At its hearing on Thursday, the House Jan. 6 panel showed previously unseen video of congressional leaders sheltering during the seige of the U.S. Capitol and on the phone urging White House aides, Trump administration officials, local leaders and then-Vice President Mike Pence to call in law enforcement, clear the building and get former President Donald Trump to tell his supporters to end their violent riot.
That footage – coupled with additional video that aired on CNN later Thursday evening – paints the clearest picture yet of how Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded as the crisis at the Capitol unfolded.
“There has to be some way we can maintain the sense that people have ... that there is some security or some confidence that government can function, and that you can elect the president of the United States," Pelosi said to her colleagues.
An aide informed Pelosi that the lawmakers still in the House chamber were donning tear gas masks to prepare for a raid.
“Do you believe this?” she asked Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the House Majority Whip.
The new footage was captured and provided by Alexandra Pelosi, a documentary filmmaker and daughter of Nancy Pelosi, who was in the Capitol that day to film the election confirmation. The younger Pelosi’s footage follows her mother from the Capitol that morning, to mid-riot transit, to Fort McNair, where lawmakers, including Democratic leaders Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Republican leaders Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. and Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., convened.
“If he comes, I’m going to punch him out,” Speaker Pelosi said from her office, as she watched then-President Trump speak at the now-infamous rally on Jan. 6, 2021. “I’m going to go to jail, and I’m going to be happy.”
Trump had just promised his assembled followers that he would join them at the U.S. Capitol, where they would protest as Congress certified the 2020 election. “If he comes here, tell him that we’re going to the White House,” she joked, not yet aware that she and other lawmakers would be driven from the Capitol by a violent mob, some of whom would later break into the space that Pelosi was just seen standing in.
Footage from later on shows Pelosi in a room sitting on couches next to then-Minority Leader Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., making calls to the acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, the acting secretary of defense and then-Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, asking for aid to clear rioters.
“They’re breaking the law in many different ways,” Pelosi said. “And quite frankly, much of it at the instigation of the president of the United States.”
“Why don't you get the president to tell them to leave the Capitol, Mr. Attorney General? In your law enforcement responsibility. A public statement: they should all leave,” Schumer says to Rosen.
As the violence persisted outside — “Officer down, get him up,” a voice could be heard bellowing in one clip shown by the committee — the leaders kept making calls inside.
Around 3 p.m., as a Trump loyalist outside Pelosi’s office pointed her finger and shouted, “We’re coming in if you don’t bring her out,” the speaker was huddled somewhere else in a room with Schumer, who said, “I’m gonna call up the effin’ secretary of DoD.”
And so he did, telling acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller on speakerphone that there were senators still in hideaway spaces and imploring him to send in the Maryland National Guard. Pelosi chimed in that she was going to call the mayor of Washington, D.C., for help as well.
A striking piece of video showed Pelosi, then-Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer and Republican House Whip Steve Scalise huddled together, on a call with the Pentagon, with Schumer asking how long it will take for the Capitol to be cleared.
Pelosi is later filmed talking to then-Vice President Pence, telling him she had gotten a report of “defecation,” or human feces, on the House floor and that it could take a while to restore order.
Pence can then be heard on speaker phone around 6:00 p.m. that day, reporting to Pelosi and Schumer that the House and Senate chambers could be reopened in an hour, speaking as he himself was hiding inside the Capitol.
Congressional leaders seen on video knew that only the president could really make the violence and rioting end, January 6 committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said Thursday as he revealed the new video.
“As the president watched the bloody attack unfold on Fox News from his dining room, members of Congress and other government officials stepped into the gigantic leadership void created by the president’s chilling and steady passivity that day," Raskin said at Thursday's hearing.
During Thursday's hearing, Raskin showed a clip of Leader McConnell speaking on the Senate floor in February about the former president’s glaring decision not to aid people inside the Capitol or tell his supporters to leave.
“It was obvious that only President Trump could end this,” McConnell said at the time. “Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the administration.”
“The president did not act swiftly," McConnell continued. "He did not do his job. He didn't take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored.”
The footage shows Pelosi and Schumer each working to call in members of the National Guard, of Virginia law enforcement, and even active duty military. They’re seen castigating the acting Attorney General, Jeffery Rosen, to start making arrests, and to urge Trump to call the rioters off. Rosen was repeatedly non-committal, sidestepping Schumer’s insistence.
"Yeah, why don’t you get the president to tell them to leave the Capitol, Mr. Attorney General, in your law enforcement responsibility?" Schumer asked, seemingly frustrated. "A public statement they should all leave.”
Days earlier, and unbeknownst at the time to Congress or to the public, Rosen and colleagues had fended off a slapdash attempt by Trump to replace him with a subordinate eager to challenge the election results.
The footage also includes Pelosi’s insistence that Congress reconveine to certify the election, lest the rioters claim “complete victory” by intimidating lawmakers out of doing their duty.
By about 6 p.m. — two hours after Trump called on his followers to leave, via a post on Twitter — Pence gives leadership good news: that, according to the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, lawmakers would be able to return to the chambers within an hour.
"Good news," Schumer said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.