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CNN Live Event/Special
January 6th Committee Holds Final Public Meeting. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 19, 2022 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAT CIPOLLONE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Not that I'm aware of. No.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Are you aware any phone call by the president of the United States, the attorney general for the United States that day?
CHENEY: Are you aware of any phone calls by the president of the United States, the secretary of Homeland Security that day?
CIPOLLONE: I'm not aware of that. No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever hear the vice, or excuse me, the president ask for the National Guard.
GEN. KEITH KELLOGG, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO THE VICE PRESIDENT: No. No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever hear the president ask for law enforcement response?
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You've got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America. And there's nothing? No call? Nothing? Zero?
(PROTESTERS CHANTING "HANG MIKE PENCE")
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: 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 it, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong.
CHENEY: Who on the staff did not want people to leave the Capitol?
CIPOLLONE: On the staff?
CHENEY: In the White House. CIPOLLONE: I don't -- I -- I can't think of anybody, you know, on that
day who didn't want people to get out of the Capitol once the, you know, once the violence started. No. I mean --
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What about the president?
CIPOLLONE: Well, she said the staff. So I answered.
CHENEY: No, I said in the White House.
CIPOLLONE: I'm sorry. I apologize. I thought you said who else on the staff. Yes, I can't reveal communications. But obviously I think, you know -- yes.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I said, good, John. 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.
CHENEY: General Flynn, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America?
LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The Fifth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got another officer unconscious. At the terrace, West Terrace.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): The chair now recognizes the gentlewoman from California, Miss Lofgren, for an opening statement.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Over the last 18 months, the Select Committee has conducted a congressional investigation of enormous scale seeking to uncover the depth and breadth of ex-President Trump's multi-part plan to reverse the lawful outcome of the 2020 presidential election. We've compiled an immense volume of documents collected from countless individuals, law enforcement agencies, and federal and state authorities.
Many of our efforts to get the evidence required litigation in federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court. We've taken the testimony of hundreds of witnesses. And while we couldn't show them all during the hearings, we focused on those who are most central, including our ex- president's White House aides, his senior Department of Justice officials, and senior members of his campaign.
Based on this assembled evidence, the Select Committee has reached a series of specific findings. And many of these findings pertain to what has been called the big lie. The enormous effort led by ex- President Trump to spread baseless accusations and misinformation in an attempt to falsely convince tens of millions of Americans that the election had been stolen from him.
Beginning even before the election and continuing through January 6th and thereafter, Donald Trump purposely disseminated false allegations of fraud in order to aid his effort to overturn the 2020 election. Ex- President Trump's decision to declare victory falsely on election night wasn't a spontaneous decision. It was premeditated.
The Committee has evidence that ex-President Trump planned to declare victory and unlawfully to call for the vote counting to stop and that he told numerous allies about his intent in the weeks before the election. The Committee found Mr. Trump raised hundreds of millions of dollars with false representations made to his online donors.
The proceeds from his fundraising, we have learned, have been used in ways that we believe are concerning. In particular, the Committee has learned that some of those funds were used to hire lawyers. We've also obtained evidence of efforts to provide or offer employment to witnesses. For example, one lawyer told a witness the witness could, in certain circumstances, tell the committee that she didn't recall facts when she actually did recall them.
That lawyer also did not disclose who was paying for the lawyer's representation despite questions from the client seeking that information. He told her, quote, "We're not telling people where funding is coming from right now." We've learned that a client was offered potential employment that would make her, quote, "financially very comfortable" as the date of her testimony approached by entities that were apparently linked to Donald Trump and his associates.
These offers were withdrawn or didn't materialize as reports of the content of her testimony circulated. The witness believed this was an effort to affect her testimony. And we are concerned that these efforts may have been a strategy to prevent the committee from finding the truth.
Throughout the post-election period, ex-President Trump was told repeatedly by his campaign advisers, government officials and others there was no evidence to support his claims of election fraud. Even since our last hearing, the select committee has obtained testimony from new witnesses who have come forward to tell us about their conversations with ex-President Trump on this topic.
Here is one of his senior advisers, Hope Hicks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOPE HICKS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Evidence of fraud on a scale that would have been impacted the outcome of the election. And I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging -- we were damaging his legacy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president say in response to what you
HICKS: He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOFGREN: Despite all that, he continued to purposely and maliciously make false claims sometimes within a day of being told that a particular claim was false and unsupported by the evidence. By the time the electoral college met to cast these votes on December 14th, 2020, a number of President Trump's senior staff, Cabinet officials and members of his family were urging him to facilitate a peaceful transition to the incoming administration.
