A new report details how former President Donald Trump’s aides have described to federal investigators his temperament on January 6, 2021, as a mob of his loyalists attacked the U.S. Capitol building to prevent Congress from affirming his 2020 presidential election loss.
The report from ABC News — based on information from sources with direct knowledge of the investigation into Trump being handled by Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith — portrays the former president as indifferent to the violence that was being waged in his name. Instead, his former aides have said, Trump was more concerned with how the election was purportedly stolen from him, despite no evidence backing his claims that fraud led to his loss to President Joe Biden two months prior.
According to the report, former Trump deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino pushed Trump to issue a statement on X (then called Twitter) when the violence erupted at the Capitol. At the time, Scavino helped Trump craft his tweets and often authored them himself, only posting after getting approval from Trump to do so.
Scavino described Trump to investigators as being “very angry” on January 6 due to some GOP lawmakers’ refusal to vote against the certification of his election loss. Trump watched the violence unfold on television inside the Oval Office with his arms folded, Scavino recalled.
Trump “was just not interested” in taking action to stop the attack, Scavino told the special counsel’s office, sources indicated to ABC News. Although Scavino described the attack to Trump, alerting him that smoke was coming from the Capitol building and told him that the event would become his “legacy,” Trump refused to issue a public statement urging his loyalists to end the attack.
Later, Scavino told investigators, Trump issued a tweet on his own, stating that then-Vice President Mike Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done” by refusing to certify votes in the Electoral College, catching aides to the ex-president off-guard. When White House attorneys demanded to know why Scavino would post such a comment on Trump’s behalf, Scavino insisted that he didn’t write it and that Trump had done so without his input.
The report also included comments to Smith’s office from another former White House aide, Nick Luna.
Luna, who was Trump’s personal aide, recalled that, when he alerted the former president that lawmakers, including Pence, had to be evacuated out of the Capitol due to safety concerns, the former president responded by saying “So what?”
Trump’s response indicated that he was “capable of allowing harm to come to one of his closest allies,” Luna told investigators, according to the sources speaking to ABC News.
Republican Adam Kinzinger, a former member of the House of Representatives and one of only two GOP lawmakers to have served on the select committee formed to investigate the January 6 Capitol attack, reacted to the report by stating on CNN that it could create “real trouble” for Trump ahead of his scheduled criminal trial later this year relating to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“It reaffirms what we’ve already known, but it’s very impactful,” Kinzinger said. “For 187 minutes, for over three hours, Donald Trump sat there watching his insurrection in action and did not act.”