The President Who Stood Still on Jan. 6

This exhibit from video released by the House Select Committee shows President Donald Trump recording a video statement at the White House on January 7, 2021.


/Associated Press

Regardless of your views on the January 6 select committee, the facts it presents in hearings are sobering. The scariest so far came Thursday at a hearing on President Trump’s conduct, as the riot raged and he sat in front of the TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send aid.

Shortly after Mr Trump called on protesters to march on the Capitol, he was told violence was breaking out. At around 1:30 p.m. he went to the dining room, where he stayed until 4:00 p.m. There are no official records of what he did and no images were shared with the photographer.

The entire MAGA world texted Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that Mr. Trump needed to call back his supporters. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone testified that he argued internally “there must be a public announcement quickly that they must leave the Capitol.” He added that Mr. Meadows participated in those calls throughout the day, as did Ivanka Trump.

At 2:13 a.m. the Capitol was breached. The committee played the radio traffic from Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail. “I’ve got an audience about five feet from me down here,” said a voice. Another warned: “If we lose any more time we may lose the ability to walk.”

At 2:24 am Mr Trump issued his tweet saying Mr Pence “doesn’t have the guts” to stop the election count. The VP was evacuated from an office at the Capitol at 2:26 a.m., according to the committee. What if this route had been closed? Would the mob have harmed Mr. Pence? Would the Secret Service have opened fire?

At 2:38 a.m. Mr. Trump tweeted, “Please support our Capitol Police and law enforcement agencies. They really are on the side of our country. Keep calm!” Sarah Matthews, a White House communications adviser, didn’t think Mr. Trump was doing enough, and she recounted a conversation with Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

“She looked straight at me and let me know in a hushed tone that the President didn’t want any mention of ‘peace’ in that tweet,” Ms. Matthews said. “It took some convincing on their part, those who were in the room.” The group tried to find language that Mr. Trump would agree to posting, and “it was only when Ivanka suggested the phrase ‘keep peaceful’ to Trump that he finally agreed to include it.”

How did rioters react to the tweet about Capitol police? The committee played what they described as an Oath Keepers radio call. “He didn’t say not to harm the congressmen,” chuckled a voice. Another added, “Well, he didn’t ask her to step down.” As recently as 4:17 a.m., Mr. Trump posted a video telling the rioters to go home while justifying their actions since “this was a fraudulent election”.

The Committee’s critics are right that it lacks political balance. It’s trying to lead a criminal case that may be difficult to prove and could tear the country apart. It undermines its argument by not publishing full transcripts of witness statements. Why rely on what Ms. Matthews said, what Ms. McEnany said, what Mr. Trump said? The committee interviewed Ms. McEnany.

Still, the bare facts remain: Mr. Trump swore an oath to defend the Constitution and, as Commander-in-Chief, had a duty to protect the Capitol from a mob attacking it on his behalf. He refused. He did not call the military to send help. He hasn’t phoned Mr. Pence to inquire about the safety of his loyal Vice-President. Instead, he stoked the mob’s anger and rioted.

In the 18 months since, Mr. Trump has not shown an iota of regret. On Thursday, he claimed to have been confirmed by a bill clarifying the election counting law. “Mike Pence told me and everyone else there was nothing he could do,” Mr. Trump wrote. “If so, how come the Democrats and RINOs are working so hard to make sure there’s nothing a vice president can do?”

The character is revealed to be in crisis, and Mr. Pence passed his trial on January 6th. Mr. Trump has completely failed his.

Review and Outlook: While Democrats want to use the Jan. 6 investigation to portray the opposition as a gang of rioting lunatics, Republicans cannot ignore the mounting evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior. Images: Press Pool/Reuters/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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