Yamiche Alcindor: The outline of an attempted coup.
Officer Caroline Edwards: What I saw was just a war scene. I was slipping in people’s blood. It was carnage. It was chaos.
The January 6th committee makes its case. Lawmakers reveal never before seen video of the attack.
Yamiche Alcindor, PBS Moderator, Washington Week: And the testimonies of former President Trump’s inner circle.
Bill Barr, Former Attorney General: Repeatedly told the president in no uncertain terms that I did not see evidence of fraud.
Alcindor: Plus --
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY): Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues: You are defending the indefensible. There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.
Alcindor: New details about the actions of Trump and fellow Republicans. Still, a key question remains, what impact could this have on our divided democracy? Next.
Good evening and welcome to WASHINGTON WEEK.
After a year of hearings behind closed doors, the January 6 committee publicly laid out its key findings for the first time. The primetime hearing featured new details and graphic new video of the violence from that day, included never-before-seen clips of former President Trump’s inner circle testifying they tried to convince the president to stop spreading lies about the election.
Here’s their thesis: the violence on January 6 was not spontaneous. Instead, it was a result of a sprawling months-long conspiracy by former President Trump and his allies. The committee argued Trump wanted to subvert the Constitution and unlawfully remain in power.
Take a listen to Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS): January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it, shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.
Alcindor: Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the committee, and one of only two Republicans serving on it, said this was a sophisticated, deadly plan.
Cheney: Aware of the rioters’ chants to hang Mike Pence, the president responded with this sentiment, quote, maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence, quote, deserves it.
Alcindor: Committee members warned that American democracy remains in danger.
Now, tonight, joining me to discuss this and more, Alex Burns, national political correspondent for "The New York Times". He is also the co-author of a book, "This Wil Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future". Ryan Reilly, justice reporter for NBC News.
And joining me here in studio, Leigh Ann Caldwell, "Washington Post Live" anchor and the co-anchor of the "Early 202" newsletter, and Nikole Killion, congressional correspondent for CBS News.
Thank you all of you for being here on this historic Friday really.
Leigh Ann, I want to start with you. You were, of course, reporting from the capital on January 6 in the Cannon Building, which is an office building very nearby where all this violence was happening. Some have called this hearing a third impeachment. "The New York Times" said that it was the most damning indictment of a president in U.S. history.
What are your big key takeaways, your key takeaways after seeing the hearing last night?
Leigh Ann Caldwell, Anchor, Washington Post Live: Yeah, I will say, Yamiche, that I was a little surprised that they beat expectations. We have covered this for more than a year.
I was there on January 6. I was not in the Capitol. That I was one of the -- I was in the office building ready to go on camera when I worked for NBC News, and we were evacuated because we were so close to the RNC where there was a pipe bomb was.
And I have covered this and I’ve seen a lot of video. I’ve seen a lot of police officer video. And there was still new stuff last night. And that is something that I was not expecting.
So, I think that the committee did a pretty good job, a compelling job of telling that story last night.
Alcindor: And, Nikole, you think about the idea that they -- what Leigh Ann said, they surpassed expectations. Lawmakers painted this picture of former President Trump as almost the radicalizer in chief this time. And they also made the case using his inner circle, including his own daughter, possibly his favorite child, Ivanka Trump, saying that she believes the attorney general, former Attorney General Bill Barr, when he said that the election was not stolen.
When you are talking to lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, what has been their reaction?
Nikole Killion, Congressional Correspondent, CBS News: Yeah. Well, first, just on that point with respect to Ivanka Trump, interesting that the former president did push back and he kind of chastised his own daughter for, you know, being a party to this hearing, saying that she’s checked out. Ands, you know, she didn’t have anything to do with election results.
But, you know, I think talking to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, I mean, certainly, there were a number of Democrats in the room last night. Many of them also blown away by some of the revelations coming out of this hearing, especially the part where we learned, for instance, that former President Trump did not call the National Guard, that it was Vice President Mike Pence, you know, in essence, almost being like a shadow president having to step in and do something that one would think the president would have done.
Obviously, many Republicans out there continue to blast this as an illegitimate panel, as a sham. And so, many of them acknowledged they weren’t tuning in.
Alcindor: And, Ryan, I want to come to you. Nikole in some ways really teed up by my next question. I was going to ask you about the fact that Liz Cheney said former president Trump did not call the National Guard. He did not get in touch with any law enforcement to try to stop this.
