Two key Trump administration officials are reportedly set to testify in Thursday’s primetime Jan. 6 Committee hearing, potentially shedding light on the crucial three-hour period in which Donald Trump sat on his hands as rioters attacked Congress.
Several outlets are reporting that the committee will feature testimony from Matthew Pottinger, Trump’s deputy national security advisor at the time of the attack, and Sarah Matthews, the then-deputy White House press secretary.
Pottinger’s Jan. 6 resignation was notable because of his seniority. The former national security staffer, who is fluent in Chinese, was a reporter in the country for Reuters and the Wall Street Journal years ago. After that, he served as a Marine Corps intelligence officer, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He worked all four years of Trump’s term in the White House — an unusual feat for any Trump staffer — starting at first as Asia director on the National Security Council and later being promoted to deputy national security advisor in 2019.
Matthews, like fellow former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson before her, was a recent college grad with some political experience on Capitol Hill when she first began working for Donald Trump: She joined his reelection campaign organization in June 2019 as a deputy press secretary. “In a campaign, the gloves are off, whereas when I was working on Capitol Hill it was much more diplomatic,” she later recalled in a profile on Kent State University’s website. She took on the same role in the White House communications shop a year later, in June 2020.
The pair have already appeared in the hearings: Matthews testified in a recorded deposition that on the night of Jan. 5, Trump was in an unusually good mood, and asked a meeting of assembled aides in the Oval Office for ideas on how “we can make the RINOs do the right thing” the following day.
Separately, Matthews described feeling, as the attack unfolded, that Trump “needed to tweet something, and tweet something immediately.” It was then, she recalled, that she got a notification on her phone about Trump’s tweet targeting Mike Pence in the middle of the attack.
“I remember us saying that that was the last thing that needed to be tweeted at that moment,” she recalled. “The situation was already bad. And so, it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.”
On Twitter, Matthews called Hutchinson’s testimony “damning.” On the first anniversary of Jan. 6, she described that day’s events as an attempted coup — though she blamed “a violent mob,” saying Trump had “failed to meet the moment.” She struck a different tone publicly in early 2021, when she sent a tweet two weeks after the attack thanking Trump for his service to the American people.
Pottinger, who was also previously interviewed by the committee, described Trump’s tweet attacking Pence as the moment he decided to resign.
“One of my staff brought me a printout of a tweet by the President, and the tweet said something to the effect that Mike Pence, the vice president, didn’t have the courage to do what he– what should have been done,” he said. “I read that tweet and made a decision at that moment to resign. That’s where I knew that I was leaving that day, once I read that tweet.”
The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that Pottinger is expected to describe efforts to have Trump release a statement during the riot. The paper described a conversation between Pottinger and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sometime after 3 p.m., as violence raged, in which Meadows expressed frustration after hearing from Pottinger that the National Guard had still not arrived at the Capitol.
Both Pottinger and Matthews were dutiful Trump administration officials during their time in the White House, with Pottinger later saying last year, “I’m proud of a lot of things that the administration did, and I think I’ll look back on those years as ones that I’m proud of.”
Pottinger showed up in multiple headlines in 2018 as the staffer Trump claimed “doesn’t exist” because he had made an on-background comment to a briefing of reporters that revealed disagreement within the White House on the logistics of a meeting between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Matthews spent her brief time in the White House releasing statements lauding Trump for, in one example, “fighting for inclusion and advocating for the equal treatment of all.” During the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, she asserted Trump “has always listened to the advice of his top public health experts.”
More recently, Matthews has reportedly been part of an informal support group of former Trump staffers who’ve stayed in touch and shared best practices for safety during the Jan. 6 hearings.