/ 22 July 2022

Trump ‘gleefully watched’ while riots unfolded, says panel

President Trump Holds News Conference In Brady Press Briefing Room
Former United States president Donald Trump. (Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The congressional committee investigating the 6 January riots yesterday presented more evidence accusing former US president Donald Trump of deliberately choosing not to act as his supporters ransacked the US Capitol and threatened lawmakers with violence. 

In what is probably the final hearing until September, the committee documented the timeframe from when Trump sent his supporters to the capitol after a “stop the steal” rally, to when the president appeared in a video in front of the White House telling the mob to disperse, while praising them as “very special”, three hours later. 

For two months, a bipartisan panel has held several televised hearings including live testimony by key witnesses and pre-recorded depositions as well as documents and footage presenting evidence of Trump’s role in the assault on the capitol. 

The riot took place as lawmakers were certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, which Trump to this day has refused to concede.

Trump ‘chose not to act’

During yesterday’s hearing, which was shown on prime-time television in the US, committee chairman Bennie Thompson said Trump did “everything in his power to overturn the election” he lost to Biden, including before and during the deadly capitol attack.

“He lied, he bullied, he betrayed his oath,” said Thompson.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the house’s select committee, said the mob “was accomplishing President Trump’s purpose, so of course he didn’t intervene”.

“President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the Ellipse [rally] and telling the mob to go home — he chose not to act,” he added. 

“The president didn’t do very much but gleefully watch television during this timeframe,” Kinzinger said. 

Video footage shown at the proceedings showed how former vice- president Mike Pence hid in his ceremonial office on the second floor of the senate as rioters pushed through the halls of the capitol building. 

A previously unseen video was shown from the day after the riot, in which Trump appeared to resist saying the election was over.

“I don’t want to say the election is over,” he said. 

Former aides said Trump poured “gasoline on the fire” by condemning on Twitter Pence’s refusal to go along with his plan to stop the certification of Biden’s victory. 

Trump has denied the accusations and dismissed the testimony provided by witnesses.

Where does the investigation go from here?

The panel has said it will provide additional evidence about Trump’s confrontation with Secret Service agents who refused to drive him to the capitol.

The panel said Trump did nothing to stop the deadly riot, despite pleas from aides, allies and his family.

High-ranking officials, including then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone, testified on pre-recorded videotape that Trump watched television for hours in the White House dining room during the capitol riot.

The witnesses said they did not see Trump making phone calls to cabinet heads, who could have aided in stopping the violence.

The panel is expected to resume hearings in September with more witnesses and information.

The committee cannot make criminal charges, although the US Justice Department is monitoring its work. As of now, it is unclear whether Trump or his top aides will face serious charges. — Deutsche Welle