happened next, as Trump and Secret Service agent Robert "Bobby" Engel got into the presidential limousine known as the Beast, was relayed to Hutchinson by Trump's deputy chief of staff, Tony Ornato.
HUTCHINSON: When I returned to the White House, Tony proceeded to tell me that, once the president had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought that they were going up to the Capitol.
And when Bobby had relayed to him, "We're not; you don't have the assets to do it. It's not secure. We're going back to the West Wing."
The president had a very strong, very angry response to that. Tony described him as being irate.
The president said something to the effect of, "I'm the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now," to which Bobby responded, "Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing."
The president reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, "Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the West Wing. We're not going to the Capitol."
REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) ILLINOIS JAN. 6TH COMMITTEE MEMBER: It's a shocking story. And we've now heard from at least a Washington, D.C., detective, something very similar.
TAPPER (voice-over): Trump would return to the White House and watch his supporters heed his call to fight like hell.
TAPPER: The morning of January 6th, what were your expectations for the day?
MATTHEWS: I think I woke up thinking that it was going to be a normal day. And I just thought that he was going to go out there and give a speech and that that would be it.
TAPPER (voice-over): Sarah Matthews is Donald Trump's former Deputy White House press secretary and was in the White House on January 6th.
MATTHEWS: It was kind of quiet, to be honest, in the West Wing, that morning at least.
TAPPER (voice-over): That quiet would not last long. After the speeches at the Ellipse, the president returned to the White House and the rioters made their way to the Capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They broke through. It's ours.
Already aware of the increasing violence, Trump went into the private dining room just off the Oval Office at 1:25 pm and remained there until 4 pm
HABERMAN: When Donald Trump is upset about what he is seeing, he reacts. He was not reacting here.
TAPPER: For more than three hours, the president of the United States refused to call off the violent rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.
HABERMAN: He was watching television and admiring what he saw. You know, was happy that the certification was delayed. There were myriad efforts to get him to issue some kind of a statement. Those did not work. He didn't make a single phone call to any member of his government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is now possibly a riot.
TAPPER: At 1:49 pm...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 1:49 hours, declaring it a riot.
TAPPER (voice-over): When D.C. police officially declared this a riot, Trump tweeted out a link to his speech on the Ellipse, the very one that had helped incite that riot.
Realizing the severity of the situation, White House counsel Pat Cipollone rushed to Mark Meadows, the president's chief of staff.
HUTCHINSON: And I remember Pat saying to him something to the effect of the rioters got to the Capitol, Mark. We need to get on to the president now.
And Mark looked up and said, he doesn't want to do anything, Pat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's over. You better run, cops.
TAPPER (voice-over): Right as the violence surged, Trump tweeted, "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution."
MATTHEWS: It was the last thing that was really needed in that moment. It pretty much painted a target on the vice president's back by tweeting that out.
HUTCHINSON: I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the vice president to be effing hung. And Mark had responded something to the effect of, you heard him Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it.
MATTHEWS: Working in communications for President Trump, I was very aware of just the impact that his words have on his supporters. That tweet suggested to them that what they were doing at the Capitol was OK and that they were justified in their violence and that it was vice president Pence who was allowing an election to be stolen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence has betrayed this president and he has betrayed the people of the United States.
TAPPER (voice-over): Inside the Capitol, the vice president was rushed from the Senate floor. Secret Service held Pence, along with his family and aides, in his Senate office as they worked to clear a path to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we lose any more time we may have -- we may lose the ability to leave.
TAPPER (voice-over): A White House security official, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, explained exactly how dire the situation was for Pence and his Secret Service detail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The members of the VP detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives. If they're running out of options and they're getting nervous, it sounds like that we came very close to either Service having to use lethal options or worse.
TAPPER (voice-over): When the Secret Service made the call to move the vice president again, rioters came within 40 feet of him. As he was held in an undisclosed location, it was the vice president who directed a response to the riot.
COLLINS: It was Pence who was on the phone with these lawmakers, Pence who was on the phone with people in the Pentagon about what was what was happening with the National Guard.
TAPPER (voice-over): At 2:38 pm, Trump tweeted, "Please support our Capitol police and law enforcement. They are truly on the side of our country. Stay peaceful."
By this point, rioters were in both chambers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our house.
TAPPER (voice-over): And the Capitol Rotunda was filled with tear gas.
MATTHEWS: At the end of the tweet, he used the phrase, "Stay peaceful." Kayleigh McEnany shared with me that he did not want to include that and that it took a lot of convincing on their part. That was extremely alarming to me.
TAPPER (voice-over): The rioters were getting Trump's messages in real time, as heard on walkie-talkie communications between rioters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump just tweeted, "Please support our Capitol police. They are on our side. Do not harm them."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't say not to do anything to the Congress men.
COLLINS: I think what the committee showed about Trump's tweets is that they do take them literally. His messages were received by the people who were there at the Capitol very loudly.
TAPPER (voice-over): At any moment during the siege on the Capitol, the president could have addressed the country live from the White House.
MATTHEWS: There's a camera on in the White House Briefing Room at all times. He could have walked over there, could have been on camera almost instantaneously and blasted out a message to the American people. He had every opportunity and he chose to not do that.
