Everything We Know About What Trump Was Doing For 187 Min During The Capitol Attack

TPM Illustration/Getty Images

The congressional Jan. 6 Committee is set to spend the entirety of tomorrow’s hearing on what Trump was doing — or, rather, not doing — as the mob he summoned to Washington, D.C. laid siege to Congress and attempted to steal him a second term. 

Reporters, researchers and lawmakers have worked for months to piece together Trump’s actions during this key period, beginning at the end of Trump’s speech that morning and ending when Trump released a video telling the rioters that he loved them, and that they should go home. 

There are some large gaps in the evidence: The White House call logs are missing. So are Secret Service text messages. Here’s what we do know: 

Trump Sicced His Mob On The Capitol, Then ‘Gleefully’ Watched

The clock starts with the end of Trump’s speech, around 1:10 p.m. ET. The former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that not only was Trump intent on siccing the mob on the Capitol, but also that he knew it included people who were armed. 

That’s important context for the end of Trump’s speech, when he repeated a command he made several other times during the remarks: “Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.” 

He didn’t actually join the soon-to-be-rioters, but apparently not for lack of trying: Hutchinson relayed a story of Trump, a few minutes later, angrily ordering his Secret Service lead Robert Engle to take his motorcade to Congress, only to be rebuffed, leading, in her telling, to a brief physical scuffle. 

Trump was back in the Oval Office by 1:19 p.m., according to his White House diary, and met with his valet a couple minutes later — some of the only official White House records of Trump’s movements during this time. 

The White House, via The Washington Post

By that time, the physical violence at the Capitol grounds had been ongoing for several minutes: A small group of rioters kicked things off around 12:53 p.m. when they fought with police at a line of bike racks at the perimeter of the grounds, quickly overwhelming them. Hundreds of people followed in their wake.

Back at the White House, Trump became glued to the television, even replaying highlights as they happened. “He was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV, as he often did,” recalled Stefanie Grisham, the former White House communications director who was then working as Melania Trump’s chief of staff. “’Look at all of the people fighting for me.’ Hitting rewind. Watching it again.” 

As The Riot Escalated, Trump Targeted Pence And Spoke To Members Of Congress 

Trump’s television was, it seems, his primary companion for much of the day. At around 2:00 p.m., a crucial moment as rioters closed in on the Capitol Building itself after clashing with police for more than an hour, Hutchinson recalled checking in on her boss, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She asked Meadows if he’d spoken with the President, to which she recalled Meadows answering: “No, he wants to be alone right now.” 

At around 2:11 p.m., the first rioters broke into the Capitol Building. The Senate recessed a couple minutes later, and the Secret Service took Vice President Mike Pence out of the Senate chamber to his ceremonial office across the hall

At around this time, Trump had an infamous call with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). We’re not sure exactly when the call occurred, but McCarthy has said, “I was the first person to contact him when the riot was going on.” 

During the call, McCarthy unsuccessfully urged Trump to call off his mob. Trump blamed the attack on antifa. But when McCarthy insisted to Trump that the rioters were his own supporters, Trump responded, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” according to Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-WA), to whom McCarthy had described the conversation. 

According to Trump’s second impeachment trial prosecutors, the crowd at the Capitol was chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” by around 2:15 p.m.

At 2:24 p.m., Trump took to Twitter to target his vice president, writing that 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!”

At 2:26 p.m., Pence’s security detail evacuated him from his Senate office to a secure location within the Capitol building.

Mike Pence after being evacuated to a secure location in the Capitol. (Jan 6 Committee/National Archives)

At the same time, Trump called Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), though he had apparently intended to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a key Senate ally in the effort to overturn the election results. Lee handed the phone to Tuberville, who spoke to Trump for five to ten minutes, Lee later recalled

Tuberville later said Trump told him “I know we’ve got problems” and “protect yourself” before the senator ended the call. “Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,” Tuberville recalled saying. 

By about 2:30 p.m., the senators had cleared the chamber.

