WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 will hold their first prime-time hearing Thursday to share what they have uncovered about then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol. Part of their mission: determining Trump’s actions that day.
Much is already known about where Trump was, what he said, and how he reacted. But large gaps remain. What we know:
‘WE FIGHT LIKE HELL’
The day began, as they often did, with calls and angry tweets. As Vice President Mike Pence prepared to preside over a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes that would formalize Democrat Joe Biden’s win, Trump continued to apply public pressure. He demanded that Pence reject the results by invoking powers that Pence had made clear to the president he did not possess.
“States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval,” Trump falsely claimed at 8:17 a.m. “All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN,” he added. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
Trump continued to repeat his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud as thousands of his supporters gathered for a “Save America March” rally on the Ellipse outside the White House organized to pressure Republicans in Congress to reject the democratic vote — a move that would have thrown the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis.
“The States want to redo their votes. They found out they voted on a FRAUD. Legislatures never approved. Let them do it. BE STRONG!” he urged.
By then, the rally was already underway.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., proclaimed that, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”
“Let’s have trial by combat,” declared Rudy Giuliani, who was leading Trump’s losing legal effort.
Saul Loeb/Pool via AP, File
Vice President Mike Pence hands the electoral certificate from the state of Arizona to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., as he presides over a joint session of Congress as it convenes to count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Before leaving the White House, Trump placed a call to Pence from the Oval Office and again berated his once-loyal soldier. “You don’t have the courage to make a hard decision,” a seething Trump said, according to an account described in a committee letter.
Trump then went to the rally, arriving around 11:42 a.m. as his campaign soundtrack blasted through the frigid air. Just before noon, he took the stage to his usual “God Bless the USA” and launched a fiery speech in which he complained of a “rigged” election and insisted he would “never concede.”
“If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election,” he falsely declared from behind a wall of protective glass, telling his supporters, “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He told them he planned to join them on their planned marched to the Capitol, adding that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.”
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File
President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
By that point, reams of his supporters — many carrying large “Trump” flags — were already streaming across the Mall to the Capitol, where the congressional proceedings were getting underway.
As Trump spoke, Pence released a public letter formally laying out his position in defiance of the president. “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he wrote.
By 1:12 p.m., Trump had wrapped up his speech and was dancing on stage to “YMCA,” pumping his first and clapping his hands as protesters clashed with police just 1.5 miles away on the Capitol steps. As the presidential entourage piled into the waiting motorcade, questions flew about whether he would head to the Capitol, as he had told the crowd. Instead, after a delay, the president’s limousine headed toward the White House. Trump later told The Washington Post in an interview that the Secret Service had barred him from making the trip.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File
People loyal to President Donald Trump stand outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
‘THIS IS WRONG AND NOT WHO WE ARE’
As Trump was returning to the White House, the situation at the Capitol was deteriorating. Rioters in the pro-Trump mob burst through police barricades, assaulted officers, smashed through windows and rammed through doors. At 1:49 p.m., D.C. police officially declared a riot. And by 2:15 p.m. Pence and members of Congress were rushed into hiding as the rioters breached the building.
“This is wrong and not who we are,” tweeted the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who had spoken at the rally, at 2:17 p.m. “Be peaceful and use your 1st Amendment rights, but don’t start acting like the other side. We have a country to save and this doesn’t help anyone.”
His father, however, took a different tone.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m. “USA demands the truth!
The tweet came around the time that Trump accidentally called Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, while trying to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. Lee reportedly passed the phone to Tuberville, who told Politico that he informed Trump that Pence had just been evacuated from the Senate chamber.
Finally, around 2:40 p.m., as images of protesters marching through the building’s gilded hallways flooded TV screens throughout the West Wing, Trump sent a tweet urging the rioters to stay peaceful.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” At 2:43 p.m., Ashli Babbitt, a pro-Trump protester, was shot trying to force her way into the House chamber.
‘CONDEMN THIS NOW’
It remains unclear exactly when it happened, but at some point after returning from the rally, Trump sequestered himself in the dining room off the Oval Office to watch the violence play out on TV.
“All I know about that day was that he was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV as he often did — ‘Look at all of the people fighting for me,’ hitting rewind, watching it again — that’s what I know,” his former press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who also served as chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump, told CNN.
