It Was Indefensible
July 21, 2022 — Select Committee to Investigate the Attack on the US Capitol, US House of Representatives, Washington DC
Let me again thank our witnesses today. We have seen bravery and honor in these hearings, and Ms. Matthews and Mr. Pottinger, both of you will be remembered for that, as will Cassidy Hutchinson. She sat here alone, took the oath and testified before millions of Americans. She knew all along that she would be attacked by President Trump, and by the 50-, 60- and 70-year-old men who hide themselves behind executive privilege. But like our witnesses today, she has courage, and she did it anyway.
Cassidy, Sarah and our other witnesses, including officer Caroline Edwards, Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, are an inspiration to American women and to American girls. We owe a debt to all of those who have and will appear here.
And that brings me to another point. This committee has shown you the testimony of dozens of Republican witnesses, those who served President Trump loyally for years. The case against Donald Trump in these hearings is not made by witnesses who were his political enemies; it is instead a series of confessions by Donald Trump’s own appointees, his own friends, his own campaign officials, people who worked for him for years, and his own family. They have come forward and they have told the American people the truth. And for those of you who seem to think the evidence would be different if Republican Leader McCarthy had not withdrawn his nominees from this committee, let me ask you this: Do you really think Bill Barr is such a delicate flower that he would wilt under cross examination? Pat Cipillone?
Eric Herschmann? Jeff Rosen? Richard Donoghue? Of course they aren’t. None of our witnesses are.
At one point in 2016, when he was first running for office, Donald Trump said this: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” That quote came to mind last week when audio from Trump adviser Steve Bannon surfaced from October 31st, 2020, just a few days before the presidential election. Let’s listen:
[Voice of Steve Bannon]
And what Trump’s gonna do is declare victory. Right? He’s gonna declare victory. That doesn’t mean he’s a winner — he’s just gonna say he’s a winner.
The Democrats . . . more of our people vote early that count. Theirs vote in May. And so they’re going to have a natural disadvantage. And Trump’s gonna take advantage of it. That’s our strategy. He’s gonna declare himself a winner.
So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s gonna be a firestorm. Also if Trump is losing, by 10 or 11 o’clock at night, it’s gonna be even crazier. No, cause he’s gonna sit right there and say they stole it. If Biden’s winning, Trump is gonna do some crazy show.
And, of course, four days later, President Trump declared victory when his own campaign advisors told him he had absolutely no basis to do so. What the new Steve Bannon audio demonstrates is that Donald Trump’s plan to falsely claim victory in 2020 — no matter what the facts actually were — was premeditated. Perhaps worse, Donald Trump believed he could convince his voters to buy it, whether he had any actual evidence of fraud or not.
And this same thing continued to occur from Election Day onward until January 6th. Donald Trump was confident that he could convince his supporters that the election was stolen no matter how many lawsuits he lost, and he lost scores of them. He was told over and over again, in immense detail, that the election was not stolen, there was no evidence of widespread fraud. It didn’t matter. Donald Trump was confident he could persuade his supporters to believe whatever he said, no matter how outlandish, and ultimately that they could be summoned to Washington to help him remain president for another term. As we showed you last week, even President Trump’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, knew they had no actual evidence to demonstrate the election was stolen. Again, it didn’t matter.
Here is the worst part: Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation were it threatened. They would put their lives and freedom at stake to protect her. And he is preying on their patriotism. He is preying on their sense of justice. And on January 6th, Donald Trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution. He has purposely created the false impression that America is threatened by a foreign force controlling voting machines, or that a wave of tens of millions of false ballots were secretly injected into our election system, or that ballot workers have secret thumb drives and are stealing elections with them. All complete nonsense. We must remember that we cannot abandon the truth and remain a free nation.
In late November of 2020, while President Trump was still pursuing lawsuits, many of us were urging him to put any genuine evidence of fraud forward in the courts and to accept the outcome of those cases.
As January 6th approached, I circulated a memo to my Republican colleagues explaining why our congressional proceedings to count electoral votes could not be used to change the outcome of the election. But what I did not know at the time was that President Trump’s own advisors, also Republicans, also conservatives, including his White House counsel, his Justice Department, his campaign officials, they were all telling him almost exactly the same thing I was telling my colleagues: There was no evidence of fraud or irregularities sufficient to change the election outcome. Our courts had ruled. It was over. Now we know that it didn’t matter what any of us said because Donald Trump wasn’t looking for the right answer legally or the right answer factually. He was looking for a way to remain in office.
Let’s put that aside for a moment and focus just on what we saw today. In our hearing tonight, you saw an American president faced with a stark, unmistakable choice between right and wrong. There was no ambiguity, no nuance. 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. There is no way to excuse that behavior. It was indefensible.
And every American must consider this: Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6th ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?
In this room, in 1918, the Committee on Woman Suffrage convened to discuss and debate whether women should be granted the right to vote. This room is full of history, and we on this committee know we have a solemn obligation not to idly squander what so many Americans have fought and died for.
Ronald Reagan’s great ally, Margaret Thatcher, said this: “Let it never be said that the dedication of those who love freedom is less than the determination of those who would destroy it.”
Let me assure every one of you this: Our committee understands the gravity of this moment, the consequences for our nation. We have much work yet to do, and we will see you all in September.