Portrait of a dark day in American history: We now have a full picture of what Trump did on January 6. Here it is

Trump woke up on 6 January 2021 ready for a battle he had no chance of winning. But the timeline of his day shows just how hard he tried, Andrew Feinberg writes

Friday 06 January 2023 15:39 GMT

When Donald Trump woke up on 6 January 2021, it was obvious that the day, when Congress is required by law to certify electoral votes for the presidency, would not go like any of those that had come since the passage of the 1887 Electoral Count Act.

Nineteen days earlier, he had told his more than 80 million Twitter followers to descend on Washington on the day Congress would make final his 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden, writing that the day’s events would be “wild”.

Though it wasn’t known at the time, the lame-duck president and a ragtag group of outside advisers — plus a handful of loyal staffers — had been pushing an audacious and unlawful plan to remain in power against the wishes of American voters.

Jan 6: House members and police officers' families gather to remember victims two years on

Ignoring the advice of his own top White House lawyers, Mr Trump had mounted a pressure campaign meant to convince then-vice president Mike Pence to use his ceremonial role presiding over the certification session to install him and Mr Trump in the White House for a second term, by throwing out lawfully-cast electoral college votes from swing states won by Joe Biden.

In this enterprise, Mr Trump had help from a group of more than 100 House members and multiple senators who would tee up Mr Pence’s decision by objecting to counting the swing state ballots.

Two years after the effort to overturn the election culminated in a violent insurrection on the Capitol, a portrait of how Mr Trump’s day went on January 6 has emerged in a trove of documents from a House selection committee investigation.

1am - Trump lays out his (false) claim about what he wants Pence to do

“If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency. Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!”

But Mr Pence had repeatedly told the then-president that he could not — and would not — heed his request.

Mr Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, told the House January 6 committee in June that the then-vice president had been “very consistent” in telling Mr Trump that he did not have the power to do what he asked.

His former counsel, Greg Jacob, said at a June hearing before the House panel that Mr Pence’s “first instinct” about the Trump plan, which had been pushed by a group of right-wing lawyers led by Trump campaign attorney Kenneth Cheseboro, was that “there was no way that our framers, who [abhorred] concentrated power, who had broken away from the tyranny of George III, would ever have put one person, particularly not a person who had a direct interest in the outcome because they were on the ticket for the election, in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election”.

“And our review of text, history, and frankly just common sense all confirmed the Vice President’s first instinct on that point. There is no justifiable basis to conclude that the Vice President has that kind of authority,” he added.

9.26am - Trump calls Jim Jordan and then Stephen Miller

White House phone logs obtained by the January 6 committee showed a massive gap in Mr Trump’s communication records, with no calls recorded between 11.06am and 6.54pm.

But the two calls noted in the logs showed Mr Trump spoke with Mr Jordan — one of the leaders of the House effort to reject results of the election — for 10 minutes beginning at 9.26am.

At 9.52am, the then-president spoke to Stephen Miller, who was his main speechwriter, for 26 minutes before traveling to the Ellipse to speak.

10am - Trump is told about some of his supporters at the Ellipse carrying weapons

According to ex-Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato, himself a Secret Service special agent who was detailed to the White House’s political operation, personally informed Mr Trump that agents had spotted weapons in the crowd of supporters who had gathered at the Ellipse to hear him speak.

The weapons observed by law enforcement included pistols, rifles, spears and bear mace.

11.20am - Trump speaks to Mike Pence and berates him for not helping overturn the election

According to ex-Trump White House staffer Julie Radford, Mr Trump called his loyal vice president a “pu**y” during a heated conversation, during which Mr Pence told Mr Trump that he would not act to unilaterally throw out legitimate electoral votes as Mr Trump’s scheme had called for.

A crowd of Trump supporters prepares to march on the Capitol on 6 January 2021
A crowd of Trump supporters prepares to march on the Capitol on 6 January 2021 (EPA-EFE)

11.30am-12pm - Trump asks aides to get rid of metal detectors at the Ellipse

According to Ms Hutchinson, Mr Trump told staff to “take the f**king mags away,” referring to the magnetometers set up to establish a secure area near where he was scheduled to speak. The former White House aide said Mr Trump wanted the crowd at the stage to be larger and said the armed rallygoers were “not there to hurt [him]”.

12pm - Trump begins his speech at the Ellipse

Mr Trump spent his hourlong address repeating many of the same lies about the election he’d been telling for more than a month. He also again publicly pressured Mr Pence to help him overturn the election.

He closed with the following exhortation to the mob: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore....We’re going to try and give them [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country...The Democrats are hopeless — they never vote for anything. Not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help. We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country”.

Trump speaks at his ‘Stop the Steal’ rally outside the White House on 6 January 2021
Trump speaks at his ‘Stop the Steal’ rally outside the White House on 6 January 2021 (Getty Images)

1.10pm - Trump allegedly assaults his Secret Service bodyguard and tries to seize wheel of armoured SUV

Ms Hutchinson testified at a June hearing that Mr Trump had shouted “I’m the f**king president. Take me up to the Capitol now!” at his lead Secret Service agent and demanded to be driven to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where an armed mob of his supporters was assaulting police officers and breaching security defences in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election win. She told committee members that the detail head, Robert Engel, and Mr Ornato, had informed her of the altercation.

She also said she was told the then-president grabbed the armoured car’s steering wheel and lunged at the throat of Mr Engel when he was told to remove his hand from the wheel.

1.19pm - Trump returns to the White House and enters his private dining room, just off the Oval Office

Mr Trump would remain in the dining room, where he often spent hours during his work day watching television. According to testimony given by multiple witnesses before the January 6 select committee, Mr Trump spent that time watching coverage of the riot on Fox News.

Shelagh Craighead, who served as Mr Trump’s official photographer in the White House, told investigators she was ordered not to take any photographs of the president while he watched the riotous mob of his supporters assault police officers and storm the Capitol.

2.15pm - Mark Meadows says Trump doesn’t want to intervene

Ms Hutchinson testified that Mr Meadows told the White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, that the then-president “doesn’t want to do anything” about the mob attacking the Capitol.

2.24pm - Trump eggs on the crowd with tweet attacking Mike Pence

As rioters poured into the Capitol, a White House official in a National Security Council chat wrote that the Secret Service agents protecting Mr Pence at the Capitol did “not sound good”.

At the same time, Mr Trump took to Twitter to turn the mob on his loyal vice president, writing: “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. USA demands the truth!”

Mike Pence is seen speaking on the phone as the Captiol riot unfolded
Mike Pence is seen speaking on the phone as the Captiol riot unfolded (AP)

2.26pm - Trump is told the Senate is being evacuated

Mr Trump mistakenly calls Utah Senator Mike Lee, thinking he is calling Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville. Mr Lee passed the phone to Mr Tuberville, who later told reporters he said: “Mr President, they’ve taken the Vice President out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go”.

3.13pm - Trump tells rioters to ‘remain peaceful’ but doesn’t tell them to leave

On Twitter, he wrote: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

4.03pm - Trump goes to the White House Rose Garden to record a video calling for an end to the riot

White House aides told the January 6 committee that Mr Trump failed to read the script that had been written for him by his advisers.

Instead, he told rioters he knew they were “hurt” because the election had been “stolen” and finally asked them to “go home now”.

“We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace,” he said.

4.17pm - The video is posted to Twitter

Mr Trump’s video address drew widespread outrage for his failure to condemn the violence his supporters committed in his name. Despite that outrage, he felt the need to speak out again.

6.01pm - Trump praises rioters on Twitter again

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

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