Politics

The Choicest Quotes From the Final Jan. 6 Hearing

Or, seven different ways to understand what the House committee is trying to show.

Roger Stone in a Trump 2020 mask on a big screen behind the House committee on Jan. 6, at their Thursday hearing. The closed captioning on the screen reads Stone's quote "We'll have to start smashing pumpkins."
Not a reference to the band. Mandel Ngan/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday afternoon, the Jan. 6 committee held what was billed as its final hearing—a somewhat winding summation of its argument that Donald Trump knew he had lost the election, attempted to flout the Constitution by overturning it, and knowingly propelled his supporters toward violence.

The day didn’t produce much in the way of bombshells, but it did end with the committee members solemnly taking a surprise vote to subpoena the former president himself for questioning. (We’ll see how that goes.) At the same time, it turned up new tidbits of information and some choice one-liners underlining the most lurid and depressing facts of this case. Oh, also, we were treated to footage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explaining how someone had pooped on the floor of Congress, which sort of feels like a metaphor for this whole era of politics, doesn’t it? —Jordan Weissmann

“I Can’t Believe I Lost to this F-ing Guy”

— Donald Trump, according to Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former White House director of strategic communications

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One of the things the Jan. 6 committee has set out to prove (over and over and over again) is that Trump knew he lost the 2020 election, yet continued to claim he had won it in an attempt to overturn the results. On Thursday, the committee aired video testimony from Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House director of strategic communications and current co-host of The View, in which she recalled visiting Trump in the Oval Office a week or so after the election was called for Joe Biden. As Trump watched the office television, Griffin recounted, he said of Biden, “can you believe I lost to this f-ing guy?”

Griffin has shared the anecdote before, albeit without the expletive, which is the part of the quote that makes it so believable. Not only does this anecdote show that Trump knew “this f-ing guy” was the duly chosen president-elect, but it is exactly the kind of thing you could imagine being said if the election had gone the other way and Biden was responding to the results. There’s the 2020 election in a nutshell: Just two “f-ing guys,” each in complete disbelief that millions of voters could possibly support the other. —Christina Cauterucci

“Could Get Sporty After Dark”

—Federal Protective Service agents, in correspondence on Jan. 6

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In one key moment in the hearing, we learned that despite testimony from other witnesses asserting the White House and Secret Service hadn’t received intelligence warning them of violence ahead of time, the Secret Service knew well in advance that it was coming. According to Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee had obtained emails and other communications from the Secret Service that showed they had known that the Proud Boys and other armed and organized Trump supporters would likely try to storm the Capitol.

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The documents also showed that a number of supporters were, in fact, armed, and that intelligence had found that right-wing groups were forming “quick reaction forces” outside the city, ready to be deployed. Oath Keepers were also standing ready.

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The Secret Service, it was clear, were expecting action. In a protected group chat, one person noted on Jan. 6 that it was the “calm before the storm.” Another said agents were “pulling up live streams and watching the crazies.” And it quickly became apparentclear to all security involved that the potential for mass violence was there. “With so many weapons found so far; you wonder how many are unknown,” a Federal Protective Service agent wrote in a text shortly before rioters began rushing the police barriers. “Could be sporty after dark.”

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The information raises more questions about who knew about these reports beforehand and who failed to act on that knowledge. —Molly Olmstead

I Don’t Want People to Know We Lost, Mark. This Is Embarrassing. Figure It Out.”

—Trump, to his chief of staff Mark Meadows, after the SCOTUS case to keep him in office failed, according to testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson

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After the Supreme Court shot down the Trump team’s best hope for the election result to be overturned via lawsuit, Trump was fuming mad. His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Meadows’s aide Cassidy Hutchinson, left a Christmas reception at the White House and ran into the president at the Rose Garden colonnade. Trump unloaded on Meadows, who has not had a fun or flattering go of these hearings (and seemingly had an unpleasant 2020 holiday season as well)—demanding to know why Meadows and his team hadn’t made more calls to ensure the willing participation of the chamber which had only weeks prior gained its third Trump appointee in Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and a 6–3 supermajority.

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The case had been spearheaded by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. At Trump’s encouragement, he attempted to sue Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan, claiming fraud, but without evidence. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also supported the failed bid, the most prominent congressional Republican to do so. As the hearings later showed, McCarthy eventually disavowed Trump’s sustained efforts.

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A few weeks later, despite continuing to say publicly that he had won, Trump took to the phone himself to pursue a different route to the result’s reversal. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than what we have,” Trump begged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in what was a pretty cut-and-dry move on the election tampering scale. “I need 11,000 votes, give me a break.” —Alexander Sammon

“Fuck the Voting. Get Right to the Violence”

—Roger Stone, in video footage shot by the Danish documentarian, Christoffer Guldbrandsen*

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Did Roger Stone, the proud political “ratfucker” and longtime Donald Trump advisor, help the White House coordinate directly with the militias that ultimately led the attack on the capitol?

That’s been one of the key questions hanging over the Jan. 6 hearings—and frustratingly, today’s wrapup didn’t resolve it. But the segment dedicated to that tantalizing mystery did at least give us what may turn out to be history’s most repugnant 90s alt rock reference.

