In granular new detail, the Jan. 6 committee showed how a freshly enraged President Trump targeted his own vice president through a series of edits to his speech on the morning of the attack.
In previous hearings, the committee covered Trump’s repeated efforts to pressure Pence to reject Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, and, after the attack began, to single out Pence in a tweet that coincided with rioters calling for the then-vice president’s head.
On Tuesday, using documents provided by the National Archives and interviews with witnesses, the committee looked at specific edits and ad-libs Trump made to his speech that morning, showing how they coincided with his anger at being rebuffed by Pence and his desire for a confrontation at the Capitol.
After a Jan. 5 change to the draft speech accusing “emboldened Radical Left Democrats” of stealing the election, the rest of the changes focused on Pence and the march to the Capitol, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) said.
That lines up with Trump’s obsession with attorney John Eastman’s proposal that Pence simply reject Electoral College slates from certain states Trump lost: A pitch that Trump had tried and failed for days to convince Pence was legitimate.
On the morning of Jan. 6 — after several unsuccessful attempts by Eastman to convince Pence’s attorney Greg Jacob that his plot was lawful — Trump added his first line about Mike Pence into the speech draft after a call with speechwriter Stephen Miller. The speech text urged Pence, as Eastman had, to reject Electoral College votes and send them back to the states.
The new Pence text was quickly edited out. White House attorney Eric Herschmann didn’t want to include the line, saying it would be counterproductive “to discuss the matter publicly,” Miller recalled. So the speechwriters removed it.
That didn’t last long. After a phone call that morning between Trump and Pence, in which Pence yet again refused to reject Electoral College votes and Trump called him a “pussy,” Trump sent an all-caps email later obtained by the committee: “REINSERT THE MIKE PENCE LINES.”
Fears of what could happen on Jan. 6 spread among some White House staff — including, apparently, presidential daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump. Julie Radford, Ivanka’s chief of staff, recalled in a videotaped deposition that Ivanka had heard that her father had called Pence “an expletive word,” that she could tell he was “angry and upset” and thought she might be able to calm him down before his speech. (Ivanka denied this account to the committee.)
“She felt like she might be able to help calm the situation down, at least before he went on the stage,” Radford recalled.
Alas, not only did Trump keep the scripted line attacking Pence, he added several more provocations: While Pence was mentioned just once in the speech script, Trump ad-libbed seven more mentions of the vice president. The same went for Trump’s call to march to the Capitol: A single scripted mention became four mentions, including one pledge — later unfulfilled, despite what the committee has shown were Trump’s best efforts — that Trump would join the marchers at the Capitol.
Trump made additional changes, adding references to fighting and being strong, for example. After the Capitol attack, Trump and his supporters focused on his single use of the word “peacefully.” That, Murphy said, was scripted.
One of the ad-libbed changes appeared to closely echo a line Trump allegedly said the night prior.
According to former White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, Trump was in an unusually good mood the night before the attack, listening to the raucous rally at Freedom Plaza. Matthews said he looked to the staffers in the Oval Office and asked for ideas on how “we can make the RINOs do the right thing.”
The next morning, he appeared to have answered that question in one of the ad-libbed lines in his speech: “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 they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue!”