Flailing Trump has extended meltdown on Truth Social over Jan. 6 hearing

Trump claims he doesn't "know" witness Sarah Matthews and places blame for riot on Nancy Pelosi

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published July 22, 2022 9:34AM (EDT)

Former US President Donald Trump (ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)
Former US President Donald Trump (ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump lashed out at a cavalcade of critics on Thursday during the eighth televised hearing held by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The committee held a nearly three-hour hearing, detailing Trump's refusal to intervene or call off his angry mob of supporters at the Capitol for 187 minutes as they assaulted police officers and stormed through the halls of Congress seeking to stop the certification of election results, perhaps by kidnapping or murdering Vice President Mike Pence.

"Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office to ignore the ongoing violence against law enforcement to threaten our constitutional order," committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney said in her closing remarks. "There is no way to excuse that behavior. It was indefensible."

Trump, who is banned from all major social media platforms, took to his Twitter knockoff Truth Social to lash out at Cheney, calling her a "sanctimonious loser" and demanding she instead show evidence challenging the election results. The committee has heard from a parade of witnesses from Trump's administration that investigated his false election fraud claims and found no evidence to back them up.

Trump also dismissed others at the hearing, claiming "I don't know" witness Sarah Matthews. Matthews worked for Trump's 2020 presidential campaign before joining the White House as a deputy press secretary. Matthews and fellow hearing witness Matthew Pottinger, who was Trump's deputy national security adviser, both resigned after Trump's actions on Jan. 6. Matthews criticized Trump for attacking Pence on Twitter during the riot, when the then-president accused the veep of lacking the "courage to do what should have been done."

"I thought that the tweet about the vice president was the last thing that was needed in that moment," Matthews said. "It was essentially him giving the green light to these people, telling them that what they were doing at the steps of the Capitol and entering the Capitol was okay."

The House Republican Conference also attacked Matthews as a "liar and pawn" on Twitter despite the fact that she now works for House Republicans. That tweet was quickly deleted.

Trump also falsely claimed that the committee has not asked the Secret Service for "corroboration" of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony that he lunged at a Secret Service agent while insisting he be taken to the Capitol with his supporters following his speech at the Ellipse. "Kangaroo court!" Trump wrote.

The committee played testimony from multiple witnesses describing Trump's angry response when he was told he could not go to the Capitol, noting that the incident was widely discussed among agents.

"The president was upset and that he was adamant about going to the Capitol and that there was a heated discussion about that," D.C. Police Sgt. Mark Robinson, who was assigned to Trump's motorcade, told the panel. "The president was upset and he was saying there was a heated argument or discussion about going to the Capitol," he added.

The hearing also focused on Trump's refusal to call in any law enforcement agencies or the National Guard to help quell the violence in the Capitol. Trump did not deny the evidence but instead faulted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser for failing to have "10,000 to 20,000 troops to stand guard at the Capitol Building."

"It's Nancy Pelosi's fault, she turned down the troops!" he wrote.

The committee detailed frantic efforts by Trump's family, advisers and Republican lawmakers to get him to call off the mob and send in additional support. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy repeatedly called Trump's allies and the president himself, pleading for him to intervene.

"Well Kevin, I guess they're just more upset about the election than you are," Trump told McCarthy, according to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.

"I never said that to Kevin McCarthy," Trump insisted, accusing the committee of spreading "lies and misrepresentations." In the same post, he falsely claimed that "Crooked Hillary Clinton" and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams had "contested their elections" for a "far longer time." Clinton never contested her defeat, conceding the race within 24 hours after the 2016 election. Abrams refused to concede her defeat to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp but did not challenge the election the way Trump did. Neither led an angry mob to stop their opponent from taking power.

"I had an election Rigged and Stolen from me, and our Country," Trump claimed on Truth Social. "The USA is going to Hell. Am I supposed to be happy?"

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After the riot, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell condemned Trump's mob. Video played at the hearing showed him asking then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller when the chamber could resume the certification of the results.

"We're not going to let these people keep us from finishing our business," McConnell said. "So we need you to get the building cleared, give us the OK so we can go back in session and finish up the people's business as soon as possible."

Trump lashed out at McConnell, calling him a "disloyal sleaze bag."

"Is this the same Mitch McConnell who was losing big in Kentucky, and came to the White House to BEG me for an Endorsement and help?" Trump wrote. "Without me he would have lost in a landslide."

Despite McConnell's condemnation, the Republican leader later voted against convicting Trump during his second impeachment trial and said he would "absolutely" support him in 2024 if he wins the Republican nomination. McCarthy, who told colleagues that Trump bore responsibility for the attack, has repeatedly defended Trump, helped torpedo a bipartisan investigation into the Capitol riot, and is seeking to ingratiate himself to the former president ahead of a likely bid for the House speaker's gavel after the midterms.

But despite all this revisionist history, Thursday's hearing highlighted the very real threat posed to Pence and lawmakers, including Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who pumped his fist to the angry mob at the Capitol before fleeing through the Senate hallways after they invaded the building.

"Members of the VP detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives," an anonymous security official testified. "There were a lot of — there was a lot of yelling, a lot of — I don't know — a lot of very personal calls over the radio. So — it was disturbing. I don't like talking about it, but there were calls to say goodbye to family members and so forth. It was getting — for whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail thought that this was about to get very ugly."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Capitol Riot Donald Trump Jan. 6 Committee Kevin Mccarthy Mitch Mcconnell Politics