Stone was convicted for lying to Congress and witness tampering during the Russia investigation, only to later be pardoned by Trump. Here are the facts we know about his involvement in Jan. 6, which were recounted during the hearings: First, Stone was in contact with the White House leading up to the day. He was also closely connected to the members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers who have been convicted for their roles in the assault, including a Proud Boys leader. Those associated with Stone include Proud Boys leader Henry Tarrio and at least seven Oath Keepers who provided him personal security. Trump also asked his chief of staff Mark Meadows to attend a meeting the night of Jan. 5 with Stone and retired Gen. Michael Flynn at a Washington hotel. (According to Hutchinson, Meadows said he would dial in to the meeting after she discouraged him from going in person.)

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So, was Stone a go-between? We still don’t know.

But the committee did air some fun—well, “fun”— new footage of Stone taken by a Danish documentarian talking to some of his thuggish associates in November of 2020. In one clip, he seems to predict that Trump will declare victory no matter what the outcome. “I really suspect it will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory,” he says. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law. No, we won. Fuck you. Sorry. Over.” In another, he tells a compatriot: “I said fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence” before adding “We’ll have to start smashing pumpkins, if you know what I mean.”

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Well, we all do now! Whether Stone was purposely invoking the spirit of Billy Corgan is slightly ambiguous. Maybe we can get someone to clear that up, along with the whole go-between thing, during some of the Oath Keeper prosecutions that are still unfolding. —Jordan Weissmann

“If I Ever Saw Anything Like That, I Would Do Something Physical”

—Gen. Keith Kellogg, Mike Pence’s national security adviser, on an alleged Trump order to withdraw troops from Afghanistan immediately following Biden’s win

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In an interview with the House committee, Keith Kellogg recounted that he was so horrified upon hearing that Trump signed an order on Nov. 11, 2020 to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Somalia before Biden would be inaugurated, that he would have done “something physical” to stop it. The testimony was meant to show that Trump knew he lost and was lashing out, attempting to leave Biden (and America) in a big mess. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told the committee that he thought the order was “odd” and “potentially dangerous.” “I personally thought it was militarily not feasible nor wise,” Milley said. Alas, Kellogg did not elaborate on whom he would have physically attacked, or in what manner, had the order gone through. Ah, historical mystery!

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(Ironically, as president, Biden withdrew American troops from Afghanistan in late summer 2021. This action ended an aimless 20-year war, but it did not go great. It’s not clear if Kellogg did something physical at the time.)

What does any of this have to do with Jan. 6? Well, it shows that military leaders thought Trump was acting crazy and against the nation’s interests just to spite the guy who beat him. But more saliently, it shows that Trump wanted to spite Biden for beating him while he still could—and was willing to risk violent deaths and military catastrophe to that end. The day Trump signed the withdrawal order came just four days after the race was called in Biden’s favor by nearly all major media outlets, but that didn’t stop Trump from continuing to cry fraud for months (and now years) afterward. According to the committee’s presentation on Thursday, it further underscores the fact that Trump incited his followers to violence, even though he was so sure that he did not win that he was rushing to take drastic actions that would harm his successor (and the military) mere days after he lost. Committee member and outgoing Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger summed it up thusly at Thursday’s hearing: “Knowing that he had lost and that he had only weeks left in office, President Trump rushed to complete his unfinished business.” —Seth Maxon

“Clean Up the Poo Poo”

—Nancy Pelosi, responding to the wreckage of the Capitol rioters, in footage taken from a secure location on Jan. 6

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New footage from the secure location where, on Jan. 6, congressional leaders waited out the rioters shows the House speaker in top form, in her trademark high heels, urging aides to find a way to resume the lawful proceedings and retorting “Can you believe this?” to her colleagues when told that everyone remaining on the floor had donned tear gas masks. She and Chuck Schumer calmly worked the phones, calling up assorted law enforcement entities to enlist their help in subduing the mob, suggesting that acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen actually do something in his “law enforcement responsibility” to get the president to call off his dogs. “Just pretend it was the Pentagon,” under siege, Pelosi suggested to an unnamed staffer at the Department of Defense, prodding them to action. But her most supreme moment of brass-tacks leadership transpired when she conferred with Mike Pence about how soon the representatives could re-enter the Capitol, given that the rioters had ransacked offices and defecated on the floor. “It could take time to clean up the poo poo that they’re making,” Pelosi said, “literally and figuratively, on the floor, and it may take days to get back.” As for cleaning up the rioters’ filth, she acknowledged to Pence, “I don’t think that’s hard to clean up”—Pelosi is a mother, after all—but lingering security threats on the premises were another matter. —Laura Miller

“Aye”

—Every member of the House committee investigating Jan 6., voting to subpoena Donald Trump at the hearing held on Thursday

At the end of Thursday’s hearing, every member of the House committee voted to subpoena Donald Trump “for documents and testimony in connection” with the Capitol riot, saying: “We want to hear from him.” OK, but do we need to? Probably not. Still, the inclination to pursue testimony from the person “at the center of the story,” as the committee put it, allows the committee to appear—nay, be—“fair and thorough” to the very end. Plus, it wasn’t a bad idea to end on a cliff-hanger. —Natalie Shutler

Correction, Oct. 14, 2022: This post originally misstated that director Christoffer Guldbrandsen is Dutch. He is Danish. It also originally misstated that Mark Meadows declined to attend a Jan. 5 meeting with Roger Stone at a Washington hotel.

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