The January 6th Committee promised another hearing of new revelations about what Donald Trump was doing for the 187 minutes it took him to urge the mob that stormed the Capitol to go home, as members sought to characterize the then-president as derelict in his duty.
“He refused to defend our nation and our Constitution,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s vice chair. “He refused to do what every president must.”
The committee’s latest hearing was scheduled in primetime, building anticipation that this will akin to a season finale, with plans to reconvene in September. A reason: More new information is coming in.
“Doors have opened, more subpoenas have been issued and the damn has begun to break,” Cheney said.
Reporters were expecting the committee to lay out a case that Trump did little to try to stop the storming of the Capitol — as he called those engaged in the siege as “great patriots.” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a committee member, released a video earlier on Thursday featuring snippets of Trump aides, in their video depositions, recalled that Trump was watching TV in a West Wing dining room as the violence unfolded.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), appearing virtually after testing positive for Covid, opened the hearing and said that Trump “could not be moved to rise from his dining room table” to make a statement at the White House briefing room.
“For 187 minutes on January 6th, this man of unbridled destructive energy could not be moved,” Thompson said.
Matt Pottinger, who served as deputy national security adviser, and Sarah Matthews, deputy press secretary, are scheduled to give live testimony. They were among the administration officials who resigned in protest on January 6th.
Using TV production techniques, the committee laid out its case as a narrative spread out over eight hearings.
Several hours before the hearing came some pushback from a White House figure on what she was doing that day — former First Lady Melania Trump. She told Fox News Digital that she was “fulfilling” her official duties as the siege transpired, and that she would have denounced the violence had she been fully informed of what was happening.
“I was fulfilling one of my duties as First Lady of the United States, and accordingly, I was unaware of what was simultaneously transpiring at the U.S. Capitol building,” she told the network. She was working with a team of photographers who were taking shots of White House renovations.
She blamed Stephanie Grisham, then her chief of staff, for “dereliction of duty” in not briefing her and not being present at the White House.
Grisham last month tweeted out a screenshot of text message conversation in she asked the first lady, “Do you want to tweet that peaceful protests are the right of every American, but there is no place for lawlessness & violence?” According to Grisham, Melania Trumo wrote back, “No.”
Broadcast networks preempted their primetime lineups for the hearing, as they did when the committee launched their latest series of sessions in June. Cable news networks also carried the hearing, with Fox News sticking to its lineup of primetime hosts and moving its newsside coverage, anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, to the Fox Business Network.
In the hearing room, more than 100 reporters squeezed into chairs and tables, a sign of the anticipation over this latest session, while four rows of gallery seats were filled with staffers and members of Congress.