What Trump World Really Thinks About Last Night’s Jan. 6 Hearing
A former senior Trump campaign official says it wasn’t Pence’s security detail’s goodbye calls that bothered them, but the leaked videos of Trump’s speech rehearsal: “We didn’t know they still lived”
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Former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, left, and Sarah Matthews, Donald Trump's deputy White House press secretary, are sworn in as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a primetime hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, July 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
I’ve spent today talking to sources in Trump World about their reactions to the testimony in last night’s Jan. 6th hearing. I was particularly eager to see if I could corroborate reporting I saw last night on TV that some of the former President’s loyalists were shocked to learn that, in the midst of the attack on the Capitol, members of former Vice President’s security detail called their loved ones to say goodbye.
What I learned did not corroborate that reporting. In fact, what I learned was antithetical—and worse. I spoke to three people—one big donor and two campaign officials—who all said that the calls and texts in Trump world, according to these three people, had nothing to do with the safety of Mike Pence or his security detail. A very senior 2020 campaign official who agreed to talk on the condition of speaking anonymously told me there are two huge concerns buzzing on the phones of Trump World last night and today:
1. Who leaked the video clip of Trump rehearsing both his Jan. 6 and Jan 7 speeches? The Trump folks didn’t know those clips even existed. They thought they’d been erased.
2. Why did the Democrats throw former campaign officials such as Tim Murtaugh (whose texts decrying the President’s behavior were shown and read aloud) and former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien (who testified)—both of whom had had no public quarrel with Trump— “under the bus” as opposed to showing footage of the extremists who supported Trump’s stolen election theory—people such as Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and John Eastman? Is it just all politics, to ensure Trump no longer has good campaign staff for his next presidential run? That’s what my sources say Trump World is mulling.
Here’s an excerpt from my Q&A with the anonymous former senior Trump campaign official:
WARD: So what's the reaction to last night? I mean, I heard last night journalists say that everyone in Trump World is just horrified by what Pence’s secret service detail were saying, but are they?
ANONYMOUS OFFICIAL: No. The only thing people were talking about last night were the excerpts—the two videos. The video he taped on Jan. 6 and the next day.
WARD: Why? Because they wanted to know how the committee got them?
ANONYMOUS OFFICIAL: Well, that's part of it, but also nobody inside or directly remaining in Trump World or in the orbit knew that those existed.
WARD: Well, Ivanka knew they existed because she's in them.
ANONYMOUS OFFICIAL: I don't know if she or anyone else knew that [the tapes] w[ere] still there or had been deleted. Or maybe no one was cognizant that [they] w[ere] still living digitally somewhere. So it was kind of the shock that, Hey, this exists. Why does this still exist? Obviously it's too late now.
But then I think a much lesser secondary part [is] the fact that the committee really went to twist the knife on folks like Eric Herschmann when he said he was exhausted. [Editor’s note: Herschmann actually said White House staff felt “emotionally drained.”] Or Tim Murtaugh with the text exchange [between him and deputy communications director, Matthew Wolking]. Tim obviously [had] a senior role in the campaign. [He was] a very important guy in the campaign. But I would not say that he's [in] Trump’s inner circle. He's not like as tight as the family, for example. [There’s] just the feeling that the committee really went out of their way to really just kind of try to do Eric and Tim dirty on that.
Was it particularly germane to anything to hear a text exchange between a couple of staffers on the campaign? You know, it's one thing if it's Eric Herschmann, who was there that day, who was with [Trump]. Neither Murtaugh or Wolking were there that day. They weren't around; they didn't talk to [Trump] that day. There was a lot of thought that like, You know, man, that's just really kind of doing them dirty.
WARD: Because I'm assuming Trump will never hire either one of them ever again—or at least that would be their fear.
ANONYMOUS OFFICIAL: Yeah. I wouldn't disagree with either assessment. But one of the things that was surprising about the approach of the committee—or one thing that was surprising to many of the people in Trump World—was that the committee did not go out of their way to highlight the crazies in the orbit. There was actually relatively little coverage of [Steve] Bannon or Rudy [Giuliani] or Boris [Epshteyn] or Jenna [Ellis] or Sidney Powell or those types. What the committee really seemed to twist the knife on were trying to attack “normal people” who are in Trump's orbit to drive a wedge between them and the president with [the] specific intention of making [it] so that they do not work with him on a future presidential run. And so when you go and start checking off names, the committee definitely went out of their way to drive a wedge between the president and his daughter Ivanka, between the president and his son-in-law Jared, between the president and legal counsel Eric Herschmann, and between the president and various campaign staffers, including Tim Murtaugh and Bill Stepien. There's a very direct effort to try to drive wedges where wedges don't currently exist. And that only accomplishes thing one thing because there's no referral being made to the Department of Justice on any of these people. The only reason is to try to kneecap the relationship between Trump and people who have served as close advisors in the past [is] the hope that they're not present should he decide to run again. And it's devious, it's underhanded, and it's surprisingly smart politics for some of the dumbest political people that I've ever met….