Former U.S. President Donald Trump Friday sharply criticized the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, in his first appearance since the committee began its public hearings.
Speaking to a gathering of religious conservatives in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump said, “Let’s be clear, this is not a congressional investigation — this horrible situation that’s wasting everyone’s time.”
“This is a theatrical production of partisan political fiction that’s getting these terrible, terrible ratings and they’re going crazy,” he added.
The hearings have laid out how the attack on the Capitol occurred and Trump’s role in it by inviting his supporters to come to Washington and “fight like hell” to keep him in office.
In the latest day of hearings, on Thursday, witnesses presented testimony that Trump repeatedly pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to thwart Congress from certifying that Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, even after being repeatedly advised that it was illegal to do so.
Pence was presiding over Congress as lawmakers were in the initial stages of the state-by-state count of Electoral College votes to verify Biden’s victory when about 2,000 Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to disrupt the proceeding.
Trump, in private and publicly at a rally near the White House just before Congress convened, implored Pence to reject the electoral count from states where Biden narrowly won and send the results back to the states so that Republican-controlled legislatures could order another election or submit the names of Trump electors to replace those favoring Biden.
Pence, a Trump loyalist during their four years in the White House, refused Trump’s demands, saying his role was limited by the Constitution to simply open the envelopes containing the Electoral College vote counts from each state.
Trump criticized Pence again on Friday for failing to stop the vote certification, saying, “Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be, frankly, historic.”
However, he said, “Mike did not have the courage to act.”
The House committee investigating the attack showed a brief video clip Thursday of Marc Short, who served as Pence’s chief of staff, saying that Pence told Trump “many times” that he did not have the authority to overturn the Biden victory.
Pence counsel Greg Jacob described to the committee how a conservative Trump lawyer, John Eastman, tried to convince Pence that he had the legal authority to unilaterally upend the election. But Jacob said Eastman eventually conceded that the Supreme Court would likely unanimously reject his legal theory.
Earlier this week, the House panel showed videotaped testimony from numerous White House and political aides saying they told Trump on election night to hold off on declaring victory, advice he ignored when he declared victory in the early hours of Nov. 4, 2020.
Former Attorney General William Barr and numerous aides have told the committee that in the weeks between the election and the insurrection, they told Trump his election fraud claims were baseless and that he had lost the election.
Trump continued to assert Friday that he won the 2020 election and insisted that he did nothing wrong after the vote.
He hinted that he would again run for president, asking the cheering crowd “Would anybody like me to run for president?”
On Monday, Trump issued a 12-page statement calling the Jan. 6 investigation an attempt by Democrats to prevent him from running again for president in 2024.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.