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Pence’s Secret Service Team Feared for Their Lives as Trump Egged On Mob to Target VP on Jan. 6

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During their eighth and final hearing until the fall, the January 6 House select committee aired new testimony from an anonymous national security official detailing how Mike Pence’s Secret Service agents feared for their lives during the breach of the Capitol. “There were calls to say goodbye to family members,” said the anonymous official. Despite knowledge of the growing mob, Trump decided to publish a tweet at 2:24 p.m. saying Mike Pence “lacked the courage” to stop the certification. The tweet poured “gasoline on the fire,” said Trump’s ex-deputy press secretary, Sarah Matthews, who testified live on Thursday. Meanwhile, Trump was still reaching out to Republican senators, including Senator Josh Hawley, who was seen in footage racing to safety just hours after he raised his fist to the massing mob.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We’re continuing our coverage of Thursday’s hearing of the U.S. Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. The hearing featured two White House aides who quit January 6th: former deputy national secured adviser Matthew Pottinger, as well as former White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews. This is committee member Democrat Elaine Luria.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: Although President Trump was aware of the ongoing riot, he did not take any immediate action to address the lawlessness. Instead, at 2:03, he called Rudy Giuliani again, and that call lasted for over eight minutes. Moments later, at 2:13, rioters broke into the Capitol itself. One of the Proud Boys charged with seditious conspiracy, Dominic Pezzola, used an officer’s shield to smash a window, and rioters flooded into the building.

RIOTER 1: He’s breaking the window!

RIOTER 2: Get in! Get in!

RIOTER 3: Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!

RIOTER 4: Let’s go! Come on in the Capitol! Come in the Capitol!

REP. ELAINE LURIA: As rioters were entering the building, the Secret Service held Vice President Pence in his office right off the Senate chamber for 13 minutes as they worked to clear a safe path to a secure location. Now listen to some of that radio traffic and see what they were seeing as the protesters got just feet away from where the vice president was holding.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 1: Halt! Hold! They’ve entered the building! Hold.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 2: Harden that door up.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 3: If we’re moving, we need to move now.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 1: Copy.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 3: If we lose any more time, we may have — we may lose the ability to — to leave. So, if we’re going to leave we need to do it now.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 1: They’ve gained access to the second floor. And I’ve got public about five feet from me down here below.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 3: OK, copy. They are on the second floor, moving in now. We may want to consider getting out and leaving now. Copy?

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 2: Will we encounter the people once we make our way?

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 3: Repeat?

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 2: … encounter any individuals if we made our way to the — to the — [bleep]

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 1: There are six officers between us and the people that are five to 10 feet away from me.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 3: Stand by. I’m going down to evaluate.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 2: Go ahead.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 3: We have a clear shot if we move quickly. We’ve got smoke downstairs. Stand by. Unknown smoke set downstairs by the protesters?

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 2: Is that route compromised?

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 3: We have the — [bleep] — is secure. However, we will bypass some protesters that are being contained. There is smoke, unknown what kind of smoke it is. Copy?

SECRET SERVICE AGENT 2: Clear, we’re coming out now. All right? Make a way.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: The president’s National Security Council staff was listening to these developments and tracking them in real time. On the screen, you can see excerpts from the chat logs among the national — among the president’s national council — National Security Council staff.

At 2:13, the staff learned that the rioters were kicking in the windows at the Capitol. Three minutes later, the staff said the vice president was “being pulled,” which meant agents evacuated him from the Senate floor. At 2:24, the staff noted that the Secret Service agents at the Capitol did not, quote, “sound good right now.”

Earlier, you heard from a security professional who had been working in the White House complex on January 6th with access to relevant information and a responsibility to report to national security officials. We asked this person: What was meant by the comment that the Secret Service agents did not, quote, “sound good right now”? In the following clip of that testimony, which has been modified to protect the individual’s identity, the professional discusses what they heard from listening to the incoming radio traffic that day.

INVESTIGATOR: OK. That last entry entry on this page is: “Service at the capitol does not sound good right now.”

SECURITY OFFICIAL: Correct.

INVESTIGATOR: What does that mean?

SECURITY OFFICIAL: Members of the VP detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives. There were a lot of — there was a lot of yelling, a lot of — a lot of very personal calls over the radio. So it was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it, but there were calls to say goodbye to family members, so on and so forth. It was getting — for whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.

INVESTIGATOR: And did you hear that over the radio?

SECURITY OFFICIAL: Correct.

INVESTIGATOR: OK. What was the response by the agents who — Secret Service agents who were there?

SECURITY OFFICIAL: Everybody kept saying — you know, at that point it was just reassurances, or I think there were discussions of reinforcements coming. But again, it was just chaos in there. They were just yelling.