He disregarded their advice, and he continued to claim publicly that the election had been stolen from him. Numerous state and federal courts evaluated and rejected the Trump campaign's claims of voter fraud, including 11 judges appointed by ex-President Trump himself. Many of these courts issued scathing opinions, criticizing the lack of evidence that ex-President Trump and his allies had advanced to support their claims.
Numerous individuals associated with these efforts have since acknowledged that they were unable to find sufficient evidence of fraud to affect the election results, including in testimony to this select committee. Still, ex-President Trump repeated those false claims and tried to convince his supporters the election was stolen. This was an attempt to justify overturning the lawful election results.
Donald Trump knowingly and corruptly repeated election fraud lies which incited his supporters to violence on January 6th. He continues to repeat his meritless claim that the election was stolen even today and continues to erode our most cherished and shared belief in free and fair elections.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THOMPSON: The gentlewoman yields back. The chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff, for an opening statement.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Building on his constant repetition of the big lie, President Trump engaged in an unprecedented effort to obstruct the joint session on January 6th, the proceeding where his electoral loss would be certified by Congress. This effort began in part in the states which hold count and ultimately determine the winners of presidential elections. Many state officials were targeted by President Trump and his campaign. The local election workers he accused baselessly of election fraud,
the state officials he pressured to stop the count or to find votes that didn't exist, and the state legislative officials he urged to disregard the popular will of the voters and their oath of office in order to name him the winner instead.
Here are the select committee findings about President Trump's state pressure campaign. President Trump and his enablers repeatedly pressured state officials to take action to overturn the results of the election. The most dramatic example of this campaign of coercion was the president's January 2nd, 2021 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the president urged the secretary to find 11,780 votes he needed to change the outcome in that state.
During that call, President Trump again repeated conspiracy theories about the election that his own appointees at the Department of Justice had already debunked. Trump also made what Secretary Raffensperger apparently considered a threat, accurately considered a threat, suggesting that Raffensperger and his attorney that they could be subject to criminal prosecution if they didn't follow through with his demands.
Then in repeated telephone calls and in-person meetings, Donald Trump pressured state elections officials and state legislators to alter official election results. But courageous public servants, including Republicans like Rusty Bowers held firm and refused to put Donald Trump over their oath to the Constitution.
When Donald Trump's pressure campaign did not achieve the results he wanted, he oversaw an effort to obtain and transmit false electoral college ballots to Congress and the National Archives. The false ballots were created by fake Republican electors on December 14th at the same time the actual certified electors in those states were meeting to cast their votes for President Biden.
By that point in time, election-related litigation was over in all or nearly all of these states. And Trump campaign election lawyers realized that the fake slates were unjustifiable on any grounds and may be unlawful. In spite of these concerns and the concerns of individuals in the White House Counsel's Office, President Trump and others proceeded with this plan.
The select committee has developed evidence that these intentionally false documents were transmitted to multiple officers of the federal government and were intended to interfere with the proper conduct of the joint session with the existence of so-called competing slates of electors would serve as a pretext for a legitimate electoral votes to be rejected.
President Trump repeatedly attacked state and local officials who refused to do his bidding, as well as local elections workers who he baselessly accused of fraud. As Ruby Freeman and the testimony of other elections officials so powerfully demonstrated, the people who drew President Trump's ire over the subject of his lies faced real- world consequences, including public harassment and death threats. Some of these elections workers and officials have been forced to leave their homes. Others have been forced to leave the jobs they loved.
Take a listen to Miss Freeman's story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: Now I won't even introduce myself by my name anymore. I get nervous when I bump into someone I know in the grocery store who says my name. I'm worried about who is listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders. I'm always concerned of who is around me. I've lost my name and I've lost my reputation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: The treatment of Miss Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss, and so many others around the country was callous, inhuman, inexcusable and dangerous. And those responsible should be held accountable.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THOMPSON: The gentleman yields back. The chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Kinzinger, for an opening statement.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Certainly one of the many important components of our federal government is the Department of Justice. It's the body that's responsible for enforcing our laws and investigating criminal wrongdoing. For this reason, it's of the utmost importance that our Department of Justice operates as a fair and neutral body that enforces our federal laws without fear or without favor.
It is this critical function that President Trump sought to corrupt, as he sought to use the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute purported election fraud and to help him convince the public that the election was stolen.
The select committee has made the following findings with respect to the Department of Justice. In the weeks immediately following the 2020 election, Attorney General Bill Barr advised President Trump the Department of Justice had not seen any evidence to support Trump's theory that the election was stolen by fraud. No evidence.