Supporters frantically tried to reach the White House to urge Trump to make an appearance and ask the rioters to leave. They included his eldest son, several Fox News hosts, multiple members of Congress and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had worked with Trump on debate preparations.
Unable to reach him directly, allies scrambled to get his attention any way they could. Some resorted to tweeting. Others appeared on TV, trying to get through.
“Call it off, Mr. President,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said on CNN.
“Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump- you are the only one they will listen to. For our country!” tweeted his former communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin, at 2:54 p.m.
“The President’s tweet is not enough. He can stop this now and needs to do exactly that. Tell these folks to go home,” his former chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, wrote at 3:01 p.m.
Former counselor Kellyanne Conway, who had by then left the White House, said she called an aide whom she knew would be next to Trump with an urgent message.
“Urge the president to tell the people at the Capitol to stop. Just stop. Get out of there,” she wrote in her recent memoir. “Maybe there are loudspeakers. Someone could livestream him. They need to hear his voice.” She also made her plea on TV and on Twitter where she wrote, “STOP. Just STOP. Peace. Law and Order. Safety for All” at 3:21 p.m.
Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy told a California radio station that he, too, had spoken to the president.
“I was the first person to call him,” McCarthy said. “I told him to go on national TV, tell these people to stop it. He said he didn’t know what was happening.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., said McCarthy relayed that conversation to her. By her account, when McCarthy told Trump it was his own supporters breaking into the building, Trump responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Others texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, begging Trump to say something and trying to convey the severity of the situation.
“We are under siege,” wrote one reporter. “We are all helpless.”
“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump Jr. texted Meadows.
“I’m pushing it hard. I agree,” Meadows responded.
Trump Jr. texted again and again, urging that his father act.
“We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Fox News hosts agreed.
“Mark, president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” texted Ingraham.
“Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol,” texted Sean Hannity.
At 3:13 p.m. Trump finally issued a tweet asking his supporters to remain peaceful, but not asking them to leave.
“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” he wrote.
AP Photo/John Minchillo, File
People loyal to President Donald Trump storm the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
‘IT’S COMPLETELY INSANE’
Congressional testimony released so far paints a picture of a chaotic scene inside the White House, with staff just as desperate as those outside the building for Trump to act. Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser, who had been in the Oval Office during Trump’s morning phone call to the vice president, testified that staff wanted Trump to take immediate action to address the violence, but that Trump had refused.
The committee has identified an almost eight-hour gap in the official White House record of Trump’s phone calls, from a little after 11 a.m. to about 7 p.m. — a time when Trump is known to have spoken with several GOP members of the House and Senate, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tuberville and McCarthy.
White House staff repeatedly asked his daughter, Ivanka Trump’s assistance, the committee has said.
“Is someone getting to potus? He has to tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed,” Griffin texted Ben Williamson, an aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
“I’ve been trying for the last 30 minutes. Literally stormed in outer oval to get him to put out the first one. It’s completely insane,” Williamson wrote back.
The White House was already a ghost town amid staff departures. Nonessential staff had been told they could work from home due to the potential security threat.
Finally, at 4:17 p.m., 187 minutes after the insurrection began, Trump released a video, recorded in the Rose Garden, in which he praised the rioters as “very special,” but asked them to disperse.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
In a pre-recorded video message, President Donald Trump delivers a statement after rioters stormed the Capitol building during the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
“I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us,” he said. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”
“So go home. We love you. You’re very special,” he went on. “I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”
Multiple takes had been filmed, but, the committee said, Trump had apparently in earlier versions failed to ask rioters to leave.
The Capitol was finally secured at 5:34 p.m. and Trump was soon back to tweeting.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace,” he wrote at 6:01 p.m. “Remember this day forever!””
Soon after, Twitter announced that it had locked the president’s account and demanded he delete tweets praising the Capitol assailants. Facebook soon followed.
Congress resumed counting the electoral votes at 8 p.m. and at 3:40 a.m., lawmakers certified Biden as the rightful winner. Minutes later, Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, posted a statement from Trump, who had been locked out of his own accounts, officially conceding following the vote.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” it read.
