WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers pressed Stephen Miller, a top aide to former President Donald Trump, during a daylong closed-door interview about Trump’s speech at a rally that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, according to two people familiar with Miller’s testimony.
Miller was questioned for roughly eight hours Thursday by the House committee investigating the riot, which occurred when large crowds of Trump supporters stormed the building in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
Miller’s appearance grew contentious at times times, particularly as he pushed back against claims that Trump’s speech contained incendiary, coded language that had spurred his supporters to act, according to two people familiar with the questioning. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the back-and-forth during the closed interview.
That language included Trump’s repeated use of the word “we” to address his supporters. At one point during the speech, Trump said: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Miller rejected the significance of that language, the people said, arguing that personal rhetoric like that has been used in American politics going back to the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address.
Lawyers for Miller, who served as Trump’s domestic policy adviser and speechwriter, also asserted executive privilege multiple times during the session.
A committee spokesperson declined to comment Friday. The New York Times earlier reported on Miller’s testimony.
Miller is the latest in a series of sit-downs the committee has scored with those in Trump’s inner circle as lawmakers move closer to the former president by questioning people who were with him on the day of the attack or were his confidants in the weeks leading up to it.
In demanding his testimony last November, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Miller was aware of and had participated in “efforts to spread false information about alleged voter fraud” and had encouraged state legislatures to alter the outcome of the 2020 election by appointing alternate electors.
Thompson has also said that Miller helped prepare Trump’s remarks at the Ellipse.
Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.