After conducting more than 1,000 interviews, collecting more than 125,000 documents, and tangling with uncooperative Donald Trump allies, this month the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot shifted into a new phase, kicking off a series of televised hearings.
In the first hearing on June 9, the panel delivered on its promise to share “previously unseen material” that sheds light on Trump’s “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.” The most attention-grabbing moments included former attorney general Bill Barr recalling how he told Trump that his election fraud case was “bullshit,” and a quote from a witness who said Trump responded to the mob’s “hang Mike Pence” chant by saying, “maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.”
But even before the public hearings began, court documents and press reports stemming from the investigation had already brought to light plenty of disturbing and shocking information about Donald Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 election — and some details that are just plain embarrassing. Here are the wildest revelations so far.
. Barr told Trump that his stolen election claims were “bullshit.”
The June 9 hearings, the panel presented evidence that Trump was repeatedly told that he had lost the election, and there was no voter fraud involved. Former attorney general Bill Barr said he told Trump on several occasions that his stolen election claims were “bullshit” and he wanted no part of it.
The committee also showed a snippet of Ivanka Trump’s testimony, in which she said she believed Barr about there being no fraud. “It affected my perspective. I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he said,” she said.
. Sean Hannity literally took orders from the White House.
File under inconsequential but still highly embarrassing: on Election Day the Fox News host — who insists he’s an independent journalist not just a Trump stooge — asked then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for messaging instructions and responded with “yes sir.” Per CNN:
Sean Hannity to Mark Meadows
NC gonna be ok?
Mark Meadows to Sean Hannity
Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote
Mark Meadows to Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity to Mark Meadows
Yes sir i
Sean Hannity to Mark Meadows
On it. Any place in particular we need a push
Mark Meadows to Sean Hannity
Pennsylvania. NC AZ
Sean Hannity to Mark Meadows
Mark Meadows to Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity to Mark Meadows
Got it. Everywhere
. Mark Meadows was also told that there was no evidence of fraud.
The committee’s June 9 hearing featured deposition clips from Jason Miller, a Trump campaign spokesman, and Alex Cannon, a Trump campaign lawyer, in which they said they told Trump there was not enough evidence of fraud to affect the election results. Miller said that he recalled the campaign’s internal data expert telling Trump in “pretty blunt terms that he was going to lose.”
Cannon testified that he also told then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that there was no evidence of fraud, and he responded “So there’s no there there?”
. Ginni Thomas repeatedly urged the White House to overturn the election.
From November 3, 2020 to January 6, 2021, just about every Republican official or operative with kooky ideas about thwarting the will of American voters was texting then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Everyone from Ivanka Trump to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene makes an appearance in the thousands of messages Meadows turned over to the January 6 committee, many of which were subsequently published by various outlets.
The most shocking Meadows texts came from Ginni Thomas, the longtime conservative activist who also happens to be the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Messages published by CBS News and the Washington Post show she texted Meadows 21 times, repeatedly pressuring him to get to work on overturning the 2020 election.
The messages contain references to various false election fraud conspiracy theories, including some popular in QAnon circles. “Sounds like Sidney [Powell] and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down,” Thomas said in one message.
Thomas also referenced a “conversation with my best friend just now” that soothed her fears that Trump’s election plot would fail. Ginni and Clarence Thomas are known to refer to each other as their “best friend,” but surely the justice would’ve recused himself from 2020-election-related cases if he knew his wife was advising Team Trump.
. Ginni Thomas corresponded with Trump lawyer John Eastman.
It seems Thomas’s effort to overturn Biden’s win went well beyond sending wacky texts to Mark Meadows. In May 2022, the Washington Postreported that Thomas emailed two Arizona state lawmakers on November 9, 2020, urging them to appoint fake Trump electors, though Biden won the state. Thomas told the lawmakers they had the “power to fight back against fraud,” though she did not elaborate and no evidence of election fraud has been found. The emails continued, per the Post:
“Article II of the United States Constitution gives you an awesome responsibility: to choose our state’s Electors,” read the Nov. 9 email. “… [P]lease take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen.”
Thomas’s name also appears on an email to the two representatives on Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college met to cast their votes and seal Biden’s victory. “Before you choose your state’s Electors … consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don’t stand up and lead,” the email said.
Weeks later, the Postrevealed that Thomas sent similar messages to 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona, not just two.