TAPPER (voice-over): When the president finally relented and released a video, telling the rioters to go home, it was 4:17 pm, three hours and seven minutes since the riot began.
KINZINGER: It became very clear that the Feds basically had taken the Capitol back over, that they were not going to succeed in stopping the counting. And only then did he come out with that statement.
TRUMP: We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election. And everyone knows it.
MATTHEWS: Seeing him on camera, start the video by talking about a stolen election. I just immediately knew that he wasn't going to meet the moment and say what was needed in that time.
TRUMP: So go home. We love you. You're very special.
TAPPER (voice-over): Yet again, many rioters took the president's words as instructions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here delivering the president's message. Donald Trump has asked everybody to go home.
MATTHEWS: Working in communications for him, I knew that I would be tasked with defending that. And we had just witnessed all this violence at the Capitol and these folks attacking police officers, chanting horrible things. And I knew that I couldn't defend that because it was indefensible. I resigned that evening.
TAPPER (voice-over): In the immediate aftermath of the riot, as blood and broken glass littered the halls of Congress, according to the January 6th Committee, there were those who were still trying to overturn the election.
That evening, Rudy Giuliani called a number of Republican senators and urged them to continue to try and delay the certification.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: I'm calling you because I want to discuss with you how they're trying to rush this hearing.
TAPPER (voice-over): The next day John Eastman called White House counsel Eric Herschmann to discuss an appeal in Georgia.
HERSCHMANN: I just said to him, are you out of your effing mind?
Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life. Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it. And then I hung up on him.
TAPPER (voice-over): And the president released a second video condemning the violence more forcefully on January 7th.
TRUMP: Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.
TAPPER (voice-over): But according to White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, it was only the threat of his cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment that convinced him to make this video. Advisors warned Trump that talk of removing him from office was gaining traction.
HUTCHINSON: Think about what might happen in the final 15 days of your presidency if we don't do this. There's already talks about invoking the 25th Amendment. You need this as cover.
TAPPER (voice-over): And even then, he still refused to admit the election was over.
TRUMP: This election is now over. Congress has certified the results.
I don't want to say the election is over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election is over. OK?
CHENEY: That video just showed us that that even after every single constitutional process had been completed and after over 60 courts had heard his challenges and rejected them, he still refused. It was fundamentally a rejection of the rule of law.
And again, America can't sustain itself if we have a commander in chief who is at war with the rule of law.
TAPPER (voice-over): Coming up:
KINZINGER: I want the American people to look at these hearings and understand how close we came that day to losing that self-governance.
TAPPER (voice-over): The battle to prevent another January 6th. (MUSIC PLAYING)
KINZINGER: What we showed in every one of those hearings and every one of those pieces is he knew what he was doing. Donald Trump knew he was pressuring the vice president. Donald Trump knew that he was pressuring state officials.
He knew he was lying. He was trying to basically change out the DOJ to be people sympathetic to him, to give at least the air of federal complicity in challenging election results. And he knew, when he was sitting in the office during the attack on January 6th, that there was a chance that would succeed.
TAPPER: What do you want Americans to take away from the hearings?
KINZINGER: I want the American people to look at these hearings and understand how close we came that day to losing that self-governance. Freedom isn't free. You have to defend this and not just overseas but sometimes here at home.
TRUMP: Do you miss me yet?
Do you miss me?
TAPPER (voice-over): In the aftermath of January 6th and his election loss...
TRUMP: Anthony Gonzalez, that's another beauty.
TAPPER: -- Donald Trump has made it his mission to replace Republican opponents with supporters.
He had mixed success. In Arizona, in Pennsylvania, he backed gubernatorial candidates Kari Lake and Doug Mastriano and Senate candidates Blake Masters and Mehmet Oz. All of them lost.
Of the 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump because of January 6th, only two returned to Congress in 2023. The others either declined to run for re-election, such as Adam Kinzinger, or lost their Republican primary re-election battles to more Trump-supporting candidates, such as Liz Cheney.
CHENEY: And I will do whatever it takes.
TAPPER: This mission that you've taken on has cost you your job.
Do you have any regrets?
CHENEY: Our obligation, my obligation, very much is above politics. I can't imagine having done anything differently at any stage of this process since January 6th. It saddens me that so many of my Republican colleagues have not met the moment.
TAPPER (voice-over): Kinzinger and Cheney were the only two Republicans on the House Select Committee to investigate the attack on January 6th. They've become pariahs in a party where they were once seen as its future.
KINZINGER: We cannot survive as a party existing on the personality of one man.
TAPPER (voice-over): The select committee to investigate the January 6th attack had a Herculean task set before it. Its members and staff have conducted more than 1,000 interviews, filmed hundreds of taped depositions and collected more than 140,000 documents.
And finally, the week of December 19th, the committee showed us its full hand.
TAPPER: Leading this hour, the January 6th committee referring Donald Trump to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first criminal statute we invoke for referral, therefore --
TAPPER (voice-over): At its last hearing, the committee recommended Donald Trump be prosecuted for four different crimes, including obstruction of an official proceeding on January 6th, 2021.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The whole purpose and obvious effect of Trump's scheme were to obstruct, influence and impede this official proceeding.
