According to testimony, then-US President Donald Trump was reluctant to call on his violent supporters to behave peacefully when they stormed the Capitol.
The White House had discussed what kind of tweet Trump should drop during the Capitol attack to stop the violence, said then-Vice Speaker of the White House Sarah Matthews on Thursday evening (local time) at the last public hearing of the committee of inquiry on the dramatic events of January 6, 2021 before the summer break.
Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany whispered to her that Trump did not want the word “peace” to appear in any form in such a tweet. There should have been discussions about it.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump was finally able to convince her father of the phrase “stay peaceful”. The tweet read: “Please support our Capitol Police and law enforcement agencies. They really are on our country’s side. stay peaceful!”
Matthews is certain that Trump poured “oil on the fire” with another tweet during the Capitol attack. “It was evident that the situation in the Capitol was violent and rapidly escalating,” said the then-Deputy White House Secretary. Matthews spoke about the tweet in which Trump again attacked then-Vice Vice President Mike Pence. “He should have told those people to go home,” Matthews said. The tweet was the last thing it needed at that moment.
The tweet was the opposite of de-escalation, emphasized then Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger at the hearing. “That was the moment I decided to resign. This was supposed to be my last day in the White House. I just didn’t want to be associated with what was happening in the Capitol.”
The security guards of his then deputy Pence reported that they feared for their lives. Over the radio, Secret Service bodyguards asked for their families to be bid farewell. This was reported by a defaced security official at the White House. Earlier, the committee had played audio of radio messages from agents looking for — and eventually finding — a safe escape route for Pence in the face of violent mob members entering the building.
Matthews also accused Trump of not reaching out directly to his supporters. “If the president wanted to make a statement and address the American people, he could have been on camera almost immediately,” Matthews said.
From the dining room, where Trump was watching the television coverage during the Capitol storm, it was “probably less than 60 seconds to the press room,” Matthews said. In the Oval Office, too, the press team could have arranged a speech by the then President in front of the camera “within a few minutes”.
Instead, Trump blamed left-wing Antifa for the incident during the storming of the Capitol. An audio recording of Republican MP Jaime Herrera Beutler was played in the investigative committee on Thursday, who recounted a phone call between Trump and the influential Republican Kevin McCarthy.
Accordingly, McCarthy asked Trump to recall his supporters. Trump said: “These are not my people. They’re Antifa.” When McCarthy insisted they were supporters of the president, Herrera Beutler said, “Well, Kevin, I guess they’re more upset about election-stealing than you are.”
Even a day after the attack on the US Capitol, Trump refused to speak of an “end of the election”. In unreleased video footage of a Jan. 7 address to the country, Trump said, “I don’t want to say the election is over” — even though that was in the draft speech.