You’ve, of course, been tracking all of the different prosecutions on January 6, connected to the January 6 attack. What does it say to you that the president did not make any kind of attempts to try to stop this? And how does this connect to what people there now being arrested and charged with this are telling courts all over this country?
Ryan Reilly, Justice Reporter, NBC News: Yeah. And, you know, it’s pretty damning. And I would be really curious what he was doing during that time and who he was in communication with because a few weeks ago, we had an Oath Keeper who pled guilty to seditious conspiracy say that Stewart Rhodes, the head of his organization was in a hotel room on the night of January 6 and was desperately trying to get in touch with Donald Trump and reached some sort of Trump intermediary and trying to get -- put on the phone with Trump.
So, I think those crucial hours are really going to be important and we want to know who that intermediary is. That’s something that come out through this committee process, or something that come out as these prosecutions moved along.
Right now, we are at over 820 cases but there are still hundreds and hundreds of cases to go. Online sleuths have identified more than 2,500 people who entered the Capitol. The FBI list has 350 people on it. So, there’s a very, very long path ahead for this DOJ investigation, even as the committee sort of wraps up and gut its investigation over the coming weeks and up until the midterm elections.
Alcindor: And, Ryan, you’ve also spent hours watching all of the video or a lot of the video that came out of the Capitol attack. But you still were surprised and learned new information when you saw this hearing.
So, talk about a little bit about your reaction to what we saw.
Reilly: Yeah. Like Leigh Ann, I was a little bit surprised. I mean, I sort of said, huh, are they really going to be able to find footage that I or sleuths who have been looking into this for months and months and months have not been able to find? And they did.
You know, even sleuths who had terabytes of information and terabytes of data and video around the Capitol attack were surprised by some of what they turned up. And I think as these cases turn on and the criminal cases result in more video being put out, it’s going to become this sort of mosaic where you can piece together components of what happened on January 6 because, you know, you are in one of the most recorded parts of the country, right? In addition to all of the bodycam footage and the cameras in the crowd, there is a incredible surveillance network.
So, that’s something that I think that the committee was really able to tap into and released some of that footage from those surveillance cameras. They give you a really new perspective on a lot of this attacks, especially this footage from sort of the bird’s nest, from above the Capitol, I think was really compelling, because it showed you the size of the mob. Something that you couldn’t see when you’re sort of right in the middle of it, when you get that different angle and really shows it from a whole new whole perspective, and that audio I think over top of the CCTV footage is really, really compelling and really upped the ante on a lot f those footage.
Alcindor: Certainly hearing the voice of former President Trump saying, I love it, while people were breaking into the Capitol. It was definitely surreal.
Alex, of course, we have to talk about House Minority Kevin McCarthy. Lawmakers played new video of his staffers evacuating from their offices when the Capitol was being attacked.
And, McCarthy, of course, has over and over again claimed this committee is partisan and illegitimate. Yet you and your co-author, Jonathan Martin, a friend of this show, obtained new audio of McCarthy saying this days after the attack.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): We cannot just sweep this under the rug. We need to know why it happened, who did it, and people need to be held accountable for it. And I’m committed to make sure that happens.
Alcindor: So, Alex, what’s the significance of what is absolutely an about-face by McCarthy? What does it say about where the GOP finds itself right now?
Alex Burns, National Political Correspondent, The New York Times: Well, Yamiche, it’s another case study in Kevin McCarthy’s profound cynicism in how he has handled his role as a leader of the party since January 6 and the extent to which he is kind of the stand-in for the journey that the establishment Republican Party has taken as a whole. You heard his voice there in the immediate aftermath talking about this as really an atrocity in American history, something that deserved the most rigorous kind of bipartisan investigation.
There’s another point in the same meeting that that recording is taken from that he wants a cross-section of the Republican Party involved in the investigation. And, obviously, now, he is doing everything he can to undermine the credibility of the investigation.
I think what the committee put on this week makes it hard to do that with a straight face. Not that Kevin McCarthy has some great credibility as a moral leader that he brings into this conversation, but if you’re trying to make the case that this is all a partisan song and dance act by a bunch of Democrats, who don’t have anything new to say, I think we see t that’s not the case.
And, Yamiche, I just wanted to highlight another recording that we released in the last few weeks from McCarthy again, that same meeting with the House Republican conference talks about having a call to President Trump when the insurrection was in progress and having berated him to tell him that you have to make a statement, you have to tell these people to stand down. That is a call you would make if you did not think it was in the president’s power to make this stop.