On June 15, the Postreported that the January 6 committee has also obtained emails between Thomas and John Eastman, the Trump attorney who authored the famous Eastman memo that aimed to convince Vice President Mike Pence that he had the power to overturn the election results. The contents of Thomas’s correspondence with Eastman have yet to be made public, but the news prompted top January 6 committee members to reversed course on whether to interview the Supreme Court justice’s wife. The Post reported that while they originally “had not sought an interview with Thomas and [were] leaning against pursuing her cooperation with its investigation,” Committee Chair Bennie Thompson said on June 16, “We think it’s time that we, at some point, invite her to come talk to the committee.”
. Don Jr. shared a plan for declaring dad the winner while votes were still being counted.
Two days after the 2020 election Donald Trump Jr. sent Meadows a text laying out strategies to ensure his father stayed in office regardless of who actually won, according to CNN. Team Trump went on to pursue the tactics he referenced, including filing lawsuits to challenge election results, demanding recounts, promoting bogus “alternate electors,” and blocking Congress’s certification of a Biden win on January 6, 2021.
“It’s very simple,” Trump Jr. texted to Meadows, “We have multiple paths We control them all.”
It was fairly clear at this point that Trump intended to steal the election, as he’d been sowing the seeds for years and prematurely declared victory on Election Night. But the Don Jr. text is more evidence that this wasn’t just loose talk from the president; Trump’s inner circle had multi-pronged plan that they were working to implement before the election was called.
. Jared Kushner thought the Trump legal team’s threats to resign were just “whining.”
In a June 9 hearing cameo, Trump son-in-law/White House adviser Jared Kushner said he didn’t take it that seriously when then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other attorneys said they would step down if the president kept planning his January 6 rally and pushing election conspiracy theories.
Kushner said he was mainly focused on getting as many pardons finished as possible during the post-election period, though he knew Cipollone and “the team were always saying, ‘Oh we are going to resign, we are not going to be there if this happens, if that happens.’ So I kind of took it up to just be whining, to be honest with you.”
. Trump was ready to seize voting machines.
Earlier this year, Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6 committee, confirmed reports that Trump and his advisers pursued plans to seize voting machines after Election Day.
On December 18, 2020, four conspiracy theorists including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell met with Trump, according to Axios. They urged him to have the Pentagon seize voting machines and appoint Powell as special counsel to investigate voter fraud.
Shockingly, Rudy Giuliani shot the idea down. But, at Trump’s direction, he then asked the Department of Homeland Security’s acting deputy director if his agency could seize the machines. He said no.
In January, Politico published a never-issued draft executive order consistent with the Powell-Flynn plan. The outlet notes that the order would have given the Defense secretary 60 days to write the assessment, which “suggests it could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021.”
. Ivanka heard her dad call Pence a “pussy.”
During the third day of public hearings, the January 6 committee aired a montage of testimony from multiple witnesses reconstructing a phone call on the morning of January 6 in which Trump berated Pence for refusing to overturn the election. Ivanka Trump, who was in the Oval Office with her father, testified that their conversation grew “pretty heated.” Former White House assistant Nicholas Luna recalled Trump calling Pence a “wimp.” Julia Radford, Ivanka’s then-chief of staff, said the First Daughter told her that her dad had called Pence “the p-word.”
. Trump wanted to march to the Capitol himself.
Trump has claimed on several occasions that he desperately wanted to march to the Capitol building with his supporters on January 6, but the Secret Service wouldn’t let him. This initially sounded like a typical brag about his theoretical bravery, like when he said he would have run in and stopped the school shooting in Parkland, Florida “even if I didn’t have a weapon.” Indeed, the former president once asserted that if he had been at the Capitol on January 6 there wouldn’t have been a riot.
“I wanted to go down with the crowd,” Trump told journalist David Drucker. “I said I was going to go down with the crowd. But they wouldn’t let me go. I think if I did go down there, I would have stopped the people from doing anything bad.”
As it turns out, Trump’s claim was at least partially true. Witnesses told the January 6 committee that in the two weeks leading up to the insurrection, Trump kept pestering the Secret Service about making plans for him to join his supporters at the Capitol after his “Stop the Steal” rally. They initially rebuffed him, but when the president told rallygoers “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” the Secret Service scrambled in an effort to make it happen. Per the Washington Post:
Witnesses have told the House Jan. 6 committee that, immediately after Trump made that remark, Secret Service agents contacted D.C. police about blocking intersections, according to the people briefed on the testimony. Police officials declined, as they were stretched thin due to their role monitoring numerous protests and later assisting with a growing mob at the Capitol, the people said. A senior law enforcement official told The Washington Post that the president’s detail leader scuttled the idea as untenable and unsafe.
