Top Trump administration aides say they were surprised that protests at the US Capitol turned violent on Jan. 6, 2021, despite law enforcement warnings of such a possibility in advance.
The claims came in newly released transcripts of interviews conducted by the House committee investigating the attack with several top advisers to then-President Donald Trump.
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump and husband to his daughter, told committee members that “no one expected there to be violence” on the day the 2020 election was due to be certified.
“I didn’t even know just how significant a day it was going to be in any respect,” Kusher said in the interview, which took place on March 31, 2022.
Similarly Jason Miller, former senior campaign adviser to Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign, told the committee during his interview that “it was just unbelievable that people who were MAGA supporters would engage in violent activity.”
He added: “[i]It was just inconceivable that people who supported police officers, who supported law and order, who opposed the violence that we saw over the summer, could be thought to be part of all of this.”
Mr. Miller, in his Feb. 3, 2022 interview, also recounted a phone call with Mr. Trump the night of the Capitol attack in which he put the First Lady, Melania Trump, on the phone.
“The First Lady expressed shock and anger and questioned that she couldn’t believe that any Trump supporter, anyone who believes in this movement, would ever participate in violent activity like this,” Miller said, according to the transcript.
The testimony of some of Trump’s closest aides contrasts with previous interviews with law enforcement officials and other Trump administration aides, many of whom said the administration had been warned of possible violence that day. .
Cassidy Hutchinson, who served as Trump’s White House special assistant, told the commission in his public testimony that “there were concerns brought forward” to the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, prior to the riot.
“I just remember Mr. Ornato came in and said we had intelligence reports that there could potentially be violence on the 6th,” Ms. Hutchinson said, referring to Anthony Ornato, a senior intelligence official. “And Mr. Meadows said, ‘Okay. Let’s talk about it.'”
It was previously reported that the Secret Service, which provides security for the president, had done so warned Capitol Police of possible violence.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said the Jan. 6 committee, of which he is a member, received more than 1 million emails from the Secret Service and said he showed a clear awareness of the threat developing ahead of the protest. Such threats included “calls to occupy federal buildings,” “intimidate Congress, and invade [the] Capitol Building” and people who say they will “arm themselves and engage in political violence during the event,” according to the documents presented by the commission.
In the weeks leading up to the rally, Trump, whom the committee has identified as a major cause of the violence, sent out numerous tweets urging his supporters to attend.
“Major protest in Washington January 6,” Trump tweeted on December 19. “Being there, it will be wild!”