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Ketchup, regrets, blood and anger: A guide to the Jan. 6 hearings' witnesses and testimony

Witnesses delivered riveting testimony in the Jan. 6 hearings and expanded what we know about the Capitol attack. Here's your guide to what they said.

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WASHINGTON – An enraged Donald Trump badgering his vice president to flip the 2020 election in his favor. A commander-in-chief lunging at his security. An Oval Office shouting match between presidential advisers.

Each of these stunning disclosures contributed to a mosaic of the relentless campaign the former president waged to hold onto power despite losing the election, as Vice President Mike Pence, two attorneys general, his own campaign manager and state officials told him he lost. 

The revelations from the House committee investigating the Capitol attack of Jan. 6, 2021, have come from a few dozen witnesses, whose memories expanded what we know of the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries and what led to it.

A Georgia voter registration official went into hiding because of death threats. A White House aide volunteered revealing behind-the-scenes particulars of Oval Office meetings. An Ohio rioter offered his regrets. The president's chief counsel described being verbally attacked by outside advisers who made their way into the White House. 

Here's your guide to the Jan. 6 committee's most revelatory witnesses and what they said. 

The mob's violence

The mob's violence

Caroline Edwards

Edwards, a Capitol Police officer who was the first of about 140 officers injured in the attack, opened the hearings with an emotional and gory description of battling the mob outside the Capitol. She said she was knocked down by rioters and suffered a concussion before returning to hand-to-hand combat along the West Front of the building she described as "an absolute war zone."

As the proud granddaughter of a Marine who served in Korea and retired with shrapnel in his legs, Edwards said, she spent countless hours in baking heat or freezing snow protecting the Capitol. But rioters called her "incompetent," a "traitor" and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's dog. 

Some rioters wore military fatigues and bulletproof vests. Edwards said rioters conferred before overrunning the bike racks police used as a barricade. After returning to the line from her concussion, Edwards noticed a "ghostly pale" Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick with his head in his hands after being sprayed with chemicals. Sicknick died the next day from what was ruled natural causes.

Nick Quested

Quested, a documentarian, filmed far-right extremists the night before the attack, which offered a never-before-shown glimpse of how pro-Trump groups that later led the attack organized. The committee is focused on connections between groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and people close to Trump.

Quested filmed Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio meeting in a parking garage with Stewart Rhodes, a leader of the Oath Keepers. Tarrio and Rhodes are each charged with seditious conspiracy, the most severe charge handed out to a number of extremists in the attack. Each has pleaded not guilty.

Stephen Ayres and Jason Van Tatenhove are sworn in to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Stephen Ayres and Jason Van Tatenhove are sworn in to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Demetrius Freeman, AP

Jason Van Tatenhove

Van Tatenhove, who left the Oath Keepers years before Jan. 6, called the group a “dangerous” and “violent” militia and offered a look inside one of the groups central to the insurrection. During his years with the group, he said, it "drifted further and further right into the alt-right world, into white nationalists and even straight up racists."

Van Tatenhove testified the group is largely driven by the paramilitary goals of its leader, Stewart Rhodes, who he said publicly implored Trump to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to mobilize militias 

Van Tatenhove said he worried about the future for his three daughters if Trump and his allies aren't held accountable.

"If a president that's willing to try to instill and encourage to whip up a civil war amongst his followers using lies and deceit and snake oil, and regardless of the human impact, what else is he going to do if he gets elected again?" Van Tatenhove said.

Stephen Ayres

Ayres entered the Capitol Jan. 6 and became one of the more than 800 charged in the attack. He is the only rioter to publicly testify before the committee. With his wife sitting behind him, he explained to lawmakers how he lost his job and said the riot “changed my life and not for the good."

He blamed his hardcore consumption of social media on persuading him Trump would join protesters at the Capitol and said he might not have gone had he known Trump lacked evidence to back up his fraud claims. "I felt like I had horse blinders on," he said.

After testifying, Ayres apologized to police officers in the audience who were seriously injured in the attack. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges said he believed people could change. But former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone and Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell each told The Associated Press the apology didn't do much for them.

Officials debunk claims of election fraud

Officials debunk claims of election fraud

Byung 'Bjay' Pak

Pak was among a half dozen witnesses at the federal, state and local levels who explained how investigators debunked Trump's allegations of voter fraud in Atlanta.

Pak hastened his departure from the Trump administration after the president called him a "never-Trumper" during a call in which he urged Georgia election officials to "find" him thousands more votes just days before the attack.

One baseless claim alleged election workers had a suitcase of fraudulent ballots, which became the fixation of Trump and his allies trying to overturn Georgia's results. "We found that the suitcase full of ballots – the alleged black suitcase that was being seen pulled from under the table – was actually an official lockbox where ballots were kept safe,” Pak said.

Al Schmidt

Schmidt, who was the only Republican commissioner in 2020 on a panel that oversaw elections in Philadelphia, drew Trump's wrath after he found fraud claims in the city were unsubstantiated. 

In one example, Schmidt told the committee Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed "8,000 dead people voted in Pennsylvania," but Schmidt said, “There wasn’t even evidence of eight.”

Schmidt appeared on "60 Minutes" days after the election and said the allegations looked "deranged," and people making accusations of fraudulent votes were "just coming up with all sorts of crazy stuff."

Trump criticized Schmidt in a tweet Nov. 11, 2020, as a "so-called Republican," which generated chilling threats. After the tweet, threats became much more graphic, naming members of Schmidt's family, their ages, his address and pictures of his home, he said. An email to his spouse threatened his children, said he would be shot to death, and read “HEADS ON SPIKES. TREASONOUS SCHMIDTS."

Rusty Bowers

Bowers' powerful political position didn't protect him from Trump's pressure to overturn his state's election results. Trump and Giuliani called Bowers at least twice claiming 200,000 illegal immigrants and 5,000 dead people had voted in the election, but Bowers asked for names that were never provided. Trump and Giuliani urged Bowers to hold a legislative committee hearing on the allegations, but Bowers refused, saying a "circus" was already brewing with protests at the vote-counting center and he didn't "want to be used as a pawn."

Bowers said that after Trump ads urged supporters to contact lawmakers, the deluge of more than 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voicemails and texts made it difficult to work. Protesters routinely appeared outside his house, blaring music and disturbing his gravely ill daughter, Bowers said.

The pressure persisted. Trump issued a statement minutes before Bowers testified June 21, saying the two talked by phone in November 2020 and claiming Bowers called the election “rigged.” Bowers confirmed the conversation but called the allegation “untrue” and said Trump’s claim that he won Arizona “is also false.”

Brad Raffensperger

Trump directed some of his most intense and direct pressure on Raffensperger, who as Georgia's top election official had to defend his state's vote count, which showed Trump lost what had been a Republican stronghold.

Raffensperger, who voted for Trump, testified about the then-president's call Jan. 2, 2021, urging him to “find” 11,780 votes to overturn his election loss. Raffensperger said votes were counted accurately and “there was no shredding of ballots," as Trump alleged during the call.

Raffensperger's family also faced threats from Trump supporters. After Raffensperger and his wife Tricia’s email and phone numbers were published, she received messages that “came in as sexualized texts, which were disgusting,” he said. Trump’s followers broke into his daughter-in-law’s home, he said.

Gabriel Sterling

As the vote count in Georgia wore on at the end of 2020, Sterling often faced cameras in Georgia's state Capitol and debunked the latest election fraud claims live on television. 

The committee played video of one news conference in which Sterling pleaded for Trump to stop inspiring supporters to potentially commit acts of violence because "someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed, and it's not right."

Sterling compared countering Trump’s repeated claims in speeches and social media posts to using “a shovel trying to empty the ocean."

Shaye Moss

Moss illustrated the ground-level results of racist and hateful threats against election officials over false claims of fraud. Giuliani circulated a video falsely accusing her of passing around USB drives "as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine." Moss testified the video showed her sharing a ginger mint.

“There were just a lot of horrible things there,” Moss said of social media posts. “Lot of threats, wishing death upon me, telling me I’ll be in jail with my mother.”

Moss received so many death threats and racist taunts, she said, that she changed her appearance and went into hiding. Her mother, Ruby Freeman, also a former election worker, left her home for two months on the FBI's advice.

“There is nowhere I feel safe,” Freeman said. “Nowhere."

Campaign experts

Campaign experts

Benjamin Ginsberg

Ginsberg, an expert in election law who represented Republican presidential candidates in the campaigns of 2000, 2004 and 2012, described the futility of Trump's dozens of lawsuits challenging election results.

Trump lost 61 of 62 post-election lawsuits. Ginsberg said about half the cases were dismissed because the proper people hadn't filed the lawsuits or there wasn't enough evidence to pursue them. In no case did a court find charges of fraud real, Ginsberg said.

“The simple fact is that the Trump campaign did not make its case,” Ginsberg said.

Bill Stepien

Stepien, the leader of Trump's presidential campaign, testified he told Trump not to declare victory the night of the election because he knew many mail ballots, which favored Democrats, would take days to process, something he had explained to Trump days before the election. 

But on election night, Trump pushed to declare victory and eventually did at the urging of Giuliani. Stepien told the committee he pleaded with the president to give a speech telling supporters it was too early to tell the outcome. Four days after the election, Stepien told Trump the odds of him winning were "very, very, very bleak."

Stepien described a division among Trump advisers between what news reports characterized as “Team Normal,” which included him, preparing for Trump's concession; and "Team Crazy," which made baseless complaints about election fraud.

Chris Stirewalt

Stirewalt helped Fox News become the first network to call Arizona for President Joe Biden in 2020, handing Trump a loss in a state he badly needed to win reelection.

Stirewalt anticipated the traditional "red mirage" of Republicans doing better on Election Day while Democrats perform better in mail-in ballots, which take longer to count.

As Trump's campaign fought the results, Stirewalt said, recounts typically change results dealing with hundreds of votes rather than tens of thousands Trump needed to prevail in multiple states.

"You're better off to play the Powerball than to have that come in," Stirewalt said.

Pence advisers

Pence advisers

Greg Jacob

Jacob portrayed Pence, who hasn't testified to the committee, as steadfastly refusing to participate in a scheme to single-handedly reject Electoral College votes from contested states, as proposed by Trump lawyer John Eastman.

Jacob also offered behind-the-scenes glimpses of Trump's pressure on Pence and the president's abandonment as rioters chanted "Hang Mike Pence" and ransacked the Capitol.

Trump called Pence the morning of Jan. 6 while surrounded by aides and relatives who called the exchange "heated." Jacob said Pence took the call privately but returned looking  “steely, determined, grim.”

Pence, the Senate president, refused to get in a Secret Service car after evacuating the Senate chamber because he didn’t want to take the chance "the world would see the vice president of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol," Jacob said.

Michael Luttig

Luttig, who is influential in conservative circles, testified “there was no historical precedent” for the vice president to reject electoral votes as Trump's lawyers argued. “This is constitutional mischief," Luttig said.

Luttig warned that as Trump and his allies continue to challenge the 2020 results, they reveal a blueprint to challenge the 2024 election, too.

“Today, almost two years after that fateful day in January 2021, still Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Luttig said.

Trump administration officials opposing fraud claims

Trump administration officials opposing fraud claims

Bill Barr

Barr, who led the Justice Department through investigations Trump blasted as partisan and unjustified, such as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's first impeachment for dealings in Ukraine, resigned in December 2020 in part over baseless claims of election fraud.

Barr called Trump's "avalanche" of claims "nonsense," "absolute rubbish" and "bull----." Barr said he asked Trump aides Jared Kushner and Dan Scavino in late November how long Trump was going "to carry on with this stolen election stuff" because the attorney general viewed the election over Dec. 14, 2020, when states certified their Electoral College votes. 

“It was like playing Whac-a-Mole, because something would come out one day and then the next day it would be another issue,” Barr said.

Barr said he refused Trump's suggestion to seize voting machines and to appoint a special counsel to investigate the election.

Barr met with Trump three times to explain how his claims were wrong and announced his conclusion publicly Dec. 1, 2020. The final, emphatic break came when Barr offered to resign.

“He pounded the table very hard. Everyone sort of jumped. And he said, ‘Accepted,’” Barr said.

Jeffrey Rosen

Rosen, who succeeded Barr after he resigned and was acting attorney general for the final month of Trump's term, is whom Trump wanted to replace with Jeffrey Clark. Clark was an assistant attorney general for environmental issues who drafted a letter to state lawmakers urging them overturn election results.

Rosen refused to sign Clark's proposed letter and, as Barr had, he refused to seize voting machines or appoint a special counsel. Rosen said he scolded Clark on Dec. 26, 2020, for meeting with Trump without telling him days earlier.

"The issue was the use of the Justice Department, and it's just so important that the Justice Department adhere to the facts and the law," Rosen told the committee. "If the Justice Department gets out of the role that it's supposed to play, that's really bad for our country."

On Jan. 2, 2021, Rosen and Donoghue met with Clark again, and Rosen told him he was making a colossal mistake in pursuing unfounded allegations of election fraud. But Clark said Trump asked him to consider replacing Rosen as attorney general two days later.

Richard Donoghue

Donoghue delivered the blunt message to Trump that his "arsenal of allegations" of election fraud were wrong, as Barr had already done. In one baseless claim, then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows forwarded a conspiracy theory about Italian satellites altering votes.

“The whole thing was very, very murky at best, and the video was absurd,” Donoghue said.

Trump's pressure campaign on Justice Department officials culminated in a tense Oval Office meeting Jan. 3, 2021, when Donoghue, Rosen and other top Justice Department and White House counsel's office officials thwarted Trump's plan to replace his attorney general by threatening to resign as a group.

"I'm telling you what's going to happen," Donoghue told Trump. "You're going to lose your entire department leadership. Every single (assistant attorney general) will walk out on you. Your entire department leadership will walk out within hours. And I don't know what happens after that. ... What's that going to say about you?"

Donoghue said Trump's repeated message was: "Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."

Steven Engel

Engel, the assistant attorney general leading the office of legal policy, told the committee how the Justice Department traditionally dealt with issues that arose as Trump pursued claims of election fraud.

Engel said the policy limiting who from the department meets with the president, aimed at preventing meetings like Clark with Trump, was to prevent the appearance of political influence in investigations.

“It's critical that the Department of Justice conducts its criminal investigations free from either the reality or any appearance of political interference,” said Engel, who also threatened to resign if Trump appointed Clark attorney general.

Engel said that Trump began vocally requesting the appointment of a special counsel in mid-December 2020 but that neither Barr nor Rosen "ever believed that that was appropriate or necessary in this case."

Eric Herschmann

Herschmann offered blunt and sometimes profane observations in a videotaped deposition about Trump's outside advisers.

He was incredulous when he heard about Clark's strategy, calling it "asinine" to write letters to state lawmakers. "Congratulations, you just admitted your first step or act you take as attorney general would be committing a felony,” Herschmann said he told Clark sarcastically.

Herschmann ridiculed Trump ally and lawyer Sidney Powell's allegations about people from Venezuela or the Philippines altering election results. "What they were proposing I thought was nuts," Herschmann said.

Cassidy Hutchinson

Hutchinson delivered riveting, behind-the-scenes details about the planning for Jan. 6 and the president’s reaction to the attack.

She said she heard warnings about extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys expected to attend Trump’s rally that day. Police warned White House security about rally participants carrying rifles and pistols that day, but Hutchinson testified she overheard Trump say he wasn’t concerned because his supporters wouldn’t hurt him.

Hutchinson described White House counsel Pat Cipollone’s efforts to prevent Trump from joining his supporters marching on the Capitol. He worried that Trump could be charged with inciting the riot or obstructing Congress.

“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen,” Hutchinson quoted Cipollone as telling her.

Hutchinson also offered a glimpse at Trump’s temper. She said she helped a White House valet clean up after Trump threw food and left ketchup dripping from the wall after hearing Barr announced no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Trump denied the incident.

And she said Anthony Ornato, deputy chief of staff for operations, told her Trump demanded to join the mob at the Capitol after his speech, reached for the steering wheel of his vehicle and lunged for one of his Secret Service officers. Secret Service officials offered to testify to dispute her account.

Pat Cipollone

Cipollone described a fiery meeting Dec. 18, 2020, when Trump's outside advisers such as Giuliani, lawyer Sidney Powell and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn hurled insults at him and other White House staffers for not challenging election results more forcefully. The meeting went into the night and was described by Hutchinson in a text message as "unhinged."

“I remember the three of them were really sort of forcefully attacking me verbally," Cipollone said in a videotaped deposition after he was subpoenaed following Hutchinson's testimony.

The committee outlined how Trump's outside advisers drafted an executive order, which was never implemented, to have the Defense Department seize voting machines and appoint Powell a special counsel to investigate election fraud.

“I was vehemently opposed,” Cipollone said. 

Cipollone said Pence deserved the Medal of Freedom for resisting Trump’s pressure to reject electors from certain states.

Sarah Matthews

Matthews, a former deputy press secretary in the Trump White House, said she decided to resign after Trump’s tweet on Jan. 6 calling Pence a coward because she said it would fuel the anger in the crowd of people who latched onto Trump’s every word rather than condemn the violence. “I think that in that moment for him to tweet out the message about Mike Pence, it was him pouring gasoline on the fire and making it much worse,” Matthews said.

Before the tweet, as Matthews and another aide, Ben Williamson, watched the attack unfold, she recommended to press secretary Kayleigh McEnany that the president needed to make a statement “to tell these people to go home and condemn the violence that we were seeing.” The White House press briefing room, where a television camera is always available, is about a 60-second walk from the Oval Office, so Trump could have broadcast a statement at any time, rather than waiting to record a message in the Rose Garden, Matthews said.

Trump tweeted at 2:38 p.m. to “Stay peaceful!” and at 3:13 p.m. to “remain peaceful.” But Matthews told McEnany those weren’t enough and he should condemn the violence. McEnany replied in a hushed tone that Trump didn’t want to include the word “peace,” but that people including his daughter, Ivanka Trump, persuaded him, according to Matthews. She said a colleague in the press office also opposed condemning the violence because it would be “handing a win” to the media.

“I motioned up at the TV and I said do you think it looks like we're effing winning? Because I don't think it does,” Matthews said.

Matthew Pottinger

Pottinger, a former deputy national security adviser and a decorated former Marine intelligence officer who had served during the entire Trump administration, also decided to resign when a staffer handed him the Trump tweet about Pence. Pottinger said he was hoping instead for a strong statement unequivocally calling for people to clear the Capitol and go home.

Pottinger said he was concerned the attack would encourage foreign adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran during a time of routine vulnerability between presidential administrations. He said the attack would fit foreign narratives that the government doesn’t work and tempt adversaries to test U.S. resolve. He cited an Iranian attack in December 2020 on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as the kind of threat that worried him.

“I think it emboldened our enemies by helping give them ammunition to feed a narrative that our system of government doesn't work, that the United States is in decline,” Pottinger said.

PHOTOS: AP, Getty Images, AFP and USP News

Contributing: Janet Loehrke and Stephen Beard

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