A D.C. official on Tuesday confirmed the Secret Service sought D.C. police for help with a presidential motorcade on Jan. 6.
“We were asked, and the response was no,” said Dora Taylor-Lowe, a spokeswoman for the D.C. deputy mayor that oversees the police department.
. Trump said maybe Pence should be hanged.
At least one witness told the House committee that Trump said he was in favor of the January 6 mob murdering his vice president, as the New York Timesreported on May 25, 2022:
Shortly after hundreds of rioters at the Capitol started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” on Jan. 6, 2021, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left the dining room off the Oval Office, walked into his own office and told colleagues that President Donald J. Trump was complaining that the vice president was being whisked to safety. Mr. Meadows, according to an account provided to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.
At the House panel’s first public hearing on June 9, Representative Liz Cheney directly quoted a witness who heard Trump’s remarks on Pence.
“Aware of the rioters chants to hang Mike Pence, the president responded with this sentiment, ‘maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence ‘deserves it,’” Cheney recounted.
We already knew that Trump at the very least didn’t object to the chant, as he defended his supporters’ murderous intent toward his VP in an interview with Jonathan Karl recorded several months ago.
Nevertheless, Trump denied that he endorsed the rioters’ chant on January 6. After the hearing he posted on Truth Social: “I NEVER said, or even thought of saying, ‘Hang Mike Pence.’ This is either a made up story by somebody looking to become a star, or FAKE NEWS!”
. Rioters came within 40 feet of Mike Pence.
During a hearing on June 16, House January 6 committee member Pete Aguilar told witness Pence’s former counsel Greg Jacob, who was with the VP on January 6, that the mob got even closer than they knew. “Approximately 40 feet. That’s all there was,” said Aguilar. “Forty feet between the vice president and the mob.”
. Pence asked for help defending the Capitol, while Trump did nothing.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told the January 6 Committee that Pence told Pentagon leaders to “get the Guard down here, put down this situation” as the riot was unfolding. Milley recalled that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, on the other hand, only talked to him about trying to “kill the narrative that the vice president is making all the decisions.” Milley said he interpreted that as “‘politics, politics, politics, politics.’ Red flag for me personally, no action. But I remember it distinctly.”
“Not only did President Trump refuse to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, he placed no call to any element of the United States government to instruct that the Capitol be defended,” Representative Liz Cheney said at the hearing.
. There’s a 7-hour gap in Trump’s January 6 call logs.
White House records turned over to the House select committee show a Nixonesque seven hour and 37 minutes blank in the record of Trump’s phone calls during the Capitol riot. The gap from 11:17 a.m. to 6:54 p.m. means the committee does not know exactly who Trump was speaking to as his supporters were breaching the Capitol Building. Reports suggest Trump was on the phone throughout this period, talking with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and several Senate allies. In March 2021, Washington Postreported that the committee was trying to determine if the Trump circumvented the usual White House protocols, or someone tampered with the official record:
The House panel is now investigating whether Trump communicated that day through back channels, phones of aides or personal disposable phones, known as “burner phones,” according to two people with knowledge of the probe, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. The committee is also scrutinizing whether it received the full logs from that day.
One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
. Fox News hosts sent Meadows panicked texts during the Capitol riot.
Ahead of the January 6 panel’s unanimous vote to hold Meadows in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to appear before the committee, Representative Liz Cheney read off some texts Fox News hosts sent to the chief of staff on January 6, 2021. Though the network’s stars later downplayed the insurrection on-air, as the Capitol riot was unfolding they were pleading with Meadows to make Trump put a stop to it.
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Laura Ingraham texted. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
“Please get him on tv. Destroying everything you have accomplished.” Brian Kilmeade wrote.
“Can he make a statement?” suggested Sean Hannity. “Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
. Hannity wanted Trump to cool it with the stolen election talk.
Though you would not know it from watching Fox News these days, in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riot Sean Hannity was advising the Trump administration to stop spreading election lies, as it could end his presidency. During the hearing on June 9, the House committee revealed that Hannity texted White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on January 7, “Key now, no more crazy people … No more stolen election talk … Yes, impeachment and 25th amendment are real, and many people will quit.” McEnany responded, in part: “Love that. That’s the playbook.”
