The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol held its ninth public hearing on Thursday, sharing new evidence and pre-recorded testimony from several Trump White House insiders.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger said then-President Donald Trump knew he lost the 2020 election and so he rushed to complete “unfinished business” before his term ended — even trying to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Somalia.
In his opening statement, Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, played previous testimony from administration officials stating Trump new he lost the election even if he publicly kept up the erroneous claims that he won. He played video testimony of Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that he heard either Trump or then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say “Yeah, we lost, we need to let that issue go to the next guy. Meaning President Biden.”
Kinzinger then said that “knowing he lost and had weeks left in office, President Trump rushed to complete unfinished business.”
“One key example is this: President Trump issued an order for large-scale U.S. troop withdrawals,” Kinzinger continued. “He disregarded concerns about the consequences for fragile governments on the front lines of the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists.”
“Knowing he was leaving office, he acted immediately and signed this order on Nov. 11, which would have required the immediate withdrawal of troops from Somalia and Afghanistan all to be complete before the Biden inauguration on January 20th.”
Kinzinger played clips from previous testimony with administration and military officials familiar with the memo.
John McEntee, former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, said he discussed the possible withdrawals with Col. Douglas McGregor. McGregor said he told the administration if they wanted with withdrawal to happen, the president had to write an order.
General Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, said he was familiar with the memo that the president signed to withdraw troops.
All three men testified that Trump signed an order, written by McEntee.
Milley said he felt the order was “odd, not standard and potentially dangerous.”
“I personally thought it was militarily not feasible, nor wise,” he said.
Kellogg went so far as to say if he saw the withdrawal happen, he would “do something physical” because he “thought that what this was was a tremendous disservice to the nation.”
“By the way, it was a very contested issue, there were people who did not agree with getting out of Afghanistan. I appreciated their concerns. An immediate departure, which that memo said, would’ve been catastrophic,” Kellogg said.
“It’s same thing President Biden went through. Would have been a debacle,” he continued, referring to Mr. Biden’s decision to pull all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. As troops withdrew in August of that year, the country quickly fell to the Taliban, with chaos ensuing as thousands tried to evacuate.
“Keep in mind [Trump’s] order was for an immediate withdrawal. It would have been catastrophic. Yet President Trump signed the order,” Kinzinger said during the hearing. “These are highly consequential actions of a president who knows his term will shortly end.”
Mr. Biden reversed Trump’s decision to remove troops from Somalia.
Following the hearing on Thursday, the committee voted unanimously to subpoena Trump, saying there is precedent for a former president to appear before the panel.
“The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of January 6th was one man, Donald Trump, who many others followed,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, the other Republican member and vice chair of the committee. “None of this would have happened without him. He was personally and substantially involved in all of it.”
Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.
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