Jan. 6 Transcripts Detail Failures in Surveillance and National Guard Response
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol released on Thursday 19 more transcripts of its interviews, bringing its total number of transcripts published to about 120.
So far, the committee has added details to the public’s understanding of how witnesses stymied parts of the panel’s inquiry; how Trump-aligned lawyers allegedly tried to steer witness testimony; how panicked lawmakers tried to persuade former President Donald J. Trump to call off the mob; and how Mr. Trump considered “blanket pardons” for those charged.
The committee is rushing to publish hundreds more interviews before Jan. 3, when Republicans will take control of the House. Here are some takeaways from the hundreds of pages of transcripts released this week, including details of police intelligence failures before the Capitol attack and insight into the delay in the response of the National Guard.
Concerns over ‘optics’ contributed to the National Guard delay.
The transcripts shed more light on what led to an hourslong delay of the National Guard deployment to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Testimony from Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, who was the commander of the D.C. Guard, reiterated that the response from the Guard on Jan. 6 had been delayed because of concerns from higher-ups over “the optics” of the army’s involvement.
The reason it took three hours and 19 minutes to get approval for the Guard to help protect the Capitol, he said, was that “somebody or somebodies were willfully, deliberately delaying making the decision.” He added, “I think it would have been a vastly different response if those were African Americans trying to breach the Capitol.”
He went on to say that the secretary of the Army, Ryan D. McCarthy, who could have approved sending Guard members to the Capitol, had become inaccessible in the days leading up to Jan. 6 and during the riot, describing how someone had been running around the Pentagon in search of him.
Understand the Events on Jan. 6
- Timeline: On Jan. 6, 2021, 64 days after Election Day 2020, a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump raided the Capitol. Here is a close look at how the attack unfolded.
- A Day of Rage: Using thousands of videos and police radio communications, a Times investigation reconstructed in detail what happened — and why.
- Lost Lives: A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people died in connection with the attack.
- Jan. 6 Attendees: To many of those who attended the Trump rally but never breached the Capitol, that date wasn’t a dark day for the nation. It was a new start.
A former police chief admitted a ‘colossal intelligence failure.’
The latest batch of transcripts also contain new testimony about the intelligence failures among law enforcement agencies. Steven A. Sund, the former chief of the Capitol Police, who previously said the events of Jan. 6 could not have been predicted, told investigators that the riot was a “colossal intelligence failure.”
He said analysts in the intelligence wing of the Capitol Police had not emphasized the severity of the threat they were finding, including messages and social media posts from rioters before Jan. 6 that said “we will storm the government buildings, kill cops, kill security guards, kill federal employees and agents”; “start marching into the chambers”; and “show up with guns and threaten them with death.”
Had he known, he said, he would have escalated the department’s response.
A sergeant testified on Trump’s push to go to the Capitol.
The panel also released the transcript of Mark Robinson, a retired sergeant with the Metropolitan Police Department who was assigned to the presidential motorcade. He said he and the department had not been told in advance that Mr. Trump wanted to visit the Capitol on Jan. 6. They were notified that day, he said, while the former president delivered his speech to protesters at the Ellipse, near the White House.
Mr. Robinson testified that the police department had been “quite concerned” that the president wanted to go to the Capitol and that he had waited “45 minutes to an hour” in the motorcade for the Secret Service to decide what to do. During that period, he said, the lead Secret Service agent relayed that Mr. Trump was “upset and that he was adamant about going to the Capitol, and there was a heated argument about that.”
Donald Trump Jr. says his father doesn’t text.
During the siege of the Capitol, the phone of Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was blowing up with text messages from Republicans demanding Mr. Trump call off the mob, raising the question: Why weren’t those people texting Mr. Trump directly?
It has long been known that the former president was averse to sending emails and texts, and his son Donald Trump Jr. put that on the record during his interview with the committee. “My father doesn’t use text messaging or email,” he said.
When investigators asked whether the former president might use an encrypted messaging app, his son replied: “I’m not sure he’d even know what they were.”
The younger Trump texted Mr. Meadows repeatedly on Jan. 6 calling for his father to condemn the violence: “We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It’s gone too far and gotten out of hand,” he wrote.
Loyalty tests were a constant feature of Trump’s White House.
Some of the transcripts offer a matter-of-fact view of the Trump White House’s approach to the firings of top officials and a type of loyalty test imposed on potential second-term appointees.
In its interview with John McEntee, who served as both a personal aide to Mr. Trump and the head of the presidential personnel office, the committee brought forth details about Mr. Trump’s penchant for grievance and mistrust of anyone mildly friendly to a Democrat.
Mr. McEntee said the Trump White House had begun a “review of each appointee” that intensified after the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2020. Mr. McEntee said Mr. Trump’s feelings toward Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, changed after he publicly opposed Mr. Trump’s suggestion of deploying active duty troops to quell the protests in American cities.
“I know that he was, you know, frustrated with him coming out publicly,” Mr. McEntee said.
He also described the termination of Christopher Krebs, who led the office of cybersecurity, and conceded the official had essentially been fired for publicly saying the election had been the most secure in history while Mr. Trump was still making his baseless claims of widespread fraud.
Mr. McEntee also was asked about a list of grievances his office had prepared against Mr. Krebs, including that his wife had posted a family photo on Facebook “with the Biden-Harris logo watermarked at the bottom.”
And Mr. McEntee described watching Mr. Trump tear up documents, a habit of the former president in his handling of official records that has become well known.
Melania Trump apparently distrusted Mark Meadows.
Melania Trump did not trust Mr. Meadows or the outside team of lawyers, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, that surrounded the president as he worked to overturn the 2020 election, according to one of her top aides.
“She didn’t trust Mark Meadows, was what she told me,” Stephanie A. Grisham, a former White House communications director, told the panel.
Ms. Grisham told the panel Mrs. Trump believed Mr. Meadows was “letting a lot of people who were maybe being harmful to the president, giving him bad advice.”
She added, “He was clearing them into the residence or getting them into the Oval. And Mrs. Trump never liked it when people would tell Trump what he wanted to hear rather than the truth or the reality of the situation.”
Rally organizers worried about the involvement of fringe activists.
Multiple people involved with planning the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse expressed qualms about some of the fringe activists who had been brought into the fold, according to testimony, text messages and emails produced to the committee.
Amy and Kylie Kremer, the mother and daughter who lead Women for America First and helped plan the rally, said they had repeatedly expressed apprehension that Alex Jones, the Infowars fabulist, and Ali Alexander, a Stop the Steal organizer, were allowed to participate in the planning of the rally and the event itself. Kylie Kremer told investigators that she was particularly fearful of Mr. Jones, who she said had stormed a stage and shoved Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, at one of their earlier events.
Neither man ultimately spoke from the stage, but others did, including Mr. Giuliani, who called for “trial by combat,” and Mr. Trump, who told the crowd to “fight like hell.”
On Jan. 6 at 2:18 p.m., as the riot at the Capitol was raging, Katrina Pierson, a former Trump aide who had helped organize the rally, texted Max Miller, a former Trump adviser who was recently elected to represent Ohio in Congress: “And this is why I fought so hard to keep certain people off” the stage.
Ms. Pierson added, “I didn’t know what was going to happen at the Capitol. I knew it wouldn’t be good, and that’s why I could not be flexible at all on this one.”