Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Jan. 6 Cmte Holds Final Hearing Before Midterms. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired October 13, 2022 - 13:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Frankly, they have not had a whole lot to work with in terms of pushback, it's been hard to push back on what's been presented by the January 6th Committee because it's coming from Trump's own aides, including some who still work for him. It's coming from a bunch of Republicans. It's in some ways, his own words, his own actions, it's been difficult for Republicans to figure out how to launch a full throated defense of Trump in light of the way that the evidence has been presented. So they just don't have that many -- they don't have a lot of options right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Their messaging is so bizarre, though, right? It's not just a different message from the great communicator, Ronald Reagan. There -- it's a troll account. I mean, the House Republican Conference. They post memes of Johnny Depp. They talk about, they praise Kanye West, just a couple of days before Kenye --

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: It's very Trumpy.

TAPPER: -- like an anti-Semitic rants. And then they don't take it down. It's like, I don't even know who that account is for.

PHILLIP: It is for a whole segment. There is a whole segment of the Republican base right now that is very, very online. They are all about just sticking it to the Liberals online, and that's who they're speaking to. A lot of those people are Trump people. Trump really cultivated those people. But that's what it's all about, not about right policies or anything like that.

TAPPER: Right. So let's take a step back and just talk about what we're going to hear tonight -- today, in this hearing that's going to set to begin any minute. There are the members -- there's the chairman of the Committee, Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi as followed by I think Liz Cheney, the Republican of Wyoming, the vice chair of the Committee, they're stepping up.

We're told, and there's a lot of these people are not going to be back in Congress next year, Stephanie Murphy, from Florida, Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, not returning to Congress. And Jamie, I mean, this Committee has not disappointed when it comes to new shocking information. JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: They have always under promised and over delivered. And I think we're going to see that again today with the Secret Service messages. And also with this new behind the scenes video, which I'm told is stunning. And remember, it's not just Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer behind the scenes, it's two Republicans to the point of that Republican Twitter account, you're going to see, Kevin McCarthy --

TAPPER: Let's listen in.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), CHAIRMAN, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: The Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol will be in order. Without objection, the Chair is authorized to declare the Committee in recess at any point pursuant to House Deposition Authority Regulation 10, the Chair analysis the Committee's approval to release the deposition material presented during today's hearing.

Good afternoon, and may God bless the United States of America. Four months ago, this Committee started to present our findings to you, the American people. From the beginning, we understood that some people watching those proceedings, would wrongly assume that the Committee's investigation was a partisan exercise. That's why I ask those who was skeptical of our work, to simply to listen, to listen to the evidence, to hear the testimony with an open mind and to let the facts speak for themselves before reaching any judgment.

Over the course of these hearings, the evidence has proven that there were multi part plan led by former President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election. Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, as shown from the testimony of some of the President's closest allies and advisers Donald Trump knew he lost. Despite this knowledge, Donald Trump went to court to contest the 2020 election, and he lost in court.

The Electoral College met and declared Joe Biden the winner. Yet, Donald Trump continued to pull out all the stops in his attempt to stay in power. What Donald Trump proceeded to do after the 2020 election is something no president has done before in our country, and a staggering betrayal of his oath, Donald Trump attempted a plan that led to an attack on a pillar of our democracy. It's still hard to believe.

But the facts and testimony are clear, consistent and undisputed. How do we know this? How have we been able to present such a clear picture of what took place? Because of the testimony we've heard and that we've have presented to you through these proceedings because of the documentary evidence we've gathered and also made available to directly to you, the American people.


When you look back at what has come out through this Committee's work, the most striking fact is that all this evidence come almost entirely from Republicans. The evidence that has emerged did not come from Democrats or opponents of Donald Trump. Instead, look at who's written and testified and produced evidence. Who has that been? Aides who've work loyally for Donald Trump for years, Republican state officials and legislators, Republican electors, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, political professionals who worked at the highest levels of the Trump campaign, Trump appointees who served in the most senior positions in the Justice Department, President Trump's staff, and closest advisors in the White House, members of the President Trump's family, his own White House Counsel.

I've served in Congress a long time. I can tell you, it's tough for any congressional investigation to obtain evidence, like what we've received, least of all such a detailed view into a president's inner circle. And I want to be clear, not all these witnesses were thrilled to talk to us. Some put up quite a fight. But ultimately, the vast majority cooperated with our investigation. And what we've shown you over the last four months has been centered on the evidence, evidence that has come overwhelmingly from Republican witnesses.

So I say to you, again, as I did in June, this investigation is not about politics, it's not about party, it's about the facts, plain and simple. And it's about making sure our government functions under the rule of law, as our Constitution demands. Today, as in previous proceedings, my colleagues and I will present new evidence that includes new testimony from additional Republicans who served in the Trump administration, never before seen footage of congressional leaders on January 6th, working to coordinate the response to the violence and ensure the people's business went forward, new materials produced to the Committee by the Secret Service, details about ongoing threat to American democracy.

Today's proceeding will also be grounded in the facts, but it won't look exactly like all our other hearings. We'll also take a step back and look at the evidence in a broader context, providing a summary of key facts we've uncovered, facts relevant to former President Trump's state of mind, about his motivation, and about his intent. What did President Trump know? What was he told? What was his personal and substantial role in the multipart plan to overturn the election?

For those of you who watched our prior hearings, some of this evidence will look familiar. For those of you tuning in for the first time, we'll summarize some of the most important facts. And we urge you to go online and watch our hearing in full. There's one more difference about today. Pursuant to the notice circulated prior to today's proceedings, we are convened today, not as a hearing, but as a formal Committee business meeting, so that in addition to presenting evidence, we can potentially hold a Committee vote on further investigative action based upon that evidence.

Before we get to that evidence, I'd recognize our distinguished Vice Chair, Ms. Cheney of Wyoming, for any opening statements she care to offer.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY), VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Much has happened since our last public hearing on July 21st. As the Chairman mentioned, we received new and voluminous documentation from the Secret Service, which we continue to analyze. We've received new witness testimony, including about efforts to obstruct our investigation and conceal key facts.

And according to public reporting, the Department of Justice has been very active in pursuing many of the issues identified in our prior hearings. Our Committee may ultimately decide to make a series of criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, but we recognize that our role is not to make decisions regarding prosecution.

The preamble to our Constitution, recites among its purposes, to quote establish justice in our nation's judiciary. And our U.S. Department of Justice have that responsibility. A key element of this committee's responsibility is to propose reforms to prevent January 6th from ever happening again. We've already proposed and the House has now passed a bill to amend the Electoral Count Act, to help ensure that no other future plots to overturn an election can succeed.


And we will make further specific recommendations in our final report, based in part on the evidence you will hear today. Our hearings last summer began with an outline of President Trump's multipart plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election. We then proceeded to demonstrate each of these elements in detail with more than 20 hours of evidence.

Today, we will see new evidence but as the Chairman said, we will also synthesize evidence you've seen before. The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of January 6th was one man, Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of this would have happened without him. He was personally and substantially involved in all of it.

Exactly how did one man cause all of this? Today we will focus on President Trump's state of mind, his intent, his motivations, and how he spurred others to do his bidding, and how another January 6th could happen again, if we do not take necessary action to prevent it. As you view our evidence today, I would suggest to focus on the following points.

First, as you will see, President Trump had a premeditated plan to declare that the election was fraudulent and stolen before Election Day, before he knew the election results. He made his stolen election claims on election night against the advice of his campaign without any evidence in hand. Then over the next two months, he sought to find those who would help him invent and spread lies about the widespread fraud.

Many of those who stepped forward to help including Rudy Giuliani knew they never had real evidence sufficient to change the election results. And on the evening of January 5th, they admitted they were still trying to find that phantom evidence. Of course, as a result of making intentionally false claims of election fraud, Mr. Giuliani is licensed to practice law has now been suspended.

Second, please recognize that President Donald Trump was in a unique position, better informed about the absence of widespread election fraud than almost any other American. President Trump's own campaign experts told him that there was no evidence to support his claims. His own Justice Department appointees investigated the election fraud claims and told him point blank, they were false.

In mid-December 2020, President Trump's senior advisors told him the time had come to concede the election. Donald Trump knew the courts had ruled against him. He had all of this information, but still he made the conscious choice to claim fraudulently that the election was stolen. To pressure state officials to change election results, to manufacture fake electoral slates, to attempt to corrupt our Department of Justice, to summon tens of thousands of supporters to Washington, knowing that they were angry, knowing that some of them were armed, he sent them to the Capitol.

Then as the riot was underway, he incited his supporters to further violence by publicly condemning his vice president. And then he refused for hours to disband his rioting supporters and instruct them to leave the Capitol, even when he was begged repeatedly to do so. None of this is normal, or acceptable or lawful in our republic.

Third, please consider today who had a hand in defeating President Trump's efforts to overturn the election. Vice President Pence, Bill Barr, Jeff Rosen and others at the Department of Justice, state Republican officials, White House staff who blocked proposals to mobilize the military to seize voting machines and run new elections, our Capitol Police aided by the Metropolitan Police, other federal law enforcement, and our national guard who arrived later in the afternoon. All of these people had a hand in stopping Donald Trump.

This leads us to a key question. Why would Americans assume that our Constitution and our institutions in our Republic are invulnerable to another attack? Why would we assume that those institutions will not fall for next time? A key lesson of this investigation is this, our institution's only hold when men and women of good faith make them hold regardless of the political cost. We have no guarantee that these men and women will be in place next time.


Any future president inclined to attempt what Donald Trump did in 2020 has now learned not to install people who could stand in the way. And also please consider this, the rulings of our courts are respected and obeyed, because we as citizens pledged to accept and honor them. Most importantly, our president who has a constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws swears to accept them. What happens when the president disregards the court's rulings is illegitimate when he disregards the rule of law, that my fellow citizens, breaks our Republic.

Finally, as you view the evidence today, also consider this, President Trump knew from unassailable sources that his election fraud claims were false. He admitted he had lost the election. He took actions consistent with that belief, claims that President Trump actually thought the election was stolen, are not supported by a fact and are not a defense. There is no defense that Donald Trump was duped or irrational. No president can defy the rule of law and act this way in a constitutional Republic, period. Mr. Chairman, our nation's federal judges are sworn to do impartial justice to preserve our Constitution and preserve our union. Dozens of these judges have been addressing January 6th cases, and many have given us plain unmistakable warnings about the direction of our Republic.

Let me read from one judges statement given at a recent sentencing hearing, quote, high ranking members of Congress and state officials who know perfectly well the claim of fraud was and is untrue and that the election was legitimate are so afraid of losing their power, they won't say so. It has to be crystal clear that it is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man who knows full well that he lost instead of the Constitution he was trying to subvert.

Mr. Chairman, the violence and lawlessness of January 6th was unjustifiable. But our nation cannot only punish the foot soldiers who stormed our capitol. Those who plans to overturn our election and brought us to the point of violence must also be accountable. With every effort to excuse or justify the conduct of the former president, we chip away at the foundation of our Republic.

Indefensible conduct is defended, inexcusable conduct is excused. Without accountability, it all becomes normal, and it will recur. So as we watch the evidence today, please consider where our nation is in its history. Consider whether we can survive for another 246 years. Most people in most places on earth have not been free. America is an exception. And America continues only because we bind ourselves to our founder's principles, to our constitution.

We recognize that some principles must be beyond politics in violet, and more important than any single American who has ever lived. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

THOMPSON: Without objections, the Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Lofgren, for an opening statement.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA), JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Very shortly after the election, oh, we begin this meeting by returning to election night, November 3rd, 2020. As the Chairman noted, we've previously presented testimony about how the election results were expected to come in that night. In certain states, ballots cast by mail before Election Day would be counted only after the polls closed that evening.

That meant that election results would not be known for some time. Although President Trump's campaign manager Bill Stepien, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Jared Kushner had advised Donald Trump to encourage mail-in voting by Republicans. President Trump did not do so.


JARED KUSHNER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Yes, I just remember generally, you know, you had people arguing that we had a very, very robust get out the vote effort and that, you know, mail-in ballots could be a good thing for us if we looked at it correctly.


BILL STEPIEN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There was one meeting that was had, in particular, I invited Kevin McCarthy to join the meeting. He being of like mind on the issue with me, in which we made our case for why we believed mail-in balloting, mail-in voting not to be a bad thing for his campaign. But, you know, the President's mind was made up.


LOFGREN: So it was expected before the election, that the initial counts in some states, in other words, those votes cast on Election Day would be more heavily Republican. And this would create the false perception of a lead for President Trump, a so called Red Mirage. But as the results of the absentee ballots that were later counted, there could be trends towards Vice President Biden, as those mail-in ballots were counted.

Now on election night, Donald Trump's advisors specifically told him, he didn't have a factual basis to declare victory. He should wait for the remaining ballots to be counted. Here is campaign manager Bill Stepien.


STEPIEN: It was far too early to be making any calls like that. Ballots still being counted, ballots were still going to be counted for days. And it was far too early to be making any proclamation like that. I believe my recommendation was to say that votes were still being counted. It's too early to tell, too early to call the race.


