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Donald Trump’s Infamous 187 Minutes

A timeline drawn from the Jan. 6th Committee report makes clear that he wasn’t just dithering as the Capitol was attacked—he was rooting for the mob.
December 23, 2022
Donald Trump’s Infamous 187 Minutes
At a July 21, 2022 meeting of the House Jan. 6th Committee, a photo of Donald Trump was displayed showing the moment he was informed that rioting had begun at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Jabin Botsford / Washington Post / Getty Images)

On the afternoon of January 6, 2021, shortly after he instructed his supporters to march on the Capitol and stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election, Donald Trump was told that a riot had broken out there. A little over three hours passed before he finally told the rioters to go home.

What happened during those 187 minutes? What was Trump told, and how did he respond? Many of Trump’s aides, including his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, have tried to cover up these events. But others have cooperated, and the House January 6th Committee has obtained text messages and other records that clarify the timeline. The committee’s final report, published yesterday, lays out the sequence of events.

1:10 p.m.: Trump finishes his speech. During his remarks at the “Save America Rally” on the Ellipse near the White House, Trump tells the crowd, “After this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you . . . We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.” He repeated this call as he left the stage: “Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

1:21: Trump is told of the riot. As he arrives at the White House after his speech, a “member of the White House staff” tells him twice, “They’re rioting down at the Capitol.”

According to the House January 6th Committee, this photo was taken just as Trump was told of the mob at the U.S. Capitol. (Screen capture of committee video via YouTube; image catalogued in the National Archives as 40a8_hi_j0087_0bea.)

Trump replies, “All right, let’s go see.” He goes to his dining room to watch Fox News for the afternoon.

1:57: Efforts are underway to persuade Trump to speak out against the riot. Eric Herschmann, a lawyer working in the White House as a senior adviser to Trump, tells Jared Kushner that “people are trying to break into the Capitol” and “this is getting pretty ugly.” “We’re going to try to get the President to put out a statement,” Herschmann says. (Herschmann had advised the president before Jan. 6th to call on his supporters to remain peaceable.)

2:05: Meadows rebuffs Cassidy Hutchinson. Around this time, Hutchinson, a special assistant to the president, asks Meadows whether he’s “watching the TV.” He says he is. She asks, “Have you talked to the President?” “No,” he replies. “He wants to be alone right now.”

2:13 to 2:24: White House Counsel Pat Cipollone confronts Meadows and Trump. Rioters have just broken into the Capitol. Cipollone tells Meadows, “The rioters have gotten to the Capitol, Mark. We need to go down and see the President now.” Meadows replies: “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.” Cipollone says, “Mark, something needs to be done, or people are going to die and the blood’s going to be on your F’ing hands.” The two men go to the dining room to talk to Trump.

2:24: Trump tells his followers that Vice President Pence has failed them. He tweets, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country . . . USA demands the truth!” Several White House staffers and Trump advisers are dismayed by the tweet; some decide that they will resign.

After 2:24: Meadows says Trump refuses to rebuke the mob because “Mike deserves it.” Minutes after the 2:24 tweet, Meadows and Cipollone leave the dining room. Cipollone says, “We need to do something more. They’re literally calling for the Vice President to be f’ing hung.” Meadows replies: “You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

2:26: Sen. Tommy Tuberville tells Trump about chaos and danger inside the Capitol. In a phone call, Tuberville tells Trump, “They’ve taken the Vice President out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go.”

2:26 to 3:06: Trump rebuffs Kevin McCarthy. In a phone call sometime during these 40 minutes—the report doesn’t specify when—the House Republican leader pleads with Trump to “get on TV,” “get on Twitter,” and “call these people off.” He tells Trump, “They literally just came through my office windows, and my staff are running for cover. I mean, they’re running for their lives. You need to call them off.”

Trump responds by rebuking McCarthy for failing to share the mob’s sense of urgency. He tells McCarthy, “Well, Kevin, I guess they’re just more upset about the election theft than you are.”

(This conversation was reconstructed from McCarthy’s accounts of it several other people, since he refused to talk to the committee himself.)

2:28 to 2:32: Text messages call for Trump to tell the mob to go home. At 2:28, Marjorie Taylor Greene texts Meadows: “I was just told there is an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol Please tell the President to calm people.” At 2:32, Laura Ingraham texts Meadows: “The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home.”

This becomes a theme of the afternoon: Trump is repeatedly urged to tell his followers to go home, but the most he will say is that they should stay peaceful while they’re at the Capitol. Hutchinson recalls Ivanka Trump “saying at various points [that] she wanted her dad to send them home. She wanted her dad to tell them to go home peacefully, and she wanted to include language that he necessarily wasn’t on board with at the time.”

The report says that during this time, “no one could convince President Trump to call for the violent rioters to leave the Capitol.”

