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- Former Trump WH staffer Sarah Matthews described tension in the press office as January 6 unfolded.
- She said an aide argued that Trump shouldn’t condemn violence because the media would “win.”
- The aide, Chad Gilmartin, now works for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
According to testimony released on Thursday by the January 6 committee, a former White House press aide who is now employed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushed back against efforts to get former President Donald Trump to condemn violence at the Capitol amid the assault.
Sarah Matthews, who served as the White House Deputy Press Secretary in 2020 before resigning on the day of the assault on the Capitol, made the revelation when she spoke with committee investigators in February 2022 of this year.
Matthews said that on January 6, 2021, as images emerged of rioters inside the Capitol building, she and other staffers in the White House communications office were having a discussion about the need for former President Donald Trump to issue a condemnation of the violence.
At that point, he had simply issued a tweet urging “everyone at the US Capitol to remain peaceful.”
“It didn’t meet the moment, because I thought there needed to be a forceful condemnation of the violence that was already occurring and a call to action,” Matthews told investigators. She added that White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was “receptive” to the idea.
But then Chad Gilmartin, then the Principal Assistant Press Secretary, pushed back.
“His reasoning was that he felt like by — condemning the violence acknowledged that these were his supporters and that it would let the media, quote, ‘win,’ end quote,” she told investigators, according to the transcript.
She added that Gilmartin saw a double standard, pointing to Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020 that sometimes grew violent. “Democrats were never asked to condemn that violence,” she said, relaying his view.
She also said that there was a discussion of “well, it could be antifa,” but did not attribute that directly to Gilmartin. She said the argument continued between her, Gilmartin, and McEnany who is married to Sean Gilmartin, a cousin of Chad Gilmartin’s.
“Do you think we’re winning right now?” Matthews recounted yelling in response, pointing at the television.
Matthews went on to say that McEnany didn’t take either side of the dispute and that both she and Gilmartin were “two of the people that she listened to the advice of the most in the office.” She also said Gilmartin appeared to be the only one arguing that point of view.
Gilmartin now works as a communications adviser for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who appears likely to be the next Speaker of the House. The Republican leader, who was present at the Capitol on January 6, said amid impeachment proceedings days later that Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” He also considered censuring Trump.
But since then, McCarthy has re-established a close working relationship with Trump, and has himself defied a subpoena from the January 6 committee.
Neither Gilmartin nor McCarthy’s office immediately responded to Insider’s request for comment.