Defense & National Security — Jan. 6 panel reveals more Trump details

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The House committee investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol ended its first set of hearings Thursday night, focusing on what former President Trump was doing — and not doing — as the riot unfolded.

We’ll recap the hearing. Plus, we’ll talk about the new $270 million security assistance package going to Ukraine.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Committee zeroes in on Trump’s ‘dereliction of duty’

The White House was paralyzed for three hours on Jan. 6 as former President Trump rebuffed frantic pleas from anxious aides to intervene to quell the violence at the U.S. Capitol, according to evidence presented Thursday night by the House committee investigating last year’s rampage.

Trump’s inaction over that 187-minute span — even in the face of desperate calls from top staff and close family — allowed the riot to escalate, investigators charged, threatening the lives of lawmakers and his own vice president, Mike Pence, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.

The key points: After interviewing more than 1,000 witnesses, the committee has cobbled together much of what happened that day. Among the revelations presented during Thursday’s hearing:

  • Trump was not in the dark about the violence at the Capitol. Within 15 minutes of returning to the White House, he learned the building was under attack. 

  • Trump did not call any of his national security leaders for the duration of the riot, opting instead to call lawmakers about the certification vote 

  • Pence’s security staff feared for their lives when the mob breached the Capitol, dreading they were trapped and might have to resort to lethal force.  

  • Trump resisted adding any calls for “peace” in the few tweets he sent as the attack was unfolding. With the urging of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, he agreed to a compromise: “Stay peaceful,” he said in his 2:38 p.m. tweet.  

  • Trump also did not want to include language in his late afternoon videotaped message to supporters telling them to “go home in a peaceful way.

  • Trump’s last words before retiring to his residence the evening of Jan. 6 made no mention of the attack. Instead, he was angry with his vice president. “Mike Pence let me down,” he said.  

  • On Jan. 7, Trump still struggled to acknowledge the election was over, demanding to exclude that language from his video address.

To boost its case, the committee brought in two former White House staffers who resigned in protest over how Trump handled Jan. 6:

  • Matthew Pottinger, former deputy director for the National Security Council

  • Sarah Matthews, then deputy press secretary

Both of them described being appalled by Trump’s refusal to act to protect the Capitol, and both of them would resign on Jan. 6 to protest what they called his failure to meet his most basic presidential obligations.

For Matthews, the final straw was the 4:17 p.m. Rose Garden video, in which Trump told the crowd to disperse, calling them “special people.” For Pottinger, the decision came even earlier, after Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet attacking Pence, who quickly became a target of the violent mob.

THE OUTTAKES

The committee presented outtakes of Trump recording a video on Jan. 7, 2021.

In the outtake, Trump at one point cuts himself off to say that he does not want to say “the election’s over” while reading a script from a teleprompter.

“But this election is now over. Congress has certified the results’ — I don’t want to say the election’s over, I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election’s over, OK?” Trump said.

The former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump is heard in the background drafting a new line for her father, including, “now, Congress has certified—.”

In the final cut of the video, Trump said “Congress has certified the results,” but he did not mention losing the election.

Season 2 premieres in September: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the committee, announced that the panel will hold additional hearings in September.

  • “In the course of these hearings we have received new evidence, and new witnesses have bravely stepped forward. Efforts to litigate and overcome immunity and executive privilege claims have been successful, and those continue. Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” Cheney said. 

  • “And now, even as we conduct our ninth hearing, we have considerably more to do. We have far more evidence to share with the American people, and more to gather. So our committee will spend August pursuing emerging information on multiple fronts before convening further hearings this September,” she added.

More coverage of the hearing from The Hill:

Officials roll out $270M in weapons for Ukraine

The Biden administration on Friday rolled out a $270 million security assistance package for Ukraine that includes four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and hundreds of tactical drones.

What’s in the package? $175 million of the worth of weapons will come from presidential drawdown authority—allowing the Pentagon to send weapons from its own stockpiles. The drawdown package includes:

  • Four HIMARS and additional ammunition 

  • Four Command Post Vehicles 

  • 36,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition 

  • Additional anti-armor weapons, spare parts, and other equipment.

The remaining $95 million will go toward procuring up to 580 Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).

How many HIMARS, now? The U.S. has now committed to providing 16 of the launchers to Ukraine, allowing Kyiv to strike targets from greater distances inside of Ukraine.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Thursday that the Russians have not destroyed any HIMARS that either the U.S. or allies have sent and that they’re still being used on the battlefield.

About 200 Ukrainians have been trained on the systems and that training on the HIMARS is continuing, Milley added.

The totals: The U.S. has committed $8.2 billion in security assistance since the beginning of the Biden administration, of which $7.6 billion has been provided since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in late February.

Read more here.

ON TAP MONDAY

  • The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “How Ukrainian media can survive Russia’s war” at 8 a.m.

  • The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will hold a field hearing on “Ensuring a Successful Military to Civilian Transition for Servicemembers in Southern Alabama” at 11 a.m.

  • The Hudson Institute will host a virtual event on “Dialogues on American Foreign Policy and World Affairs: A Conversation with Robert Kagan” at 12 p.m.

  • The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “Iran and Iraq: The struggle for tenable relations” at 1 p.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you next week!

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