INVESTIGATOR: Obviously, you’ve conveyed that’s disturbing, but what — what prompted you to put it into an entry as it states there, “Service at the capitol” —

SECURITY OFFICIAL: They were running out of options, and they were getting nervous. It sounds like that we came very close to either service having to use lethal options or worse. Like, at that point, I don’t know. Is the VP compromised? Is the detail? Like, I don’t know. Like, we didn’t have visibility. But it doesn’t — if they’re screaming and saying things like say goodbye to the family, like, the floor needs to know this is going to a whole ’nother level soon.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: As this next video shows, the rioters’ anger was focused primarily on Vice President Mike Pence.

JANET BUHLER: This woman comes up to the side of us, and she says, “Pence folded.” So, it was kind of like, OK, well, in my mind, I was thinking, “Well, that’s it.” You know? Well, my son-in-law looks at me, and he says, “I want to go in.”

INTERVIEWER: What percentage of the crowd is going to the Capitol?

JESSICA WATKINS: One hundred percent. It has — it has spread like wildfire that Pence has betrayed us, and everybody is marching on the Capitol, all million of us. It’s insane.

TRUMP SUPPORTER 1: Mike Pence will not stick up for Donald Trump! Mike Pence, traitor!

TRUMP SUPPORTER 2: Traitor!

TRUMP SUPPORTER 3: Everybody knows that Mike Pence has screwed us, in case you haven’t heard yet.

TRUMP SUPPORTER 4: What happened? What happened?

TRUMP SUPPORTER 3: I keep hearing that Mike Pence has screwed us. That’s the word. I keep hearing reports that Mike Pence has screwed us.

TRUMP SUPPORTER 5: We’ll hang him! Hang him!

INVESTIGATOR: Did people appear angry as you were walking to the Capitol?

STEPHEN AYRES: Yeah, a lot of people — a lot of people seemed like they were very upset.

INVESTIGATOR: Tell us some of the things they were saying, if you recall.

STEPHEN AYRES: Oh, they were saying all types — you know, people were screaming all types of stuff. They were mad that Vice President Pence was going to accept the electorals. I mean, it was — I mean, it was a lot of — if you could think it up, that’s — you were hearing it.

TRUMP SUPPORTER 6: I believed that Vice President Pence was going to certify the electoral votes and — or not certify them, but I guess that’s just changed. Correct? And it’s a very big disappointment. I think there are several hundred thousand people here that are very disappointed.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: President Trump did not try to calm his thousands of disappointed supporters. Instead, at almost the same moment violence was getting completely out of hand, Donald Trump sent his 2:24 tweet. The president said, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Despite knowing the Capitol had been breached and the mob was in the building, President Trump called Mike Pence a coward and placed all the blame on him for not stopping the certification. He put a target on his own vice president’s back.

Mr. Pottinger and Ms. Matthews, when we asked you about your reaction to seeing the 2:24 tweet in real time, you both used the same imagery to describe it: President Trump was adding fuel to the fire. Mr. Pottinger, you made the decision to resign after seeing this tweet. Can you please tell us why?

MATTHEW POTTINGER: Yes. So, that was pretty soon after I had — or, shortly before I had gotten back to the White House. I had come from off site. I began to see for the first time those images on TV of the chaos that was unfolding at the Capitol. One of my aides handed me a sheet of paper that contained the tweet that you just read. I read it and was quite disturbed by it. I was disturbed and worried to see that the president was attacking Vice President Pence for doing his constitutional duty. So the tweet looked to me like the opposite of what we really needed at that moment, which was a deescalation. And that’s why I had said earlier that it looked like fuel being poured on the fire. So, that was the moment that I decided that I was going to resign, that that would be my last day at the White House. I simply didn’t want to be associated with the events that were unfolding on the Capitol.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: Thank you. And, Ms. Matthews, what was your reaction to the president’s tweet about Vice President Pence?

SARAH MATTHEWS: So, it was obvious that the situation at the Capitol was violent and escalating quickly, and so I thought that the tweet about the vice president was the last thing that was needed in that moment. And I remember thinking that this was going to be bad for him to tweet this, because it was essentially him giving the green light to these people, telling them that what they were doing at the steps of the Capitol and entering the Capitol was OK, that they were justified in their anger. And he shouldn’t have been doing that. He should have been telling these people to go home and to leave, and to condemn the violence that we were seeing.

And I’m someone who has worked with him. You know, I worked on the campaign, traveled all around the country, going to countless rallies with him. And I’ve seen the impact that his words have on his supporters. They truly latch onto every word and every tweet that he says. And so, I think that in that moment for him to tweet out the message about Mike Pence, it was him pouring gasoline on the fire and making it much worse.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: As you will see, at 2:26, the vice president had to be evacuated to safety a second time and came within 40 feet of the rioters. The attack escalated quickly right after the tweet.

RIOTER 1: Come on! Come on!

RIOTER 2: Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!

