The committee noted that Trump was told he had lost the 2020 presidential election multiple times but lied to the American people that his defeat was due to fraud.
In her opening statement, committee Vice Chair Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump and was ousted from her position as the No. 3 House Republican, promised the world that he would hear testimony from “more than half a dozen former White House staff in the Trump administration, all of whom were in the West Wing of the White House on January 6.”
“You will hear testimony that ‘the president did not really want to put anything out’ calling off the riot or asking his supporters to leave,” Cheney said. “You will hear the President Trump was yelling and ‘really angry’ at advisers who told him he needed to be doing something more.”
Jan. 6 committee blames Trump for ‘carnage’ at US Capitol
Then, Cheney said that the president indicated his support for the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, that started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
“Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence ‘deserves it,’” Cheney said.
Cheney did not expand on who or how many people testified that Trump backed his supporters’ calls to hang Pence. A Cheney spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.
The Washington Post reported last month that the House select committee collected testimony that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows remarked to others that Trump indicated his support for hanging Pence. The account of Meadows’s comment characterizing Trump’s reaction to Pence was provided to the committee by at least one witness, according to people familiar with the investigation — but those people did not describe the tone with which the comment was made. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to be more candid about a sensitive topic.
Jan. 6 panel is told that Trump indicated support for hanging Pence during insurrection
Representatives for Trump and Pence did not immediately respond to requests for comment. On Friday morning, Trump denied on Truth Social, his social network, that he said he supported hanging Pence.
“I NEVER said, or even thought of saying, ‘Hang Mike Pence,’” he wrote. “This is either a made up story by somebody looking to become a star, or FAKE NEWS!”
Cheney’s opening statement helped set the tone on a presentation that served as a blunt reminder of the vicious violence unleashed by the mob that day. Footage and testimony played at Thursday’s hearing showed what Caroline Edwards, a US Capitol Police officer seriously injured in the riot, described as “carnage.”
“The violence was no accident,” Committee Chair Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said at the start of the hearing. “It represented Trump’s last, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power. And ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.”
After dramatic first night, Jan. 6 panel plans several more high-profile hearings
Trump vented to those around him about Pence as he watched on television as rioters besieged the Capitol, The Post previously reported. Minutes after Pence and his family were endangered by the pro-Trump mob and forced to flee the Senate chamber, Trump tweeted that the vice president lacked “courage.”
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify, ” Trump wrote. “USA demands the truth!”
Trump has continued to falsely claim that Pence had the authority to overturn the 2020 election during Congress’s counting of electoral college votes, which he did not. Such false claims helped fuel the chant to hang Pence that erupted at the Capitol riot.
Cheney’s statement about what Trump allegedly said about Pence was one of the most revealing moments in a night full of them. Journalist Ben Jacobs tweeted that there were “audible noises of gasps inside the room” when Cheney spoke of Trump’s supposed support for hanging Pence.
Cheney received support from conservatives and liberals alike on social media for what was described as a “balanced, sober, methodological“opening statement.
“Liz Cheney’s presentation will, in my judgment, go down in the history books: Congress at its best, truth-telling at its best, American democracy at its best,” wrote Bill Kristol, the longtime conservative commentator who split with the GOP over Trump.
Joyce White Vance, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, agreed: “If you’re DOJ, you want a jury made up of Liz Cheney’s.”
Incredible to watch this presentation from Liz Cheney, of all GOPers. One of the most amazing—yet most basic—profiles in political courage we’ve seen in our lifetimes.
— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) June 10, 2022
Toward the end of her statement, Cheney, whose decision to join Democrats on the investigative panel has earned her a serious primary challenge and Trump’s enmity, offered another message to fellow Republicans who have dismissed the committee’s work. Among those was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who told Fox News this week that most Americans won’t watch the hearings, calling it “garbage.”
“I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” Cheney said. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.