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Sarah Matthews, a former deputy press secretary for President Donald Trump, said the president’s “refusal to condemn the violence [on Jan. 6] was indefensible,” and caused her to resign her position that day.
WATCH LIVE: Jan. 6 Committee hearings – Day 8
Matthews testified July 21 at the eighth public hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The hearing focused on Trump’s actions during the insurrection, including the 187 minutes, or just over three hours where the attacks were underway, but he did not dissuade rioters despite calls from allies, members of Congress and aides to do so.
Matthews was one of a handful of staff in the Trump White House who resigned in the immediate aftermath of the attack on Jan. 6, 2021.
At the July 21 hearing, Matthews said she, along with other staff in the West Wing on Jan. 6, asked people close to Trump to encourage him to condemn the violence at the Capitol.
Matthews said she spoke to former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who later told her that Trump initially rejected using the word “peace” in any of his tweets until his daughter, Ivanka Trump, suggested the phrase “stay peaceful,” which he finally agreed to.
When another colleague suggested Trump should not condemn the violence because it would hand a “win” to the media, Matthews gestured to a TV airing the insurrection and asked, “Does it look like we’re effing winning? Because I don’t think it does.”
And when Matthews saw Trump’s tweet at 4:17 p.m., she said it struck her that he continued to push the lie that he won the election. Though she had a “small sense of relief” when Trump told the rioters to go home, she was disappointed that he didn’t distinguish between the peaceful protesters who attended his rally and the violent insurrectionists at the Capitol.
As part of the White House press team, “I knew that I would be asked to defend that. And to me, his refusal to act and call off the mob that day and his refusal to condemn the violence was indefensible. And so I knew that I would be resigning that evening,” Matthews testified.
A later tweet by Trump at 6:01 p.m. “further cemented” that decision, she said. Matthews said she believed Trump needed to commit to an orderly transition of power, something he didn’t do until a tweet the following day. Instead, he tweeted:
“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. Remember this day forever!”
“I thought that Jan. 6, 2021 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history and President Trump was treating it as a celebratory occasion with that tweet,” Matthews said.
Since resigning, Matthews has been critical of Trump. On the one year anniversary of the attacks, Matthews tweeted that the Capitol riot was a “coup attempt” and said Trump “failed to meet the moment.”
But while she was in the administration, Matthews had previously defended the president’s actions. In June 2020, one week after Trump said the 2020 election would be “the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” while pointing to debunked election fraud claims, Matthews defended him, saying that “President Trump is highlighting that Democrats’ plan for mass mail-in system would lead to fraud.”
Matthews testified alongside Matthew Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser who also resigned on Jan. 6, 2021.
For more on the key players in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, click here.
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