Trump Told Pence Certifying Election Would Be ‘Career Killer,’ Valet Testified


The threat from former President Donald J. Trump to his vice president, Mike Pence, was clear and direct: If you defy my effort to overturn the 2020 election by certifying the results, your future in Republican politics is over.

“Mike, this is a political career killer if you do this,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Pence by phone on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, according to the White House valet who was with the president for much of the day and told Congress he had overheard the conversation.

The testimony of Mr. Trump’s valet, provided to the now-defunct House Jan. 6 Committee in 2022 but not previously released publicly, offers a rare firsthand look into the former president’s behavior in the hours before, during and after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol seeking to halt the certification of President Biden’s victory.

In the valet’s account, laid out in a transcript obtained by The New York Times, an agitated Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Pence to overturn the election and stewed about Mr. Pence’s refusal for hours after violence engulfed Congress. Told that a civilian had been shot outside the House chamber amid the mob attack, he recalled, Mr. Trump appeared unconcerned.

“I just remember seeing it in front of him,” the valet said of a note card Mr. Trump was given bearing news of the casualty as he watched the riot unfold on television. “I don’t remember how it got there or whatever. But there was no, like, reaction.”

As unflattering as portions of the aide’s testimony were to Mr. Trump, he did not confirm some of the more graphic and damning claims made by witnesses in front of the Jan. 6 committee.

For instance, the valet said he did not remember hearing Mr. Trump use vulgar language in describing his view that Mr. Pence was a coward, or agree with rioters who were chanting for Mr. Pence to be hung. And he did recall hearing the president ask about contacting top officials about dispatching the National Guard to Capitol Hill — though there is no indication that he ever followed through.

“Did you hear the president say that?” a staff investigator for the House Jan. 6 committee asked the valet, inquiring about reports that Mr. Trump had called Mr. Pence an expletive meant to refer to a wimp.

“I did not — no, sir,” the valet responded.

Mr. Trump himself has not disputed using that language, and Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff testified that Ms. Trump had told her that Mr. Trump had an “upsetting” conversation with Mr. Pence and that the president had accused him of cowardice, using “the ‘p’ word.” The valet also acknowledged that he wasn’t with the president at all times, and that he had left the Oval Office during a portion of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Pence.

At another point, the valet was asked whether he remembered “any comments that the president or anybody around him made with respect to those chants, ‘Hang Mike Pence.’ ”

He answered that he recalled the refrain, “but I don’t remember any comments from the president or anybody on staff.”

Mr. Trump has previously defended the rioters’ use of the chant, telling ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that “the people were very angry,” and calling that anger “common sense.”

House Republicans furnished the transcript to The Times after they obtained it from the White House, which was reviewing and redacting it along with a handful of others provided by the House Jan. 6 committee. The copy reviewed by The Times is heavily redacted, and the valet is referred to simply as “a White House employee.”

For more than a year since winning control of the House, Republicans have been investigating the work of the Jan. 6 committee, looking for signs of bias. They have suggested that the panel did not release certain transcripts because they contradict some of the testimony from a prominent witness, Cassidy Hutchinson, who served as an aide to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff at the time. While much of her testimony has been corroborated, Ms. Hutchinson acknowledged that in some cases she was relying on secondhand or thirdhand accounts of events in her testimony to the panel.

“It took a whole lot of work to get these,” Representative Barry Loudermilk, a Republican of Georgia who is leading the G.O.P.’s investigation, said of the transcript of the valet’s testimony and a batch of others he obtained from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Loudermilk conceded there was “some testimony in it that may not be favorable to Trump,” but he added: “We’re putting it all out there, not doing what the select committee did, and putting things out there that will be favorable to our side.”

In court filings, though, federal prosecutors who have charged Mr. Trump with crimes for his role in the effort to overturn the 2020 election have said some of the committee’s transcripts were subject to confidentiality agreements, and those were sent to the White House and Secret Service for review and redactions before they could be released. Federal prosecutors said they had provided these “sensitive, nonpublic transcripts” to Mr. Trump and his legal team, according to a court filing last year.

Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chaired the House Jan. 6 committee, said nothing in the valet’s account changes the essential facts of what his panel uncovered about Mr. Trump’s role in summoning supporters to Washington to challenge the election results and doing nothing to stop their attack at the Capitol.

“Despite Mr. Loudermilk’s attempts to rewrite the violent history of Jan. 6, the facts laid out in the select committee’s final report remain undisputed — and nothing substantive was left out nor hidden,” he said. “While the valet did not witness everything that happened in the White House that day, the testimony confirms Trump’s indifference to the violence and his anger at Vice President Pence for performing his duty under the Constitution.”

The valet also shed more light on how Mr. Trump’s White House had devolved into dysfunction during his final weeks in office. He said Mr. Trump was often “frustrated,” “upset” and “mad” at Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel who frequently served as a check on some of the former president’s more extreme impulses — so much so that the valet asked aides to keep the lawyer away from the president at lunchtime to avoid upsetting him.

The valet also confirmed Mr. Trump’s penchant for tearing up documents and other material given to him, which by the law governing presidential records are supposed to be preserved.

“That’s typically what he would do once he’s finished with a document,” the valet said of Mr. Trump. “But that was his sign of, like, he was done reading it, and he would just throw it on the floor. He would tear everything — tear newspapers, tear pictures.”

The valet also testified that Mr. Trump expressed an interest on Jan. 6 in speaking to General Mark A. Milley, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi about sending the National Guard to the Capitol — a step that has been a matter of much dispute given the hourslong delay in the troops’ eventual arrival.

Mr. Loudermilk said it was that aspect of the valet’s account that caught his eye.

“That stood out to me like, ‘OK, this is totally in contrast to what we’ve seen, and I’ve never seen this before.’ And so that’s when we started digging,” Mr. Loudermilk said.

Ultimately, though, Mr. Trump made no such call, General Milley told the House panel.

The valet also testified about the contrast between the reaction of White House staffers and Mr. Trump as the riot was underway.

After he returned from giving a speech to a raucous crowd at the Ellipse, Mr. Trump was informed that “they’re rioting down at the Capitol,” the valet recalled.

“And he was, like, ‘Oh, really?’ And then he was like, ‘All right, let’s go see,’” and went to watch the violence on television.

The valet spoke of a sense of “disbelief” and then panic that fell over the staff.

“It was like, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” He said officials were “running around pretty much — running from office to office and all over the place,” while Mr. Trump appeared calm.

Hours later, though, the president was still stewing about Mr. Pence.

“Me and him, I think close to the end of the day, he just mentioned that Mike let him down,” the valet said. “And that was it.”

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