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Jan. 6 hearing: A Trump supporter testifies about why he and others stormed Capitol

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

An important new witness has told the House select January 6 committee that Mike Pence acted courageously as vice president by thwarting attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAT CIPOLLONE: I think the vice president did the right thing. I have a great deal of respect for Vice President Pence. I think he did a great service to this country.

SHAPIRO: That's former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone. His testimony was heavily featured in today's hearing. The committee looked at how then-President Trump and key allies stoked supporters' anger over his reelection loss and helped turn that rage into a violent attack on the Capitol.

NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us now. Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Cipollone's been considered one of the most critical witnesses, and last week he made headlines by finally talking to the committee under oath. Today the committee played many clips from his deposition. What did he say?

GRISALES: Right. We saw Cipollone corroborate a lot of evidence already shared with the committee, like his concerns that Trump pushed outlandish theories that he had not lost the election. The committee asked Cipollone about one desperate attempt to seize voting machines. Here's his exchange with the committee investigator.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CIPOLLONE: At some point, you have to put up or shut up. That was my view.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Why was this, on a broader scale, a bad idea for the country?

CIPOLLONE: To have the federal government seize voting machines - it's a terrible idea for the country.

GRISALES: And this was part of a larger discussion to try to install a controversial Trump ally - this is Sidney Powell - as a special counsel to oversee investigations into such false claims. And Cipollone said he didn't think she should, quote, "be appointed to anything." And that was part of this larger pushback by some Trump White House officials against these efforts to overturn the election.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. One theme that has been coming out in these hearings is that Trump and his allies from outside of the White House - like Powell, lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone and others - pushed conspiracy theories that lit the match and fueled the mob to attack the Capitol. What more did we learn about that?

GRISALES: Yes. We heard of one text exchange between former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and a key organizer of the rally at the Ellipse. This is Katrina Pierson. And it happened on the night of the January 6 attack, and they were talking about what unfolded in the ties to Trump. Committee Democrat Stephanie Murphy read this text exchange aloud, starting here with a text from Parscale.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEPHANIE MURPHY: This week I feel guilty for helping him win. Katrina Pierson responded, you did what you felt right at the time, and therefore it was right. Mr. Parscale added, yeah, but a woman is dead. And, yeah, if I was Trump and I knew my rhetoric killed someone - when Miss Pierson replied, it wasn't the rhetoric, Mr. Parscale said, Katrina, yes, it was.

GRISALES: And this was part of what the committee presented today. That included details from witnesses and others, other evidence who said that Trump's rhetoric is what fueled this mob and, for example, his messages on social media were essentially a call to arms.

SHAPIRO: Now, the Republican vice chair of the committee, Liz Cheney, ended this hearing on an explosive note, saying that Trump has reached out to a witness and the panel has referred the matter to the Justice Department. What does that tell you about where this is likely going?

GRISALES: Right. Yes. The panel has kept a tight hold on witness names for today's hearing, for example. And they said - we heard from aides who said this was due to new security concerns. And this follows other cases of potential witness tampering. Cheney also shared some examples of possible concerns there in a previous hearing. So we know the panel wants to hold another hearing next week focused on Trump's inaction during the attack. And Cheney previewed more of Cipollone's testimony that we expect to see there. With that all said, these new security concerns will likely shape how witness testimony is shared with the public in the future.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.