REP. ELAINE LURIA: During this chaos, what did President Trump do at that point? He went back to calling senators to try to further delay the electoral count. While the vice president was being evacuated from the Senate, President Trump called Senator Tommy Tuberville, one of his strongest supporters in the Senate. As Senator Tuberville later recalled, he had to end the call so that he could evacuate the Senate chamber himself. Let’s listen.

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE: He called — didn’t call my phone, called somebody else, and they handed it to me. And I basically told him — I said, “Mr. President, we’re not doing much work here right now because they just took our vice president out. And, matter of fact, I’m going to have to hang up on you. I’ve got to leave.”

REP. ELAINE LURIA: Senator Josh Hawley also had to flee. Earlier that afternoon, before the joint session started, he walked across the east front of the Capitol. As you can see in this photo, he raised his fist in solidarity with the protesters already amassing at the security gates. We spoke with a Capitol Police officer who was out there at the time. She told us that Senator Hawley’s gesture riled up the crowd, and it bothered her greatly, because he was doing it in a safe space, protected by the officers and the barriers. Later that day, Senator Hawley fled, after those protesters he helped to rile up stormed the Capitol. See for yourself.

AMY GOODMAN: They’re showing the image of Josh Hawley racing through the hallways of the Capitol.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: Think about what we’ve seen: undeniable violence at the Capitol, the vice president being evacuated to safety by the Secret Service, senators running through the hallways of the Senate to get away from the mob. As the commander-in-chief, President Trump was oath- and duty-bound to protect the Capitol. His senior staff understood that.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Do you believe, Jared, that the president has an obligation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power?

JARED KUSHNER: Yes.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And do you think the president has an obligation to defend all three branches of our government?

JARED KUSHNER: I believe so.

AMY GOODMAN: Jared Kushner.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And I assume you also would agree the president has a particular obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

PAT CIPOLLONE: That is one of the president’s obligations, correct.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: No. I mean, I asked what his duty is.

KEITH KELLOGG: Well, I mean, there’s a constitutional duty, what he has. He’s the commander-in-chief. And that was the — that was my biggest issue with him as national security adviser.

REP. ELAINE LURIA: Rather than uphold his duty to the Constitution, President Trump allowed the mob to achieve the delay that he hoped would keep him in power.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Democrat Elaine Luria of the January 6th House committee, and before her was testimony from Mike Pence’s national security adviser, Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, after Jared Kushner.

During Thursday’s hearing, Republican committee member Adam Kinzinger detailed how President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows received numerous text messages on the afternoon of January 6th from people urging Trump to stop the attack on the Capitol.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Throughout the attack, Mr. Meadows received texts from Republican members of Congress, from current and former Trump administration officials, from media personalities and from friends. Like President Trump’s staff, they knew President Trump had to speak publicly to get the mob to stop.

Let’s look at just a few of these text messages. Fox News personality Laura Ingraham said, “The president needs to tell [the] people in the Capitol to go home.” Former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney urged, “Mark: he needs to stop this, now.” Fox News personality Brian Kilmeade said, “Please get him on tv. Destroying every thing [that] you guys have accomplished.”

When we interviewed White House counsel Pat Cipollone, he told us that he knew the president’s two tweets were not enough. Let’s listen to what he said.

INVESTIGATOR: I think the question is: Did you believe that the tweets were enough? Not anything about your advice to the president.

PAT CIPOLLONE: No, I believe more needed to be done. OK. I believed that a public statement needed to be made.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: When you talk about others on the staff thinking more should be done or thinking that the president needed to tell people to go home, who would you put in that category?

PAT CIPOLLONE: Well, I would put Pat Philbin; Eric Herschmann; overall, Mark Meadows; Ivanka; once Jared got there, Jared; General Kellogg. I’m probably missing some, but those are — Kayleigh, I think, was — was there, but I don’t — Dan Scavino.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And who on the staff did not want people to leave the Capitol?

PAT CIPOLLONE: On the staff?

REP. LIZ CHENEY: In the White House, how about?

PAT CIPOLLONE: I don’t — I can’t think of anybody, you know, on that day who didn’t want people to get out of the — the Capitol, once the — you know, particularly once the violence started. No. I mean —

INVESTIGATOR: What about the president?

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Yeah.

PAT CIPOLLONE: She said “the staff.” So I answered.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: No, I said, “in the White House.”

PAT CIPOLLONE: Oh, I’m sorry. I apologize. I thought you said, “Who else on the staff?” I can’t reveal communications. But, obviously, I think, you know — yeah.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Let’s pause on that last statement. Although Pat Cipollone is being careful about executive privilege, there really is no ambiguity about what he said. Almost everybody wanted President Trump to instruct the mob to disperse. President Trump refused.

AMY GOODMAN: January 6th committee member, Republican Adam Kinzinger. Stay tuned for outtakes of Donald Trump’s January 7th speech.

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“I Don’t Want to Say the Election Is Over”: Video Outtakes Show Trump Refused to Admit Loss on Jan. 7

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