Trump refused to call off riot, probe told

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Donald Trump sat for hours watching the January 6 attack on the US Capitol unfold on live TV, ignoring pleas by his children and other close advisers to urge his supporters to stop the violence, witnesses have told a congressional hearing.

The House of Representatives select committee used its eighth hearing to detail what members said was Trump's refusal to act for the 187 minutes between the end of his inflammatory speech at a rally urging supporters to march on the Capitol, and the release of a video telling them to go home.

"President Trump sat at his dining table and watched the attack on television while his senior-most staff, closest advisers and family members begged him to do what is expected of any American president," Democratic Representative Elaine Luria said on Thursday.

The panel played videotaped testimony from White House aides and security staff discussing the events of the day.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone was asked question after question in the recorded testimony about Trump's actions: did he call the secretary of defence? The attorney-general? The head of Homeland Security? Cipollone answered no to each query.

"He's got to condemn this s*** ASAP," Trump's eldest son, Don Jr, appealed in a text message to Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

"They will try to f*** his entire legacy on this if it gets worse."

The onslaught on the Capitol, as vice-president Mike Pence met lawmakers, led to several deaths, injured more than 140 police officers and delayed certification of Democratic President Joe Biden's victory in the November 2020 election.

Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, said Trump had no interest in calling off the rioters because "the mob was accomplishing President Trump's purpose".

Trump remains popular among Republican voters and continues to flirt with running for president again in 2024, although polls suggest his standing among Republicans has weakened slightly since the hearings began six weeks ago.

Trump denies wrongdoing and continues to claim falsely that he lost because of widespread fraud.

The hearing was shown on most of the major US television networks. Another round of hearings would begin in September, said the panel's Republican vice-chair, Liz Cheney.

Witnesses in the room were Matthew Pottinger, a deputy national security adviser under Trump, and Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary in his White House. Both resigned in the hours following the riot.

"If the president had wanted to make a statement and address the American people, he could have been on camera almost immediately," Matthews testified.

"If he had wanted to make an address from the Oval Office, we could have assembled the White House press corps within minutes."

The panel of seven Democratic and two Republican House members has used the hearings to build a case that Trump's efforts to overturn his defeat by Biden in 2020 constitute dereliction of duty and illegal conduct.

Audio testimony from a White House security official whose identity was shielded bolstered previous testimony that administration officials knew there were multiple reports of weapons in the crowd of supporters who gathered for Trump's rally speech.

The committee showed video of several White House officials describing their dismay that afternoon at seeing a Twitter post by Trump in which he blamed Pence for not stopping the certification.

"Trump was pouring gasoline on the fire," Matthews said.

The security official said some of Pence's bodyguards began to fear for their own lives. "There were calls to say goodbye to family members," the security official said.

The committee showed outtakes of a video Trump made on January 7 addressing what he called "the heinous attack". But he insists in the footage: "I don't want to say the election is over."

Trump eventually left Washington on January 20 rather than attend Biden's inauguration that day.

More than 850 people have been charged with taking part in the riot.

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