Trump Says He Didn't Watch Jan. 6 Unfold on TV—Witnesses Say Otherwise

Donald Trump has said he didn't hear about the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol until "afterwards" and was "not watching television," during an interview with New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.

Haberman is the author of Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, a new account of Trump's life and presidency.

In an audio recording, played on CNN, Haberman asked Trump, "How did you find out there were people storming the Capitol?"

Rioters fight police during Congress storming 2021
Trump supporters clashed with police and security forces as they stormed the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. Trump (Inset) told Haberman he didn't hear about the attack until "afterwards." Getty

"I had heard that afterwards," Trump said. "And actually, on the late side. I was watching with Mark Meadows and others. I was not watching television. I didn't have the television on."

Haberman replied: "You weren't? OK."

"I didn't usually have the television on. I then later turned it on and saw what was happening," Trump said. "I also had confidence that the Capitol [Police], who didn't want these 10,000 people, that they'd be able to control this thing. And you don't realize they did lose control."

Capitol Hill was overrun by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021, who were trying to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.

Trump has said the election had been rigged against him, though this has repeatedly been rejected by courts across the U.S. and independent polling experts.

More than 150 police officers were injured after being attacked with a range of weapons including clubs, rocks and bear spray during the January 6 riot.

Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Trump supporter, was shot dead by a police officer inside the Capitol Hill complex, and an investigation later found the officer involved acted lawfully.

Trump's claims appear to contradict statements made by a number of his former officials to the House committee investigating the January 6 attack.

General Keith Kellogg, the president's acting national security advisor, told the January 6 Committee he saw Trump in the White House dining room during the afternoon of January 6, 2021.

Referring to Trump and his aides, including then-White House chief of staff Meadows, he said: "I think everybody was watching TV."

Molly Michael, Trump's former executive assistant, added, "it's my understanding he was watching television" in the White House dining room.

CBS News reports "witnesses" as saying that on January 6, 2021, "President Trump sat in his usual spot, at the head of the table facing a television hanging on the wall."

The network added: "We know from the employee that the TV was turned to Fox News all afternoon."

Speaking to Newsweek, Norman Eisen, author and former White House Special Counsel for Ethics under President Barack Obama, accused Trump of spreading fresh "fabrications."

"After a reported 30,000 falsehoods as president, and a post-presidency dedicated to the Big Lie that the 2020 election was purloined from him (it wasn't), it is hardly surprising that Donald Trump has told another," Eisen told Newsweek. "But this a particularly brazen one because there is so much evidence to the contrary. There is little that could be more unethical for a former president than these kinds of fabrications."

The former president's claim was also condemned by Reed Galen, co-founder of anti-Trump conservative group The Lincoln Project.

"Nothing Donald Trump says can be believed," Galen told Newsweek. "He tells nothing but lies about his leading role in a conspiracy to overthrow the results of a valid election. Trump is desperate to avoid going to jail and will say and do almost anything to stay a free man."

Charges stemming from January 6

Five members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right pro-Trump group, who allegedly participated in the January 6 attack have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

In January 2022, Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who was seen leading rioters away from the unprotected Senate chamber during the riot, told the 3 Brothers No Sense podcast that January 6 "could have easily been a bloodbath."

A poll released in January 2021 found that 54 percent of Americans think the Justice Department will bring criminal charges against Trump regarding January 6, while 37 percent disagree.

Newsweek has reached out to Donald Trump for comment.

Update 10/4/22 9:30 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional comment.