Before 2:38: Trump’s TV screen shows reports of violence and injuries. According to the report, in the minutes before Trump tweets again at 2:38, “Fox News—on the President’s screen—relayed that the Capitol was on lockdown; that Capitol police officers were injured; that rioters were in the building and ‘just feet from the House chamber.’” At 2:38, Fox “was showing video of the chaos and attack, with tear gas filling the air in the Capitol Rotunda.”

2:38: Trump resists calling for peace, but eventually he relents. After a visit from Ivanka Trump and Herschmann, Trump tweets: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” He doesn’t tell the mob to go home. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who is in the room with Trump during this episode, later tells her deputy that “the President did not want to include any sort of mention of peace in that tweet” and that it took “some convincing” by the people around him.

According to the report, at some point—it’s not clear when—a “White House employee with national security responsibilities” overhears Herschmann telling Cipollone “something to the effect of ‘the President didn’t want anything done.’”

2:38 to 3:09: More text messages urge Trump to tell the mob to go home. At 2:44, Rep. Barry Loudermilk texts Meadows, writing, “It’s really bad up here on the hill” and “They have breached the Capitol.” At 2:46, Rep. William Timmons texts: “The president needs to stop this ASAP.” At 2:53, Donald Trump Jr. texts: “He’s got to condem this shit. Asap. The captiol police tweet is not enough.” At 3:09, former Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus texts, “TELL THEM TO GO HOME !!!”

After 3:05: Trump is told of a shooting. “At some point after 3:05,” Trump is “informed that someone had been shot,” says the report. “That person was Ashli Babbitt,” fatally shot 21 minutes earlier during the attempted breach of the Speaker’s Lobby.

3:00 to 3:13: Trump refuses to tell the mob to go home. According to the report:

White House staff discussed issuing yet another, stronger statement to address the ongoing—and escalating—violence. Around 3:00 p.m., one proposal was written in block capital letters on a pocket card from the chief of staff’s office: ANYONE WHO ENTERED THE CAPITOL ILLEGALLY WITHOUT PROPER AUTHORITY SHOULD LEAVE IMMEDIATELY[.] . . . Hutchinson recalled Meadows returning from the dining room with the note in hand and placing it on her desk. The word “illegally” had been newly crossed out. But there would be no further action, Meadows told her.

The report says of this note: “The President declined to make the statement.”

When Trump tweets next, at 3:13, he doesn’t tell the mob to leave. Instead, he writes: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

3:17: Trump’s TV displays reports of worsening violence. “By 3:17 p.m., Fox News was reporting gunshots on Capitol Hill,” says the report. “Law enforcement officers could be seen in the House chamber, pointing guns over the barricaded door: The chyron blared ‘Guns Drawn on House Floor.’”

3:13 to 3:31: More texts urge Trump to tell the mob to go home. At 3:13, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Trump’s former White House communications director, texts Meadows: “Potus has to come out firmly and tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed . . .” At 3:31, Sean Hannity texts, “Can he make a statement. . . . Ask people to peacefully leave the capital.”

4:03 to 4:17: Trump gives in. Half an hour after the latest entreaties to disband the mob, he finally leaves his dining room to make a video. In the video, released at 4:17, he tells his followers that the election “was stolen from us,” but “you have to go home now.”

The timeline clarifies several things. First, from the moment when Trump was told about the rioting, he waited more than an hour—as he watched the crisis unfold on TV—to say anything at all.

Second, Trump incited the mob to target Pence after rioters had broken into the Capitol and after Cipollone and Meadows had gone to speak to him about the crisis. Meadows’s subsequent comments indicate that Trump issued this tweet in deliberate defiance of pleas to discourage the rioters.

Third, Trump’s comments to McCarthy are consistent with his tweet against Pence and his response to Meadows and Cipollone, as relayed by Meadows. In all three cases, knowing that a riot was underway—and, in the case of McCarthy, while hearing an eyewitness describe people “running for their lives”—Trump explicitly sided with the mob.

Fourth, on at least one occasion—as his TV was showing violence at the Capitol and reporting injuries to police—Trump resisted “any sort of mention of peace.”

Fifth, several people who conferred with Trump during the afternoon emerged to report that he didn’t want to intervene and was refusing to do so.

Sixth, throughout the afternoon, Trump was explicitly urged by many people to ask the mob to “leave immediately” or “go home.” For at least an hour and a half, he refused to do so.

Why would Trump agree to say “stay peaceful” but refuse, for another hour and a half, to say “go home”? The simplest answer is that once the mob dispersed, he would lose his leverage over Congress to halt the certification. No other explanation seems to account for his insistence on this distinction.

In sum, the report demonstrates that Trump condoned violence, encouraged it, and sought to exploit it. He repeatedly sided with the mob against the people—not to mention the democratic process—it was attacking. It took him more than an hour to agree, grudgingly, to call for peace. It then took him another hour and a half to agree, again grudgingly, to ask the mob to go home.

Good people can disagree about whether such a man belongs in jail. They can’t disagree about whether he belongs in the White House.

William Saletan

William Saletan is a writer at The Bulwark.