. Meadows burned sensitive documents in a White House fireplace.
Though it was overshadowed by Trump’s alleged endorsement of the “Hang Mike Pence!” chant, the same Times report said witnesses told the House panel that Mark Meadows “used the fireplace in his office to burn documents.” A few days later, Politico offered some more detail on the White House chief-of-staff’s (alleged) old-school evidence destruction method:
Then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge the 2020 election, according to testimony the Jan. 6 select committee has heard from one of his former aides.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked under Meadows when he was former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, told the panel investigating the Capitol attack that she saw Meadows incinerate documents after a meeting in his office with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). A person familiar with the testimony described it on condition of anonymity.
Burning documents is generally a sign that you’re up to no good, but when it comes to potential federal records laws violations, Trump has Meadows beat.
. Trump flushed sensitive documents down a White House toilet.
During his presidency, Trump demonstrated time and again that he has a true gift for doing weird stuff with paper. Thanks to the January 6 committee, in winter 2022 we got some more detail on his penchant for paper ripping. First, the Washington Postrevealed that a good number of documents only made it to the January 6 committee thanks to the magic of Scotch tape:
When the National Archives and Records Administration handed over a trove of documents to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, some of the Trump White House records had been ripped up and then taped back together, according to three people familiar with the records.
Then the paper reported that Trump’s non-stop paper ripping was an issue throughout his presidency:
Interviews with 11 former Trump staffers, associates and others familiar with the habit reveal that Trump’s shredding of paper was far more widespread and indiscriminate than previously known and — despite multiple admonishments — extended throughout his presidency, resulting in special practices to deal with the torn fragments. Most of these people spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details of a problematic practice. The ripping was so relentless that Trump’s team implemented protocols to try to ensure that he was abiding by the Presidential Records Act.
Finally, Maggie Haberman put the cherry on top of this sundae of absurd Trumpian behavior, writing in her book that “staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper.”
. Members of Congress sought pardons for their role in overturning the election results.
Representative Liz Cheney, vice chair of the select committee, said during the public hearing on June 9 that Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, along with several other unnamed members of Congress, asked Trump to pardon them for their involvement in his election schemes.
“As you will see, Representative Perry contacted the White House in the weeks after Jan. 6 to seek a presidential pardon,” Cheney said. “Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”
. Trump lawyer John Eastman wanted a pardon, too.
During the third round of public hearings, the January 6 panel laid out how Trump attorney John Eastman relentlessly pushed the bogus legal theory that Pence could recognize whatever electors he wanted, even in the hours after the Capitol riot, though he privately admitted that wasn’t true.
Eric Herschmann, a Trump White House lawyer, testified that when Eastman called him on January 7 about some other nonsense election lawsuit in Georgia, he told him, “I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition.”
Herschmann added, “Now I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life: Get a great f’ing criminal defense lawyer. You’re going to need it.”
Days later, Eastman said in an email to Rudy Giuliani, “I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” Eastman did not get his pardon.
. Trump may have engaged in a “criminal conspiracy.”
In a March 2022 court filing, the January 6 committee argued that it should be able to enforce a subpoena against Trump’s lawyer John Eastman because the documents in question amount to notes on a criminal conspiracy.
“The Select Committee … has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the panel wrote in in a legal brief.
Several weeks later, California federal district court judge David Carter ruled that Trump “more likely than not … corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” and that Trump and Eastman “more likely than not … dishonestly conspired to obstruct” the joint session. Eastman was ordered to turn over more than 100 emails to the panel. He complied, but is still fighting other committee requests in court.
So what does this mean for Trump? As Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore explained at the time, it’s not quite as serious as it sounds:
… it’s far, far too early to envision Trump being led from a courtroom in leg-irons. The filing only stipulates potential criminal charges; the January 6 committee has no power to bring them, and at most could refer evidence to the Department of Justice, which would make its own decisions about prosecuting — or, more likely, not prosecuting — the scofflaw ex-president and his cronies.
But two Trump advisers, Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, have already been indicted for criminal contempt of Congress after refusing to cooperate with the January 6 committee. And perhaps once the panel releases its full findings in September all the pre-hearing leaks will look tame by comparison.
More on the January 6 Hearings
- The Most Explosive Revelations From Cassidy Hutchinson’s Testimony
- FBI Seized Phone of Trump Coup Plotter John Eastman
- Is That Sean Penn at the January 6 Hearing?