January 6 conference: White House people testify about Trump


Matthew Pottinger was a journalist in China, concerned about America’s move toward authoritarianism, when he decided – at the age of 31 – to enlist in the US Marines after the invasion of Iraq.

“Our form of government is not inevitable,” recalled Pottinger thinking in an interview two years ago with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Institute and Foundation. But it is a form of government well worth fighting for.”

Pottinger had no way of knowing when he wore his uniform for the first time near home how the battle for democracy would unfold. He became the deputy national security adviser to President Donald Trump, and he resigned after the January 6 attacks to prevent a peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

On Thursday, he will be one of the key witnesses at the primetime hearing of the committee selected to investigate the House hack. The other is Sarah Matthews, who resigned as deputy press secretary on the same day.

Pottinger and Matthews will join Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, in the exclusive club of people in the Trump White House who have made public appearances. Their appearance stands in stark contrast to the contingent of Trump loyalists who have tried to defy the committee’s subpoenas, remain silent or continue to refute the findings of the investigation.

Any details about what Pottinger and Matthews will share on Thursday have been kept private, but the hearing is expected to focus on what Trump did – and didn’t do – as supporters he flooded the United States Capitol and disrupted the ceremonial certification of the election.

About three hours passed between Trump’s speech at a rally near the White House and his release of a video calling the rioters “very special” but asking them to “go home now.”

Pottinger, 49, and Matthews, 27, can shed light on what’s going on behind the scenes as Trump resists pleas from his family, aides and Republicans to condemn the riots and push urge everyone to leave the building.

As a member of the press office, Matthews has been tight-lipped during the debates about what the White House and Trump should say publicly during the riots and what other aides advise. And although Pottinger focuses on foreign policy, his position puts him at the crossroads of national security issues.

Whatever they saw that day, they decided to give up, helping to start an exodus that included other White House staffers and various Cabinet officials.

“These are people who believe in the work they are doing, but not in the stolen election,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., a member of the selection committee.

Luria added, “That’s just an important part of telling the story of that day, because we’re going to hear from the people at the White House, what they observed, their reaction.”

Alyssa Farah Griffin, the former White House director of strategic communications, said Pottinger and Matthews could make strong witnesses, especially since they come from so different backgrounds.

Pottinger, Griffin said, is a man of “great reputation” who is “highly respected in the field of national security” and is not considered openly political. By contrast, Matthews is “a tried and true Republican” who worked on Trump’s re-election campaign and was selected to join the White House.

Griffin, who has always been supportive of the committee’s work and discussed Matthews’ testimony with her: “I think their testimony will be extremely convincing and weighty.

Matthews began working for the Republican Party on Capitol Hill as an intern at Kent State University in Ohio. She was so eager to start her career in Washington, she moved to the city for her first job a month before graduation, missed the final weeks of college and finished her classes. final school online, she told her alma mater in an interview two years ago. .

Matthews was hired as deputy press secretary for Trump’s re-election campaign and was brought to the White House by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She works in the West Wing area known as “upper journalism,” which puts her closer to the Oval Office than others in her office.

She sometimes joins Trump for media interviews, but mostly she answers questions from reporters and helps prepare for White House briefings.

When Matthews stepped down on January 6, she released a statement saying she was “deeply confused by what I saw today.” On the anniversary of the attack, she called it “one of the darkest days in American history.”

“Make no mistake, the events of the 6th were a coup attempt, a term we would use if they had occurred in any other country and former President Trump had failed to respond at the time.” this point,” she wrote on Twitter.

Pottinger did not make a statement when he resigned on January 6, but he discussed the decision in confidential testimony earlier with the committee.

While the riots were going on, Pottinger said, an employee brought him a printout of a tweet from Trump accusing Vice President Mike Pence of not having the “courage to do what should have been done” to overthrow the president. reverse the election.

Pottinger said: “I read that tweet and decided to resign immediately. That’s where I knew I was leaving that day when I read that tweet.

Pottinger took more detours to the White House than Matthews.

His father, John Stanley Pottinger, served as an assistant attorney general under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He studied China in college, then moved to the country to work as a reporter for Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

But in 2005, he joined the Marines. Explaining his unusual decision, Pottinger wrote an essay saying that “living in China also shows you what an undemocratic country can do to its citizens”.

Qualifying at the age of 31 is not easy. He wrote that he hit the wind after running for five minutes, and that he was only able to do half a pullup. But by the time of the fitness test, he could do 13 pull-ups and run 3 miles in less than 21 minutes.

Pottinger was deployed to Iraq as an intelligence officer, and he later worked in Afghanistan alongside U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. At the time, Flynn was a respected military leader, not the promoter of the conspiracy theories he has become today.

Finally, they wrote a report criticizing military intelligence efforts in Afghanistan. Years later, after Trump was elected, Flynn invited Pottinger to join him on the National Security Council. Flynn didn’t last long – he was forced out after more than three weeks because of the hidden details of his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US – but Pottinger kept going.

He was promoted to deputy national security adviser in 2019. Pottinger focused on Asia during his time in the Trump administration, and helped map out a more positive stance towards China, one that is compelling. source from his own experience as a local reporter.

Currently, he is a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institute and chair of the China program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Colvin reports from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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