ABOUT THE JAN. 6 HEARINGS
As the committee's chairman, Thompson sees his career-long struggle for civil rights as the foundation of his work in leading the investigation. Domestic extremism and its links to white supremacy are a familiar subject for Thompson, not only from his time on the Homeland Security Committee but also from his early involvement in the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
The 74-year-old lawmaker was sitting in the upper House gallery on Jan. 6, watching rioters' attempts to break through the doors. For him, the experience recalled the "unpleasant experiences" from his early days as a Black politician in the South.
Republicans and Democrats alike last summer pushed Thompson as the right choice to lead the investigation, seeing his understated style as the right fit for an investigation that was certain to be partisan and fraught.
In the months that have followed, even as some of his more outspoken counterparts have appeared on television to repeatedly criticize Trump, Thompson has mostly steered clear of the spectacle. Instead, he has made his voice heard in poignant opening remarks at hearings and in language in subpoenas, emphasizing the responsibility of the legislative branch to probe the "violent attack on the seat of our democracy."
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is vice chair of the panel and has emerged as its most outspoken member. She broke with most other Republicans after the insurrection, voting for Trump's impeachment and declaring that he "lit the flame" that ignited the attack.
The stance led to Cheney's ouster from GOP leadership and censure from the national party. And while the party that made her family's legacy pushed her away, House Democrats have embraced her as a beacon of courage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi recruited her and fellow censured Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger to be the sole GOP members of the panel.
In the span of the inquiry, Cheney has become an even more fervent critic of the Republican former president. Trump, in turn, is trying to drive her out of politics by denying her another term in office.
Cheney now faces a Trump-backed challenge in Wyoming, which will hold its primary in August. She has set personal fundraising records ahead of the race, in part thanks to her role on the committee, but political strategists have said she'll likely need some votes from Democrats and independents to win. Much of the party is now against her reelection, including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who drove her out of leadership.
There's also been chatter in Washington about Cheney parlaying her political standing to mount a 2024 presidential run against Trump.
Murphy is one of two lame-duck members seated on the select committee. The 43-year-old joined Kinzinger in announcing this year she would not seek another term. Both lawmakers cited a desire to spend more time with their families after facing an onslaught of threats since the committee was formed.
"Public service is not without personal sacrifice," Murphy said in a statement announcing her decision. "And as a mom of two young children, my time away from them has been hard."
"This was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision," she added.
The Florida Democrat, who unseated a 12-term Republican incumbent in 2016 and helped her party flip back the House in 2018, has also been an outspoken critic of the growing partisan nature of Capitol Hill and the rift between moderates like herself and the more left-leaning members of her party.
Murphy, who in her nearly four years in Congress was often seen as a bipartisan dealmaker, has also taken a less Trump-focused approach in her role as a member of the committee, instead zeroing in on the impact the former president's efforts could have on future election integrity and voter enfranchisement. Murphy said she "is not done with public service" and will continue her work as chair of the Florida Democratic Party's Democracy and Voter Protection Program.
Aguilar is the only member of the committee currently serving in House leadership. The 42-year-old lawmaker representing California's Inland Empire is also likely to move up from the No. 6 spot in the Democratic caucus when leadership vacancies arise in the next year. Before coming to Congress in 2014, he was the mayor of Redlands, California.
When the district became more favorable to Democrats after a round of redistricting, Aguilar ran again and again until he flipped the Republican-held seat. He is currently the highest-ranking Latino in Congress.
On the select committee, Aguilar has been able to leverage his spot in leadership as the vice chair of the Democratic caucus to communicate the panel's goals and objectives as lawmakers face an onslaught of criticism from Republicans that the investigation is partisan and an abuse of Congress' investigatory powers.
Kinzinger is one of two Republicans serving on the Jan. 6 panel. His willingness to criticize Trump, GOP leadership and lawmakers on the far right has left him with few allies in his party. He opted last fall to not seek reelection rather than run in a primary later this month that would have had him facing off against GOP Rep. Darin LaHood in a newly redrawn congressional district that tilts strongly to the right.
Kinzinger was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol. Trump celebrated Kinzinger's decision to retire after serving out his sixth term, crowing "2 down, 8 to go!" But Kinzinger isn't going away quietly. He appears to relish taking digs at the former president and at McCarthy, who has worked strenuously to stay in the former president's good graces.
Kinzinger, 44, is a combat veteran who flew missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. He continues to serve as a pilot in the Air National Guard with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He has hinted at other political plans, saying upon his retirement that "this isn't the end of my political future but the beginning."