LOFGREN: But President Trump did declare victory in the late hours of election night. Not only did he declare victory, he also called for the ongoing count of votes to just stop, stopping the count would have violated both federal and state laws and also disenfranchise millions of voters who lawfully cast their vote. He called for that action anyway, here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election.

We want all voting to stop.


LOFGREN: We now know more about President Trump's intention for election night. The evidence shows that his false victory speech was planned well in advance before any votes had been counted. It was a premeditated plan by the President to declare victory no matter what the actual result was. He made a plan to stay in office before Election Day. Now the Vice President's staff was concerned with what Donald Trump might do on election night. They took steps to ensure that Mr. Pence would not echo a false victory announcement from President Trump. Here's what the Vice President's Counsel Greg Jacob told us about his preparations with the Vice President's Chief of Staff, Marc Short.


GREG JACOB, FORMER COUNSEL TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Marc had indicated to me that there was a possibility that there would be a declaration of victory within the White House that some might push for. And this is prior to the election results being known. And that he was trying to figure out a way of avoiding the Vice President sort of being thrust into a position of needing to opine on that, when he might not have sufficient information to do so.


LOFGREN: Now following this conversation, Mr. Jacob drafted a memo to Mr. Short, which the Select Committee got from the National Archives. The memo was sent on November 3rd, Election Day, and advised, 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.


A few days before the election, Mr. Trump also consulted with one of his outside advisers, inside activist Tom Fitton, about the strategy for election night. The Select Committee got this pre prepared statement from the National Archives. As you can see, the draft statement, which was sent on October 31st declares, we had an election today and I won. And the Fitton memo specifically indicates a plan that only the votes counted by the Election Day deadline and there is no Election Day deadline would matter.

Everyone knew that ballot counting would lawfully continue past election day, claiming that the counting on election night must stop before millions of votes were counted was as we now know, a key part of President Trump's premeditated plan. On Election Day, just after 5:00 p.m. Mr. Fitton indicated he'd spoken with the President about the statement, sending along again, just talked to him about the draft below.

Again, this plan to keep -- to declare victory was in place before any of the results had been determined. In the course of our investigation, 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.

And just a few days before the election, Steve Bannon, a former Trump chief White House strategist and outside adviser to President Trump spoke to a group of his associates from China and said this.


STEVE BANNON, TRUMP OUTSIDE ADVISOR: And what Trump's going to do is just declare victory, right? He's going to declare a victory. But that doesn't mean he's the winner. He's just going to say he's a winner. The Democrats, more of our people vote early that count. Theirs vote in mail. And so they're going to have a natural disadvantage and Trump's going to take advantage if that's our strategy. He's going to declare himself a winner. So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it's going to be a firestorm.

Also, if Trump is losing by 10:00 or 11 o'clock at night, it's going to be even crazier. No, because he's going to sit right there and say, they stole it. I'm directing the Attorney General to shut down all ballot places in all 50 states. It's going to be, no, he's not going out easy. If Trump, if Biden's winning, Trump is going to do some crazy shit.


LOFGREN: As you know, Mr. Bannon refused to testify in our investigation. He's been convicted of criminal contempt of Congress, and he's awaiting sentencing. But the evidence indicates that Mr. Bannon had advanced knowledge of Mr. Trump's intent to declare victory falsely on election night, but also that Mr. Bannon knew about Mr. Trump's planning for January 6th. Here's what Bannon said on January 5th.


BANNON: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's all converging. And now we're on as they say the point of attack, right? The point of attack tomorrow. I'll tell you this. It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen. OK. It's going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in. You have made this happen. And tomorrow, it's game day. So strap in, let's get ready.


LOFGREN: Another close associate of Donald Trump apparently knew of Mr. Trump's intentions as well. Roger Stone is a political operative with a reputation for dirty tricks. In November 2019, he was convicted of lying to Congress and other crimes, and sentenced to more than three years in prison. He's also a longtime adviser to President Trump, and was in communication with President Trump throughout 2020.

Mr. Trump pardoned Roger Stone on December 23rd, 2020. Now recently, the Select Committee got footage of Mr. Stone before and after the election from Danish filmmaker Christopher Gulbrandsen, pursuant to a subpoena. Right before the election, here is Roger Stone, talking about what President Trump would do after the election.



ROGER STONE, AMERICAN POLITICAL ASSISTANT: Let's just hope we're celebrating. I suspect it'll be, I really do suspect it will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. No, we won. Fuck you. Sorry. Over. We won. You're wrong. Fuck you.