And the fact that McCarthy told House Republicans that he had to raise his voice and made repeated requests reinforces that picture you heard from the committee last night about the president having been a reluctant person to take action to protect the seat of American government.
Alcindor: I mean, all of the audio that you and J-Mart have obtained is really, really critical and really, really important during this time in history. So, thanks for, of course, getting that reporting.
Leigh Ann, I want to come to you because Liz Cheney was calling out a lot of Republicans last night. One of them is Scott Perry and other Republicans that she said they saw pardons from the White House. I had to hear its twice because I was so taken aback by that.
What does it say to you? What is the significance of that, that lawmakers after January 6 were saying, look, I might need a pardon?
Caldwell: Yeah, I think it is very significant. And the committee last night, she didn’t really lay out the significance, but what this does show, she teased this, that there’s going to be more of this in the next few weeks that they’re holding these hearings.
The fact that one of the Republicans from Pennsylvania, Scott Perry, who was instrumental in trying to help the former president overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, the fact that after January 6, he asked the president, Donald Trump, for a pardon shows that the reaction and response and what happened after January 6, he got very nervous that perhaps he was personally criminally or maybe civilly liable for that.
And, you know, Scott Perry, he put out a statement today saying that was absolutely false, that he did not do that. But I don’t think the committee is very concerned about overreach. They have done that in the past and it’s really bit them. And so, I don’t think that they would not put out there if they did not have evidence.
Alcindor: Yeah. Something else I have to ask you about and that is Capitol police officers and this sort of lingering trauma on Capitol Hill. We saw Caroline Edwards talking about slipping in blood. She also talked about seeing Officer Brian Sicknick who died the next day after the Capitol attack, looking pale and in distress.
You obviously walk those halls every day. Talk about the lingering trauma and what officers are dealing with.
Caldwell: Yeah, it hasn’t gone away yet. I mean, last night at that hearing in the first row, you saw Harry Dunn weeping throughout. You saw other members of the D.C. Metro Police officers and Capitol Police officers also very pained. There were widows in that first row as well, their husbands who died or partners who died in response to January 6.
And the Capitol police haven’t recovered yet. They are still understaffed. They’re trying to -- the leadership is trying to increase their pay. But they are still working sometimes 12, 14 hours a day because of the security needs. They have not had time to recover.
And it’s a very wounded force. And them watching and seeing this footage over and over again is very difficult for a lot of them.
Killion: It’s really something they have to live through every day. I had the opportunity to talk to Sergeant Aquilino Gonell who was also in the room sitting next to Officer Dunn, and, you know, he told me even everyday things can trigger this, right? Like he tries to avoid certain parts of the Capitol because it brings back memories.
And even now, more than ever, with the Capitol being reopened to the public, sometimes it makes them a little skittish if somebody is approaching, you know, generally, he’s used to helping the public, but in light of what happened, depending on, you know, who might approach him. It gives him some pause on occasion. And he’s still recovering from his injuries both physically and mentally. He’s on restricted duty.
So, a lot of people don’t realize behind the scenes. And not just many of these officers, but many of the lawmakers, too, some of them that I talked to have also gone through therapy after this. So, it is a trauma that has lingered not just for these officers, not just for lawmakers, many staffers, journalists as well.
Alcindor: And it’s just heartbreaking when you think about what these Capitol officers have to deal with and how -- you can see how traumatized they are just in their eyes.
Killion: I do want to chime in real quick on that, too. I mean, I think the other part of it is some officers I have talked to just want to move on. And I think they also worry that this process is being politicized. And so, that is a concern that some officers have expressed to me as well.
Alcindor: That’s an important part.
Ryan, I want to come to you, because as bad as this video shows as this was, it could have been worse. During the committee -- during this hearing the committee said the Oath Keepers created an armed, quick reactions force and they were standing by at some point to see if there was an Insurrection Act that might be invoked by former President Trump. What more do you know about this plan and what was going on there?
Reilly: Yeah. So, there were actually some weapons that were stored outside of D.C., in Virginia at a hotel. Basically, they were waiting and ready to go in case Trump invoked the Insurrection Act. That is what they were trying to do on the ninth of January 6. We are going to come in and help take over.
Obviously, he never got through to Trump, but I think the person he tried to reach was of great interest to the committee as well as to federal prosecutors.
In terms of where this investigation stands, in general, next week at the same time this committee meeting will be happening on Monday, actually, Officer Eugene Goodman, who was chased up the stairs by that mob, is going to be offering his first testimony in a case. He’ll be testifying in the case -- a bench trial involving two defendants including one who carried the Confederate flag right outside the House -- rather, the Senate Chamber, on January 6.
And that’s one of the cases moving forward. This will be, in the first, you know, 10 cases that have gone forward, there’s been five jury trials. This is I believe the third bench trial that will go forward. So, these cases are going to continue to roll and they’re going to continue to generate news stories throughout the next few years as they make their way through the justices of even long after this January 6 committee is over.
Alcindor: And, Alex, I want to go to you because the other thing that happened during the hearing is there was audio and video of Jason Miller played. He was explaining that there was a person on the Trump campaign, a data manager who had told former President Trump that he was going to lose.
So, when you hear stuff like that, I wonder what’s your sense of this committee’s ability to effectively make the argument for some sort of criminal complaint, some sort of -- some sort of thing that ends up with people being charged here? Or is that just not on the table?
Burns: No, I think we have every reason to believe that it is on the table. Look, I think part of the job the committee is doing right now, you know, I think this is, again, covered to a great degree as a sort of political performance, to try to shift public opinion and grabbed the nation by their lapels and direct their attention to the horror of what happened on January 6.
But, look, I’m not making any predictions about what their final actions in this investigation will be. But if they were going to make criminal referrals against somebody like President Trump, the people very, very close to the president of the United States for essentially trying to overthrow the American government to subvert the Constitution and engage in a massive criminal conspiracy, boy, you have to lay the predicate for that with the American public, with American public, with American elites, with other people who participated in the criminal justice , because we have never seen anything like that happened before in American history. We do not have a great record in this country of holding our former presidents accountable, even for the most egregious misdeeds.
And so, Yamiche, I think that when you see them laying out, beginning to lay out the ways in which former President Trump knew in real-time or should have known in real time that the stuff he was saying was false and the steps he was taking or attempting to take were illegal, look, if they were going to make a criminal referral, that certainly stuff they would have to do before getting there.
Alcindor: And, Leigh Ann, the other big part of this is when you think about the criminal complaint. The case they’re building is, can lawmakers breakthrough? We saw that at least 19 million people, based on preliminary data, tuned into this. It’s less than people that turned in to the State of the Union, but more than people who watched the first impeachment.
That being said, inflation just today is getting even worse and may get even worse. So, what’s your sense of lawmakers concerned of breaking through to Americans who are juggling so many other challenges?
Caldwell: Well, as far as Democrats are concerned, they’re under no illusion that this is what voters will head to the polls over. I have reporting last month, Speaker Pelosi told our colleagues in a closed-door meeting that she told them, House Democrats are stewards of democracy. But that is not why voters are going to vote. They are going to vote on inflation and gas prices.
And so, they are very realistic about this, but they think that they still have to move forward with it because it is important. Meanwhile, Republicans know this as well, are really playing into it and part of their response, their counterprogramming to all of this is saying, why isn’t Speaker Pelosi holding primetime hearings about inflation? That is what Americans care about. There is acknowledgement from both parties that economic issues are politically important, but the Democrats think that democracy is important to keep track of.
Alcindor: And, Nikole, really quickly, in the last 30 seconds we have here, lawmakers are trying to say the future of democracy is at risk here. So, there are going to be more hearings. What are you going to be looking out for in the days ahead?
Killion: Well, basically, what we’re going to see in this next round of hearings next week, there are three in total, is more about the former president’s effort to peddle this big lie, and the extent to which he tried to pressure his own justice department, his own vice president even to overturn the results of the election.
Alcindor: We’re also going to see some local and state officials testify from Georgia about what the president tried to do there to try to pressure them to overthrow the election.
I want to thank our panel for joining us tonight and for sharing your reporting. Leigh Ann, Nikole and I will continue our conversation on "The Washington Week Extra". We will discuss the Senate’s bipartisan efforts to address gun reform following a recent mass shootings. Find it on our website, Facebook and YouTube.
And on Saturday’s "PBS NEWS WEEKEND," a look at the wider impact of the Capitol attack and its impact it’s had on American life and culture.
And, finally, we are mourning the death of Ken Bode, the sixth moderator of WASHINGTON WEEK. He also worked at NBC News and CNN. Our hearts are with his family and friends.
Thank you for joining us. I’m Yamiche Alcindor. Good night from Washington.