Also around this time — though it’s not clear whether this occurred before or after Trump’s conversation with Tuberville — Pence’s national security advisor, Keith Kellogg, reportedly spoke with the President.

“Is Mike okay?” Trump asked him, according to the Washington Post

“The Secret Service has him under control,” Kellogg responded. “Karen is there with the daughter.” 

“Oh?” Trump reportedly said. 

“They’re going to stay there until this thing gets sorted out,” Kellogg said. 

According to another Post report, Trump “had no reaction” to the news, and “instead stayed focused on the television.”

There was reportedly one more call during this period, though we’re not exactly sure when: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) spoke to Trump on the morning of Jan. 6, and also at another time during the attack, he later recalled. Politico reported that he was joined the second time by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and that the pair implored Trump to call off his supporters. Hutchinson remembered the call taking place sometime between 2:15 and 2:25 p.m. 

A U.S. Marine stands guard outside of the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. The presence of the guard indicates that US President Donald Trump could be in the Oval Office. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Trump Delays For Two More Hours Before Dismissing Mob

Throughout the attack, close aides to Trump apparently tried to get through to him, and some did. But for hours, Trump resisted calls to send his attackers home. 

Kellogg told the Jan. 6 Committee that Ivanka Trump tried at least twice to call off the violence, as did Meadows and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, according to The New York Times

The most shocking testimony on this front came from Hutchinson, who recalled a conversation shortly after 2:00 p.m. between Meadows and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone that led to Cipollone confronting Trump directly.

“The rioters have gotten to the Capitol, Mark. We need to go down and see the President now,” Hutchinson recalled Cippolone saying to Meadows.  

Meadows apparently responded: “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.” 

Cipollone then said something to the effect of, “Mark, something needs to be done, or people are going to die or the blood is going to be on your fucking hands. This is getting out of control, I’m going down there.” 

The White House counsel, followed by Meadows, then went down to the Oval Office dining room, Hutchinson testified. Hutchinson’s testimony suggests they met Trump there. 

Hutchinson recalled overhearing a conversation from the dining room about the “Hang Mike Pence!” chants blaring at the Capitol. Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said that conversation involved Trump himself, Meadows and Cipollone.

A makeshift gallows with a noose is seen during a protest calling for legislators to overturn the election results on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

After the conversation, Meadows and Cippolone retreated to Meadows’ office, where Hutchinson overheard them characterizing some of what Trump said. Cipollone again urged action, Hutchinson testified, pointing to the murderous chants. 

“You heard them, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” Hutchinson recalled Meadows saying.

Trump tweeted twice more, neither time telling the mob to leave the Capitol. 

“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” he wrote at 2:38 p.m. One unnamed source told the Post that Trump did not want to include the bit about staying peaceful. 

That apparently wasn’t enough for Donald Trump Jr., who texted Meadows, “He’s got to condemn this shit. Asap. The Capitol police tweet is not enough.” 

“I am pushing it hard. I agree,” Meadows texted back. 

At 3:13 p.m., another tweet from Trump: “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!”

U.S. National Guard officers take the Senate subway as the Capitol is under lockdown in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

We don’t know right now what moved Trump to ultimately dismiss the mob. According to the Post, one unnamed official said Trump expressed concern at one point not about the safety of members of Congress, but that the mob would frighten Republican lawmakers away from continuing to try to overturn the election. At 3:36 p.m., McEnany tweeted that, at Trump’s direction, the National Guard and other federal forces were on their way to the Capitol. (As ABC News’ Jonathan Karl later reported, this was “entirely untrue” and it took the Guard hours to actually get to the Capitol.)

Another half hour would pass before Trump walked to the White House Rose Garden and finally told his mob to go home.

In a video published on Twitter at 4:17 p.m., Trump restated his lies about the election and then addressed his fighting forces.

“Go home,” he said. “We love you, you’re very special. We’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.”

President Donald Trump is seen on TV from a video message released on Twitter addressing rioters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: