JULY 23, 2022
There are two arguments against the hearings conducted by the House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot that are as common as they are flawed.
The first is that the hearings should for some reason adhere to the boundaries of a criminal trial, allowing allies of former president Donald Trump to cross-examine witness testimony. There’s no requirement for that, of course, since the hearings are, in fact, not a criminal trial. But moreover, there have been about 1,000 hours since the hearings began in which hearings weren’t being conducted — time in which Trump and his allies could rebut the evidence to their hearts’ content. They have not.
In part, that’s because of the second argument. Team Trump would rather simply wave the whole thing away as a partisan attack on the former president. Why bother trying to piece together a robust defense when you can simply cut the Gordian knot and blame everything on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)?
On Friday morning, hours after Fox News failed to carry the most recent committee hearing, “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt offered a common version of this claim.
“Everyone in that room, they’re all against Trump,” Earhardt insisted. “They are anti-Trumpers. Every single person in that room voted to impeach him.”
Well, no, as co-host Brian Kilmeade pointed out. (Surprisingly.) The members of the committee did, including two Republicans. But they did so because they think that Trump is responsible for the day’s violence, as the evidence from their committee has reinforced. But the testimony from witnesses both in the room and in recordings played during the hearing was almost entirely from Republicans, former members of Trump’s administration, former Trump staffers — and Trump himself.
I went through the entire hearing, second-by-second, and tracked who was speaking and what was being said. The result is this chart, showing every moment from gavel-to-gavel in 10-minute increments.
What you want to notice is all that red. A lot of it represents speaking time from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who helped run the hearing. But the lighter red is all Trump allies, the two former administration officials in the room and nearly two dozen others who served with Trump in the White House, on the campaign trail or who are members of his family.
Most of the blue is Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), who ran the hearing with Kinzinger. Notice that much of her speaking time is striped with red, however: The periods in which she spoke often included references to documents or text messages from allies of Trump incriminating the former president. (Some of the testimony that aired is similarly striped with gray, indicating that some of the time in which Trump allies were shown speaking included the questions they were being asked by committee staffers.)
In total, the hearing ran for about 2½, removing the lengthy break in the middle. Out of 150 minutes, 93 were occupied with testimony from Republicans and former Trump officials. Forty-one were from Democrats, nearly all Luria or committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairing the meeting remotely because of a recent covid infection.
It’s not indicated on the graph above, but about 13 minutes of the 41 from Luria and other Democrats included snippets where Luria was walking through text messages sent to Trump staffers or reading internal documents related to the day’s events.
This is a central point that those who haven’t watched the hearings — like Earhardt, presumably — may miss. Nearly all of the witnesses who’ve presented in-person testimony before the committee are members of Trump’s party or former members of his administration or campaign. Nearly all of the evidence shown that was collected in depositions came from his former allies and staff. It is a sweeping presentation of Trump’s culpability that entirely flows almost from people who at one point were in his inner circle.
A tweet from the House Republican caucus offered in the midst of the hearing inadvertently captured the reality of the committee’s work.
“This is all heresy,” it read, clearly meaning to use the word “hearsay.” It isn’t hearsay — but it is heresy to a party that has organized around Trump and his interests. Providing honest, unchallenged testimony incriminating Trump makes you an “anti-Trumper,” in Earhardt’s verbiage. An apostate. Therefore, the hearing is simply a collection of heretics hoping to tear down the former president.
It’s self-fulfilling. It’s also wrong.