On Thursday, the House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack held what had been billed as its final hearing after months of public scrutiny into Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the assault on the Capitol. Without any witnesses and with a closing vote to subpoena Trump—who is unlikely to ever appear for testimony—the event was technically a committee meeting instead of a hearing.
It did, however, deliver on presenting a closing case against Trump and some additional evidence to the American public with less than a month to go before the midterm elections. While the committee only offered a small number of new details from nearly one million documents and recordings handed over by the Secret Service since its previous summer hearing, the information helped corroborate past testimony and strengthen the committee’s final case.
Put most simply, that case was this: President Donald Trump knew he lost, he knew the mob he had assembled on Jan. 6 was armed and dangerous, and he sicced them on the U.S. Capitol anyway. Or as retiring GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger put it, “His intent was plain: Ignore the rule of law and stay in power.”
The new bits of information included further evidence that Trump had planned to declare victory no matter what the outcome, as had been previously been demonstrated by pre-election recordings of Trump confidante Steve Bannon stating this was the plan. The committee played not-previously seen documentary footage, taken by director Christoffer Guldbrandsen, in which another Trump confidante, Roger Stone, declared essentially the same thing.
In the Nov. 1 video, Stone said of the Election Night results and the president’s plan: “I really do suspect it’ll still be up in the air. But when that happens the key thing to do is claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. ‘No, we won, fuck you, sorry over. We won. You’re wrong. Fuck you.’” In footage from the next day, Stone added: “I said fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence.”
The committee also detailed documents sent days before the election from conservative activist Tom Fitton pushing the former president to declare victory no matter what the outcome. “We had an election today—and I won,” Fitton urged Trump to say, according to an Oct. 31 memo sent to the White House one week before election.
Fitton told Trump to ignore late-counted ballots, which were expected to favor Democrats because of Trump’s efforts to discredit mail-in voting among his base, and declare himself the winner on the basis of “the ballots counted by the Election Day deadline.” Ultimately, this is what Trump attempted to do, claiming on Election Night that he had won before the votes had actually been counted.
Perhaps more damning, though, is the new evidence that the committee presented that Trump knew he lost all along. This included testimony from General Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Trump may have conceded defeat in a Cabinet meeting, saying “words to the effect of, ‘yeah, we lost we need to let that issue go to the next guy,’ meaning President Biden.”
Milley acknowledged it may have been former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who made this statement, but there was other testimony that Trump knew he lost. Trump White House strategist Alyssa Farah testified that shortly after the election, Trump was watching footage of Biden and said to her “do you believe I lost to this ‘effin’ guy.”
Milley also revealed that, after the election, Trump issued an order to the military, which was not carried out, calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Somalia. This also seemed to be evidence that Trump knew his time in the White House was drawing to a close, as it implied that he didn’t want to see the policy upended by the next administration and felt the need to see it carried out before departing.
Finally, and most damningly, Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, described an incident in which she heard Trump tell Meadows shortly after the Supreme Court rejected one of Trump’s final election appeals: “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost.”
Ultimately, Hutchinson was once again the star witness, with the committee spending a significant amount of time putting out new information to corroborate her previous blockbuster testimony that Trump had tried to force the secret service to drive him to the Capitol and that he knew the mob that he had directed to go there was armed. That included Secret Service documents describing agents discussing the level of weaponry and violence they anticipated from the Capitol rioters.
It also included a new anonymous witness who corroborated Hutchinson’s account that security officials Tony Ornato and Robert Engel discussed Trump’s dramatic efforts to force his way to the Capitol as “water cooler” talk. “In the days following that, I do remember, you know, again, hearing again how angry the President was when, you know, they were in the limo,” the witness testified. The information came from “Mr. Engel with Mr. Ornato in that office,” which is exactly as Hutchinson had described receiving the information as well.
All of this was meant to hammer home Trump’s intent with his actions on Jan. 6. “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 Jan. 6 could happen again if we do not take serious action to prevent it,” committee vice chairwoman Liz Cheney said at the start of the hearing.
Indeed, Trump’s intent—according to the committee, to remain in power through any means necessary including violence despite knowing he had lost—would speak directly to any potential Jan. 6 criminal case against the former president.
Right now, those potential cases reportedly include an ongoing federal grand jury investigation, as well as a special grand jury probe in Fulton County, Georgia. We may not know whether any of these prosecutors take action against Trump or his associates—many of whom were shown to plead the Fifth Amendment in the closing minutes of this hearing—for many months, by which time the committee may have issued a final report and been disbanded by a new Republican House majority.
Whatever more aggressive action these prosecutors have taken in the last several months, however, was clearly spurred on by the forceful hearings of the Jan. 6 committee. If those prosecutions go forward, the American people will have this committee to thank. That alone would make it go down as one of the most important such bodies in congressional history.