Over the course of the three meetings in this post-election period, Attorney General Barr assured President Trump that the Justice Department was properly investigating claims of election fraud. He debunked numerous election fraud claims, many of which the president would then go on to repeat publicly. And he made clear that President Trump was doing, quote, "a great, great disservice" to the country by pursuing them.
After Attorney General Barr's resignation, President Trump requested that the acting leadership of the department, Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, quote, "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen." In other words, just tell a small lie to put the facade of legitimacy on this lie, and the Republican congressmen and I can distort and destroy and create doubt all ourselves.
Between December 23rd and January 3rd, President Trump called or met with them nearly every day, and was told repeatedly the department investigation showed no factual support for Trump's fraud allegations. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue told him that the fraud claims were simply untrue. As Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue continued to resist, President Trump then tried to install a loyalist named Jeffrey Clark to lead the department as acting attorney general.
On several occasions Clark met with the president apparently along with Representative Scott Perry, without authorization, promising to take the actions that Barr, Rosen and Donoghue had refused to take. In particular, Mr. Clark intended to send a letter that he had drafted with the help of a political appointee that the White House installed at DOJ with just weeks left in the administration.
Mr. Clark intended to send the letter to officials in numerous states, informing them falsely, of course, that the department had identified significant concerns about the election results in their state and encouraging their state legislators to come into special session to consider appointing Trump rather than Biden electors.
Here's acting Deputy Attorney General Donoghue describing his reaction to Mr. Clark's proposed letter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sending drafting letters without the knowledge of what the department had actually done in terms of the investigations, that he was being reckless. And I recalled toward the end saying what you're proposing is nothing less than the United States Justice Department meddling in the outcome of a presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINZINGER: Knowing that existing department leadership would not support his false election claims, President Trump offered Mr. Clark the job of acting attorney general. In a dramatic January 3rd meeting in the Oval Office, Rosen, Donoghue, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and White House lawyer Eric Herschmann strongly objected to the appointment of Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney.
Mr. Clark pleaded his case and offered to send the letter that he had drafted. The White House counsel called the Clark letter, quote, "a murder-suicide pact." Numerous White House and Department of Justice lawyers all threatened to resign if Mr. Clark was appointed. Donald Trump would be leading a graveyard. It was only after the threat of mass resignations that President Trump rescinded his offer to Mr. Clark.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THOMPSON: The gentleman yields back. The chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Aguilar, for an opening statement.
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Former President Trump's multi-part plan didn't stop with the states or with the Department of Justice. It touched nearly every component of our federal system ranging from the courts, to Congress, to his own Vice President Mike Pence. In the weeks before January 6th, Mr. Trump turned to the man who had served him loyally for four years. He embraced an illegal scheme proposed by John Eastman, and others, who concocted an unfounded legal theory that the vice president could reject Joe Biden's electoral votes during the joint session.
When Vice President Pence and many others, including Trump's own lawyer, John Eastman, told him correctly that former President Trump spearheaded an unprecedented campaign to coerce him to do it anyway, ultimately culminating in a dangerous threat to Mr. Pence's life on January 6th.
These are the select committee's findings with respect to the pressure campaign against the vice president. John Eastman admitted in advance of the 2020 election that Mike Pence could not lawfully refuse to count official electoral votes. But he nevertheless devised a meritless proposal that deployed a combination of bogus election fraud claims and the fake electoral ballots to say that Mike Pence, presiding over the joint session, could reject legitimate electoral votes for President-elect Biden.
But still, President Trump accepted and repeated Eastman's theory and used it to pressure the vice president to take unlawful action. In multiple heated conversations, President Trump directly pressured Vice President Pence to adopt the Eastman theory, and either reject the electors or send them back to the state legislatures. The vice president consistently resisted and repeatedly told the president that he did not possess the authority to do what President Trump directed.
This culminated in an angry phone call on the morning of January 6th between President Trump and Vice President Pence during which the former president repeatedly berated Mr. Pence by cursing and leveling threats. White House staffer Nick Luna was one of the many witnesses who heard the call as it happened. Take a listen at Mr. Luna's testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear any part of the phone call, even if just the end that the president was speaking from?
NICHOLAS LUNA, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I did, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And what did you hear?
LUNA: So as I was dropping off the note, I, my memory, I remember hearing the word wimp, either he called him a wimp. I remember he said you are a wimp, you'll be a wimp. Wimp is the word I remember, and something to the effect, this is the wordings, I made the wrong decision four or five years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AGUILAR: In the face of the vice president's resistance, the former president and others exerted both private and public pressure to change his mind. In a speech on the Ellipse on the afternoon of January 6th, former President Trump told the crowd that Vice President Pence needed the courage to do what he has to do. Once the riot began, President Trump deliberately chose to issue a tweet attacking Mr. Pence knowing that the crowd had already grown violent.
