Jan. 6 committee publishes another round of transcripts
UPDATE: Friday, Dec 23, 2022 · 1:40:09 AM +00:00
Moving onto former Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Esper testified before the committee upon request but not under subpoena.
In his testimony on April 1, Esper offered a startling contrast for investigators by providing information about the summer of 2020.
Protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd had surged through the United States and in Washington, D.C. Esper testified that Trump wanted to deploy 10,000 troops to the Capitol that summer to shut down protest activity and he wanted to include active duty forces from the U.S. military.
Trump had difficulty understanding the distinction, Esper implied, between “calling up the military first, the Guard later,” he said.
“Did he understand the difference between Active-Duty military versus the National Guard, as you described it?” an unidentified committee counsel asked during the session this spring.
Esper replied: “I don’t know. A lot of people don’t understand the differences between Active Duty, National Guard, Federal Reserves. It’s a little complicated. But I’m not sure. I would be speculating.”
There were also discussions about invoking the Insurrection Act. The issue was “hanging heavily in the air,” the defense secretary said.
Trump “continued through the summer of 2020 to push for, at times, the deployment of National Guard troops into cities such as Portland and Seattle — those are the two notable — to again, to address the protesters,” Esper said.
Ultimately, deployments that summer didn’t occur because it wasn’t necessary. It never rose to that level, he reiterated. He advocated this to Trump, too.
Trump did not invoke the Insurrection Act but his appetite for it was strong and while he may not have understood the distinction between active duty and National Guard, he understood long before Jan. 6 that in a crisis, he had the ability to call back up.
UPDATE: Friday, Dec 23, 2022 · 12:25:48 AM +00:00
Sarah Matthews, Trump’s former deputy White House press secretary, said after Trump tweeted the video message telling those at the Capitol “we love you, you’re very special,” she could no longer defend what was happening when reporters came to press her for a comment on the record.
“And I was just — I remember thinking to myself, ‘What are you doing?’” she said. “Like this is indefensible.”
She had hit her “breaking point,” she told the committee.
And speaking again to Trump’s likely foreknowledge of events, or his intent for the days ahead, Matthews testified that Trump was in a “very good mood” on the morning of January 6.
This was markedly different than the days and weeks prior.
“He was so excited. He was talking about the crowd that was assembled, how you know, excited he was for the following day,” she said.
UPDATE: Friday, Dec 23, 2022 · 12:02:44 AM +00:00
More from the Sarah Matthews transcript:
On Jan. 6, it was Ivanka Trump who came up with the “stay peaceful” addition to Trump’s tweet at 2:38 p.m.: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
Matthews said former President Donald Trump was “initially resistant to mentioning peace of any sort” and while she, Ivanka Trump, and Kayleigh McEnany all agreed that he needed to forcefully condemn the violence, it wasn’t until 3:13 p.m. that he sent a tweet “ urging those at the Capitol to remain peaceful, explicitly.
“Remain peaceful! No violence! Remember WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue,” Trump tweeted.
Matthews said that her colleague, Chad Gilmartin, another White House aide, remarked to her that it might be better not to condemn the violence:
“His reasoning was that he felt like by — condemning the violence acknowledged that these were his supporters and that it would let the media quote “win,” end quote, because what he expressed was that, over the summer, we had seen violent protests across the country by Black Lives Matter protesters and that Democrats were never asked to condemn that violence. And so he thought that by the President condemning, you know, what looked as if were his supporters causing violence, the media would quote, “win” end quote.”
UPDATE: Thursday, Dec 22, 2022 · 11:30:37 PM +00:00
Here are some of the highlights from the transcript of former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, who served immediately under White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and resigned on the evening of January 6.
- Matthews said her decision to resign on the same day of the Capitol attack was reached after she heard the president make “no distinction between those who were peacefully protesting and those who were causing violence” in his video message on Jan. 6 when he told the mob, “Go home, we love you. You’re very special.”
- She testified that Trump would “slip up” at times in front of Alyssa Farah, the onetime communications director. In private, Farrah told her that Trump, just a few weeks after the election, would “acknowledge the next administration and it seemed like he would slip up, and you know, privately acknowledge that there was going to be an incoming administration.”
- Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell held a press conference in December that Matthews felt had prompted a darker shift in Trump’s tenor.
- “It felt like, from that day forward, a shift where he might have been, the president might have been acknowledging privately that he had lost without really saying that he had lost, like I said, kind of acknowledging you know, maybe there was an incoming administration but then it felt like around early December that he started to get bad advice from some folks who — and then his view on it started to shift.’
- Kayleigh McEnany told Matthews that Trump wanted her to discuss the Dominion voting machines conspiracy theory when she would hold press conferences. But McEnany said she was uncomfortable doing it and she rather focus on affidavits that were being filed in support of Trump’s lawsuits alleging rampant voter fraud.
- “He wanted her also to do briefings from the White House podium on this,” Matthews testified, noting that McEnany was aware this would be a blatant violation of the Hatch Act.
- Matthews testified under oath that McEnany “did try to actively avoid the President.”
- “Because he wanted her do the briefings from the podium about the campaign, and wanted her to talk about Dominion. And so, I think she tried to limit her interactions with him, but I can’t recall — like, I honestly don’t remember how long she was in Florida during December. I would chalk that up to being home for the holidays, I’d imagine, but I do know that she did say to me privately that she was trying to avoid him for that reason, because he was making those requests.”
The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has published another batch of transcripts from its massive probe. The final report is still expected to be published Thursday.
The transcripts released on Thursday are from the depositions of:
- Chris Krebs, former director of the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
- Stephen Ayres, a Capitol rioter who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and testified before the select committee that the mob acted at Trump’s urging
- Mark Esper, former U.S. Secretary of Defense under former President Donald Trump
- Ken Klukowski, an aide to Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark
- Sarah Matthews, former White House deputy press secretary
This story is developing.
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