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Thursday, August 18, 2022

White House Insiders Will Talk About Trump’s Actions on January 6th

by Chris Megarian and Jill Colvin

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — Matthew Pottinger was a journalist in China concerned about the country’s turn to authoritarianism when he decided – at age 31 – to enlist in the US Marines after the invasion of Iraq.

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

Pottinger had no way of knowing when he first put on his military uniform, how close the fight for democracy would be to home. He became the deputy national security adviser to President Donald Trump, and he resigned after the January 6 attack that tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

On Thursday, he will be one of the key witnesses at the prime-time hearing of the Select House Committee probing the attack. The other is Sarah Mathews, who resigned as deputy press secretary the same day.

Pottinger and Matthews will join the exclusive club of Trump White House insiders with Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former assistant to Trump’s last chief of staff, who has appeared in public. His presence contrasts with the cadre of Trump loyalists who have tried to defy committee subpoenas, remain silent or continue to dismiss the findings of the investigation.

Any details about what Pottinger and Matthews will share on Thursday are kept under wraps, but the hearing is expected to focus on what Trump did — and didn’t — as his supporters marched to the US Capitol. and obstructed the formal authentication of the election. ,

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

Pottinger, 49, and Matthews, 27, may be able to illuminate what was happening behind the scenes as Trump resisted pleas from family, aides and Republicans to condemn the riot and urge people to leave the building. did.

As a member of the Press Office, Matthews was privy to debates over what the White House and Trump should say publicly and what other aides advised during the riots. And although Pottinger was focused on foreign policy, his position placed him at the crossroads of national security matters.

Whatever he saw that day, he decided to leave, helped start an exodus that included other White House staffers and various cabinet officials.

“These are people who believed in the work they were doing, but didn’t believe in stolen elections,” said Representative Elaine Luria, D-Va., a member of the selection committee.

“It’s an important part of telling the story of that day, because we’ll hear from people in the White House about what they saw, their reaction,” Luria said.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House director of strategic communications, said Pottinger and Matthews could be powerful witnesses, especially because of their very different backgrounds.

Pottinger, Griffin said, is a man of “extreme credibility” who is “highly respected in the national security sphere” and is not seen as overly political. In contrast, Matthews is “a tried-and-true Republican” who worked for Trump’s re-election campaign and was chosen to join the White House.

“I think his testimony will be incredibly compelling and carry a lot of weight,” said Griffin, who is supporting the committee’s work and discussed Matthews’ testimony with him.

Matthews began working as an intern for Republicans on Capitol Hill while she was still a student at Kent State University in Ohio. She was so eager to start her career in Washington that she moved to the city for her first job a month before graduation, missing her last weeks of college and finishing her final classes online, She told her alma mater in an interview two years ago. ,

Matthews was appointed as a deputy press secretary for Trump’s re-election campaign and was brought to the White House by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She worked in the area of ​​the West Wing known as the “Upper Press”, which places her closer to the Oval Office than others in her office.

Sometimes she joined Trump for media interviews, but mostly she asked questions from reporters and helped prepare for White House briefings.

When Mathews resigned on January 6, she issued a statement saying that “she was deeply disturbed by what I saw today.” On the anniversary of the attack, he described it as “one of the darkest days in American history”.

He tweeted, “Make no mistake, the events of the 6th were an attempted coup, a term we used to say, they happened in another country, and former President Trump failed to meet that moment.”

Pottinger did not release a statement when he resigned on January 6, but he did discuss the decision during previous, closed-door testimony to the committee.

While the riot was underway, Pottinger said, a staff member brought him a printout of a Trump tweet accusing Vice President Mike Pence of not having the courage to “do what should have been done” to reverse the election.

“I read that tweet and decided to resign at that very moment,” Pottinger said. “That’s where I knew I was going after reading that tweet that day.”

Pottinger took a more roundabout way to the White House than Matthews.

His father, John Stanley Pottinger, served as an assistant attorney general under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Matthew Pottinger 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 noting that “living in China also shows you what a non-democratic country can do to its citizens.”

Qualifying at the age of 31 was not easy. He wrote that after running for five minutes, he got winded and could only do half a pullup. But by the time he tested his physical fitness, he could do 13 pullups and run 3 miles in less than 21 minutes.

Pottinger was posted to Iraq as an intelligence officer, and later served in Afghanistan with US Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. At the time, Flynn was a respected military leader, not the originator of the conspiracy theories he has become today.

He ended up writing a report criticizing military intelligence efforts in Afghanistan. Years later, after Trump was elected, Flynn invited Pottinger to join the National Security Council. Flynn didn’t last long—he was ousted after a little more than three weeks because of his objections to his talks with the Russian ambassador to the US—but Pottinger stuck around.

He was promoted as Deputy National Security Advisor in 2019. Pottinger focused on Asia during his time in the Trump administration, and helped underscore a more aggressive stance towards China, rooted in his own experiences as a reporter in the country.

He is now a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Chair of the China Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writer Marie Claire Jalonik contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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