Almost immediately thereafter, the crowd around the Capitol surged, and between 2:30 and 2:35 p.m., the Metropolitan Police line on the west front of the Capitol broke. This was the first time in MPD history that a line like this had broken. Rioters at the Capitol were heard chanting hang Mike Pence through the afternoon. As result of this unrest, Vice President Mike Pence was forced to flee to a secure location where he actively coordinated with law enforcement and other governmental officials to address the ongoing violence.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THOMPSON: The gentleman yields back. The chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Florida, Miss Murphy, for an opening statement.
REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ultimately President Trump did not succeed in bending state and federal officials to his will. At every turn, state officials, the Department of Justice, Mike Pence, and many others stood up for the rule of law, and resisted the president's wishes. In that way, our American institutions held after the 2020 election.
But that did not stop President Trump. Instead, he turned to his supporters, those who believed his lies about a stolen election. He summoned a crowd to the nation's capital on January 6th, hoping that they would pressure Congress to do what he could not do on his own.
The select committee has made the following findings on this issue. Two years ago today, in the early morning hours of December 19th, Donald Trump sent a tweet urging his supporters to travel to Washington for a protest on January 6th. "Be there, will be wild," he tweeted.
Between December 19th and January 6th, the president repeatedly encouraged his supporters to come to Washington. The president's December 19th tweet galvanized domestic violent extremists including members of the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and organized militia groups. These individuals began organizing to come to the Capitol in large numbers with the specific intent to use violence to disrupt the certification of the election during the joint session.
Prior to January 6th, the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Capitol Police, D.C. government and other law enforcement agencies gathered substantial evidence suggesting the risk of violence at the Capitol during the joint session. Prior to January -- sorry. These included warnings like the following. "Their plan is to literally kill people. Please, please take this tip seriously and investigate further."
President Trump supporters have proposed a movement to occupy Capitol Hill. Alert, regarding the VP being a dead man walking if he doesn't do the right thing. I saw several other alerts saying they will storm the Capitol if he doesn't do the right thing. In the days leading up to January 6th, President Trump's advisers explicitly told him that he should encourage his supporters to be peaceful that day.
But he refused. One witness, Hope Hicks, provided the committee with records of her text messages on January 6th. In one exchange with another staffer, he texts her, "Hey, I know you're seeing this. But he," referring to President Trump, "really should tweet something about being nonviolent. I'm not there," Hicks replied. "I suggested it several times Monday and Tuesday and he refused."
When Miss Hicks came in to provide testimony to the committee, we asked her about this exchange. Her explanation is that the he in this text wasn't the president but rather it was Eric Herschmann. Take a listen to her testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you wrote I suggested it several times, and the it presumably means that the president say something about being nonviolent. You wrote, I suggested it several times Monday and Tuesday and he refused. Tell us what happened.
HICKS: Sure. I didn't speak to the president about this directly, but I communicated with people like Eric Herschmann that it was my view that it was important that the president put out some kind of message in advance of the event.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what was Mr. Herschmann's response?
HICKS: Mr. Herschmann said that he had made the same, you know, recommendation directly to the president, and that he had refused.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just so I understand, Mr. Herschmann said that he had already recommended to the president that the president convey a message that people should be peaceful on January 6th, and the president had refused to do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURPHY: The public will be able to review this in the transcripts and see the perspective Eric Herschmann gave before we took Hope Hicks' testimony.
Despite having knowledge of the threats of violence presented by the crowd gathered on January 6th, President Trump gave an incendiary speech, declaring without basis that the election had been stolen and encouraging his supporters to fight like hell. And during the speech and immediately thereafter, President Trump stated his intention to travel to the Capitol with his supporters in an effort to influence the joint session.
The select committee has developed evidence indicating that President Trump did in fact intend to go to the Capitol on the afternoon of January 6th, and that he repeatedly expressed that intention during the afternoon and in the days prior.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THOMPSON: The gentlewoman yields back. The chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Virginia, Mrs. Luria, for an opening statement.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
All of President Trump's efforts came to a head on the afternoon of January 6th. Standing on the stage of the Ellipse, President Trump told tens of thousands of angry supporters that the election was stolen, that they had the power to change that, if they marched to the Capitol, and that they wouldn't have a country anymore if the presidency was taken away from him. He told them he would be there with them, and then, as the crowd descended on the Capitol, President Trump watched it on television.
Despite pleas from his senior advisers, from lawmakers on the Hill, and from his own children, President Trump would not issue a public.