TAPPER (voice-over): Conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make false statements and, perhaps the most grave referral, the one for aiding or assisting an insurrection.
RASKIN: Anyone who incites others to engage in rebelling, assists them in doing so or gives aid and comfort to those engaged in insurrection is guilty of a federal crime.
TAPPER (voice-over): It's a charge that may be particularly difficult to prove.
DONOGHUE: You have to have criminal intent. Here you have the problem of proving what was in the president's mind. I've heard people say, well, he was willfully blind.
Should he have known?
Yes. But if he did not, I don't know that that's a crime.
LUTTIG: I said that --
TAPPER (voice-over): Not everyone shares that view.
LUTTIG: -- willful ignorance of fact or law by the President of the United States would not be either a legal defense or a political defense to the president. That's about as clear as a former judge could say it.
TAPPER (voice-over): Ultimately, the Justice Department will decide whether to bring any charges against former president Trump or John Eastman, who the committee also referred for criminal prosecution, or anyone else.
In November, attorney general Merrick Garland appointed a former war crimes prosecutor named Jack Smith as special counsel in charge of these ongoing investigations.
MURRAY: We know the Justice Department has been investigating Jeffrey Clark. We also know that John Eastman is someone who has been touched by this investigation.
JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'd like to see the warrant before you take my property.
TAPPER (voice-over): Both Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman had their phones seized by federal investigators. Clark dismissed the investigation as politically motivated and Eastman fought the DOJ search warrant in court.
But there are state level investigations as well. Rudy Giuliani has been informed he's a target in a Georgia investigation.
GIULIANI: We will not talk about this until it's over.
TAPPER (voice-over): And appeared before a grand jury in August.
At the moment perhaps the most perilous investigation for Donald Trump has nothing to do with the attack on the Capitol.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Florida has been searched by the FBI.
HABERMAN: The investigation that, at the moment, seems most directly threatening to Donald Trump is the one into his handling of classified documents and taking documents to Mar-a-Lago with him when he left office.
TAPPER (voice-over): The government has recovered more than 320 classified documents from Trump's home in Florida.
The redacted search warrant identified three federal crimes that the Department of Justice lists as the foundation of its investigation: obstruction of justice, criminal handling of government records and violations of the Espionage Act.
Justice Department investigations of Donald Trump are certain to be helped by the 845-page committee report and the hundreds of documents and transcripts released by the January 6th committee as the Congress came to a close in 2022.
Among the recommendations in the report --
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The committee believes that those who took an oath to protect and defend the constitution on January 6th should be barred, disqualified and barred, from holding government office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Donald!
TAPPER (voice-over): That's aimed at Trump, who has already announced he's running for president in 2024, something the committee has said should not be allowed.
TRUMP: I'm thrilled to be back.
CHENEY: No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.
TAPPER (voice-over): Among the thousands of pages of transcripts released by the committee were new bits of information, including Cassidy Hutchinson's claim that she saw Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, burn documents in his White House fireplace about a dozen times during the transition.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Even Richard Nixon didn't burn the tapes. There was a gap but he didn't burn the tapes.
TAPPER (voice-over): Also in those pages, claims from Hutchinson that Meadows told her the president knew he lost the 2020 election, despite what he was saying publicly.
"Does the president really think that he lost," Hutchinson asked Meadows on one occasion?
He said, "You know, a lot of times he'll tell me that he lost but he wants to keep fighting it."
How much the committee hearings and findings have impacted the country's view of Trump remains unclear.
HABERMAN: I think the January 6th hearings actually presented a pretty concise case, and I do think that it got through to voters, and I think it was partly because it was Trump's own appointees, Republican appointees, who were the ones they used to testify against him.
Whether that lingers in voters' minds I think is a real open question.
COLLINS: I don't think that they've wounded him in the sense of they've changed a lot of minds. His supporters either don't care or still believe what he says, which is that the election was stolen and that Biden is not a legitimately elected president.
SIDNER: Is any of this, new revelations from these transcripts, enough to loosen Donald Trump's grip on the Republican Party, you think? JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I doubt it. Not his base. His base is
going to stay where they are. They don't care about the facts.
LUTTIG: Donald Trump and his supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.
TAPPER: You've been shouting from the rooftops, this is not just about 2020. You're worried about 2024?
LUTTIG: I am. And right now the former president and his allies and supporters, including in Congress, including in the states, represent a clear and present danger to American democracy. That's not because of what they did on January 6th. It's because of what they pledge to do in 2024.
TAPPER: Do you think that Republicans are hearing what you're saying?
LUTTIG: I hope they are.
TAPPER: Our democracy in the United States relies upon good people in positions of power to do the lawful and right thing, from the president all the way down to local officials. We're having these discussions because there were enough people, enough Republicans who did the right thing in 2020. Perhaps next time, there won't be.
If January 6th has taught us anything it's that nothing is guaranteed. This is the American experiment, not the American proven theorem. For our republic to survive, we need our elected officials loyal not to one man but to the United States of America.