Schiff is serving his 11th term in Congress and has parlayed that experience into a role as chairman of the House's intelligence committee. But he is perhaps best known as the lead impeachment manager in Trump's first Senate trial, where he warned senators weighing the charges that they knew they couldn't trust the president to do what's right for the country.
"You can trust he will do what's right for Donald Trump. He'll do it now. He's done it before. He'll do it for the next several months. He'll do it in the election if he's allowed to," Schiff warned.
Schiff often drew the ire of Trump, who mocked him at his campaign rallies and at White House events. McCarthy has suggested that Schiff will lose his intelligence panel seat if Republicans win the majority in November, a retaliatory move that would follow the Democrats stripping Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar of their committee assignments for their inflammatory rhetoric.
Schiff's experience as a federal prosecutor shows in his ability to frame issues and go toe-to-toe with the Republicans rhetorically. He is a confidant of Pelosi and is sometimes mentioned as her possible replacement should she step down. He could also someday run for a statewide office such as governor or senator.
Luria is serving her second term in office and faces stiff competition for a third in a district that leans Republican. She announced her reelection bid on the first anniversary of the insurrection, 1:46 p.m. to be exact, timed to match when she was being evacuated from her office. She said that the nation was at a crossroads and that Americans "must defend our democracy against forces that seek its destruction."
Luria is a 20-year Navy veteran whose district is home to a huge number of military personnel and veterans. She has not shied from her work on the Jan. 6 panel but also doesn't brandish it. Her press releases, tweets and floor statements emphasize efforts to boost defense spending and her support for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. She also highlights efforts to work across party lines and touted coming in at No. 26 on one scorekeeper's rankings of bipartisanship in the House.
The top Republican challengers hoping to win the right to face her in November are also emphasizing issues other than her work on the Jan. 6 investigations, so it doesn't appear to be a front-burner issue in the race — for now.
Raskin has emerged as one of the panel's leading voices after serving as the lead House manager in Trump's second Senate impeachment trial. He has promised startling revelations in the upcoming hearings. "People need to understand how close we came to losing everything on Jan. 6 with both an inside effort at a political coup and an outside effort to violently overthrow the peaceful transfer of power," he said.
Raskin served as a constitutional law professor at American University's Washington College of Law for more than 25 years. He is a prolific writer who published a memoir about the insurrection, the subsequent impeachment trial and dealing with his son's death. The siege of the Capitol came just days after Raskin's 25-year-old son, Tommy, took his own life.
The Maryland Democrat is just in his third term in office and has already assured himself a leading role on legal issues before the House Judiciary Committee in the years ahead.
Lofgren is chairwoman of the Committee on House Administration, which has oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police. She has been a member of the House since 1995 and is an immigration attorney and immigration law professor who participated in the impeachment process for three presidents — Trump, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, the latter as a congressional staffer.
She said making the Capitol safer is not a substitute for determining what led to the attack on Jan. 6, 2021. She said: "Who paid for it? How was it organized? We need to find that out to keep the country safe."
Republicans are pushing back on the hearings before they even begin, calling the committee partisan and arguing that Democrats are focused on the wrong priorities.
“They are scrambling to change the headlines, praying that the nation will focus on their partisan witch hunt instead of our pocketbooks,” House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York told reporters Wednesday.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said Democrats' goal is “to end the Electoral College and their goal is to stop President Trump from running in 2024, plain and simple.”
Congress doesn’t have the power to press charges, so the hearings aren’t intended to be a prosecution. But members of the panel have encouraged the Justice Department to aggressively investigate the attack, as well.
Lawmakers have also talked about the possibility of sending a criminal referral to the Justice Department recommending that certain individuals — perhaps even Trump — should be prosecuted. Such a referral would put Attorney General Merrick Garland and his prosecutors on the spot.
Though the scope of the department’s investigation remains unclear, it recently issued a subpoena to former Trump adviser Peter Navarro that could signal Justice is widening its probe to examine the activities and records of people who worked directly for the Republican president. The department previously issued subpoenas to people connected to the Jan. 6 attack and the rallies in Washington that preceded the violence.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. Members of the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 will hold their first prime time hearing Thursday to share what they have uncovered about former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, culminating in the deadly storming of the Capitol building.