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Jan. 6 hearings: Witnesses describe 'heated and profane clash' between members of Trump team

During Tuesday’s Jan. 6 House committee hearing, a montage of video testimony from a number of witnesses described a meeting held in the upper Oval Office on Dec. 18, 2020, between official White House advisers, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and Trump loyalists like Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. According to the testimony, the meeting involved whether or not to make a last-ditch effort to overturn the 2020 election, a move that was strongly opposed by White House officials.

Video transcript

JAMIE RASKIN: So let's return to that meeting at the White House on the evening of December 18. That night, a group showed up at the White House, including Sidney Powell, Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, and former CEO Patrick Byrne. After gaining access to the building from a junior White House staffer, the group made their way to the Oval Office. They were able to speak with the President, by himself, for some time until White House officials learned of the meeting.

What ensued was a heated and profane clash between this group and President Trump's White House advisors, who traded personal insults, accusations of disloyalty to the President, and even challenges to physically fight. The meeting would last over six hours, beginning here in the Oval Office, moving around the West Wing, and many hours later, ending up in the president's private residence.

The select committee has spoken with six of the participants as well as staffers who could hear the screaming from outside the Oval Office. What took place next is best told in their own words as you will see from this video.


- Did you believe that it was going to work, that you were going to be able to get to see the President without an appointment?

SIDNEY POWELL: I had no idea.

- In fact, you did get to see the President without an appointment.


- How much time did you have alone with the President and I say alone. You had other people with you, but--


- From his aides, before the crowd came running?

SIDNEY POWELL: Oh, probably, no more than 10 or 15 minutes.

- Was in that--

SIDNEY POWELL: I've got Pat Cippolone said a new land speed record.

PAT CIPOLLONE: I got a call either from Molly or Eric Herschmann that I need to get to the Oval Office.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: So that was the first point that I had recognized, OK, there was nobody in there from the White House. Mark's gone. What's going on right now?

PAT CIPOLLONE: I opened the door and I walked in. I saw General Flynn, I saw Sidney Powell sitting there. I was not happy to see the people in the Oval Office.

- Explain why.

PAT CIPOLLONE: Well, again, I don't think they are providing-- well, first of all, that Overstock person, I've never met, I never knew who this guy was. Actually, the first thing I did, I walked in, I looked at him, and I said, who are you, and he told me. I don't think-- I don't think any of these people were providing the President with good advice. And so I didn't understand how they had gotten in.

- The short period of time that you had with the President, did he seemed receptive to the presentation that you were making?

SIDNEY POWELL: He was very interested in hearing, particularly, about the fiscal funding and the terms of 13848 that, apparently, nobody else had bothered to inform him of.

ERIC HERSCHMANN: I was asking like, you claim the Democrats were working with Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans, and whomever else. And at one point, General Flynn took out a diagram that supposedly showed IP addresses all over the world and who was communicating with whom via the machines and some comment about like nest thermostats being hooked up to the internet.

- So it's been reported that during this meeting, Ms. Powell talked about Dominion Voting machines and made various election fraud claims that involve foreign countries such as Venezuela, Iran, and China. Is that accurate?

- The Fifth.

- Was the meeting tense?

DEREK LYONS: Oh, yeah. It was not a casual meeting.

- Explain.

DEREK LYONS: I mean, at times there were people shouting at each other, hurling insults at each other. It wasn't just sort of people sitting around on a couch, like chit chatting.

- Do you recall whether he raised to Ms. Powell the fact that she and the campaign had lost all of the 60 cases that they had brought in litigation?

PAT CIPOLLONE: Yes he raised that.

- And what was the response?

PAT CIPOLLONE: I don't remember what she said. I don't think it was a good response.

SIDNEY POWELL: Cipollone and Herschmann and whoever the other guy was showed nothing but contempt and disdain of the President.

PAT CIPOLLONE: Yeah, the three of them were really sort of forcefully attacking me verbally. Eric, Derek, and we were pushing back and we were asking one simple question as a general matter. Where is the evidence?

- So what response did you get when you asked his panel and her colleagues?

PAT CIPOLLONE: A variety of responses based on her recollection including I can't believe you would say something like, you know, things like this. Like, what do you mean, where's the evidence? You should know. Things like that or, you know, a disregard, I would say, a general disregard for the importance of actually backing up, say, facts.

DEREK LYONS: And you know, then there was discussion of, well, we don't have it now, but we will have it or whatever.

SIDNEY POWELL: I mean, if it had been me sitting in his chair, I would have fired all of them that night and had them escorted out of the building.

ERIC HERSCHMANN: Both Derek, and I both challenged what she was saying and she says, well, the judges are corrupt. And I was like, everyone? Every single case that you've done in the country you guys lost, every one of them is corrupt, even the ones we appointed?

- What's--

ERIC HERSCHMANN: I'm being nice. I was much more harsh to her.

- So one of the other things that's been reported that was said during this meeting was that President Trump told White House lawyers, Mr. Herschmann and Mr Cipollone, that they weren't offering him any solutions, but Ms. Powell and others were, so why not try what Ms. Powell and others were proposing? Do you remember anything along those lines being said by President Trump?

DEREK LYONS: I do. That sounds right.

ERIC HERSCHMANN: I think that it got to the point where the screaming was completely, completely out there. I mean, you have people walk in. It was late at night. It'd been a long day. And what they were proposing I thought was nuts.

RUDY GIULIANI: I'm going to categorically describe it as, you guys are not tough enough. Or maybe, I'd put it another way, you're a bunch of pussies. Excuse the expression, but that's-- I'm almost certain the word was used.

ERIC HERSCHMANN: He went screaming at me that I was a quitter and everything, kept standing up and turning around and screaming at me. And at a certain point, I had it with him, so I yelled back, better come over, sit your effin' ass back down.

RUDY GIULIANI: The President and the White House team went upstairs to the residence, but to the public part of the residency, the big parlor, where you can have meetings in the conference room.

- The oval? They call it the yellow Oval?

RUDY GIULIANI: Yes, exactly, the yellow Oval Office. I always called it the upper. And I'm not exactly sure where the Sydney group went. I think maybe the Roosevelt room. And I stayed in the cabinet room, which is kind of cool. I really like that. Well, all by myself.

DEREK LYONS: At the end of the day, we landed where we started the meeting, at least from a structural standpoint, which was Sidney Powell was fighting, Mike Flynn was fighting. They were looking for avenues that would enable, that would result in President Trump remaining, President Trump for a second term.