Yeah, that sounds like him.
There’s a question here of what precisely Trump said to Mark Meadows as insurrectionists were rampaging through the Capitol. Neither the Times nor Politico has a direct quote. In fact, they don’t name the person who supplied the information to the committee.
But plenty of circumstantial evidence exists to support the idea that Trump was somewhere between “conflicted” and “ecstatic” about his people breaking into Congress and menacing his running mate for refusing to block certification of the electoral college. There was the fact that he waited hours to condemn the attack, let alone to send in the National Guard to quell the riot. There was the phone call he had with Kevin McCarthy while House members were hiding, when McCarthy begged him to call off the dogs and Trump allegedly replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” There was Ben Sasse relaying that he’d heard from sources in the White House that Trump was “delighted” — delighted — to see that his fans were willing to literally fight for him. And there was this report from the Washington Post published on January 7, 2021:
This official described Trump as so mad at Pence “he couldn’t see straight.” Several White House aides were upset that the president chose to attack Pence when the vice president, secured at an undisclosed location at the Capitol, had just been in harm’s way.
A former senior administration official briefed on the president’s private conversations said: “The thing he was most upset about and couldn’t get over all day was the Pence betrayal. … All day, it was a theme of, ‘I made this guy, I saved him from a political death, and here he stabbed me in the back.’ ”
“He was a total monster today,” said one official of Trump to WaPo in the aftermath. Was he so much of a monster that he *approved* of the insurrectionists who infamously chanted “Hang Mike Pence” as they made their way towards the Senate chamber?
At least one witness, and almost certainly more, has told the January 6 committee that he was. At least according to what they heard second-hand from Mark Meadows:
The Jan. 6 select committee has heard testimony indicating that then-President Donald Trump — after rioters who swarmed the Capitol began chanting “hang Mike Pence” — expressed support for hanging his vice president, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The White House chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows, was in the dining room off the Oval Office with Trump at one point during last year’s Capitol attack, the committee has been told. Meadows then left the dining room and informed other people nearby that Trump had signaled a positive view of the prospect of hanging the vice president, the panel heard…
Two of the people who spoke for this story said the committee has heard testimony on this topic from more than one person. All three people spoke on condition of anonymity.
It’s unclear what “signaled a positive view” means, exactly. In the Times’s report on what the committee has been told, they say that witnesses claim Meadows told “colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hung.” More specifically, “Mr. Trump, watching television throughout the riot, spoke approvingly of those chants as he discussed them with Mr. Meadows and possibly other aides, according to the testimony that the committee has heard.” Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Meadows at the time, reportedly confirmed for the committee what Meadows had said that after the committee initially heard about it from another witness. The identity of that witness is unknown.
But maybe not for long:
The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol is expected to stage six public hearings in June on how Donald Trump and some allies broke the law as they sought to overturn the 2020 election results, according to sources familiar with the inquiry…
According to a draft schedule reviewed by the Guardian, the select committee intends to hold six hearings, with the first and last in prime time, where its lawyers will run through how Trump’s schemes took shape before the election and culminated with the Capitol attack…
According to the draft schedule, the June public hearings will explore Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, starting and ending with prime-time hearings at 8pm on the 9th and the 23rd. In between, the panel will hold 10am hearings on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 21st.
Rarely do congressional committees hold hearings in primetime but it makes sense in this case when you consider what the point of the January 6 committee is. It’s not to prove that Trump committed crimes in the course of trying to overturn the election or to recommend changes to federal law to prevent another January 6, although both of those tasks may be on the panel’s agenda. The true purpose is to make the case to the voting public that he’s dangerously unfit for office and that they should do what Senate Republicans didn’t have the guts to do last year by disqualifying him from another term as president.
They can reach more voters in primetime so that’s when they’re going to schedule their opening and closing arguments. They’re hoping that some Republicans who are still favorably disposed towards Trump will listen to testimony about him wanting to hang Pence, for example, and say, “Forget it. Never again.” Liz Cheney in particular is willing to sacrifice her career to help voters reach that conclusion.
And there may be more Republican voters open to that conclusion than we think. The testimony at the hearing isn’t going to turn any hardcore MAGAs into Never Trumpers but there are plenty of righties out there who like what they’ve seen from that DeSantis guy and are willing to hear the argument for why the party should nominate him instead of Trump. The prospect of electing a president who won’t want to see his own VP violently murdered will operate as one more reason among many to go in a different direction in 2024.
But only sotto voce. As insane as the allegation is about Trump approving of the “Hang Mike Pence” chants, it’s too much to ask that any of Trump’s primary opponents turn to him on the debate stage and say, “You’re a g-ddamned psychopath.” To repeat the Pence allegation will be seen as validating the January 6 committee or whatever, and it’s the solemn duty of Republicans to prefer the psychopath who fights for us to the committee that fights for the libs. Which, again, is why the committee needs to go directly to the voters with the evidence. They can’t count on Trump’s rivals within the party to amplify it for them. To do so would be “disloyal.”
Update: A lawyer for Meadows told the Times late this afternoon that he has “every reason to believe” that the allegations about what Meadows said are untrue. Which is a weird alternative to simply saying, “My client categorically denies this.”