The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill spent roughly eight hours Thursday grilling Stephen Miller, a top White House adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, in an exchange at times contentious that included questions about Trump’s speech before a crowd the morning of the riot, according to two people familiar with the session.
Investigators repeatedly asked Miller about his use of the word “we” during Trump’s Ellipse speech outside the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, the people said, in an apparent effort to determine whether the former president he had been directing his supporters to join him in taking action to prevent Congress from certifying his defeat. Miller argued that the language was no different from any other political speech.
Miller was Trump’s top domestic policy adviser and his chief speechwriter. He is the latest former White House official to appear before the committee, a day after former White House aide Pat A. Cipollone and his deputy Patrick F. Philbin appeared. Mr. Miller was subpoenaed in November 2021, but fought panel efforts to obtain information from him, appearing only after lengthy negotiation with committee officials.
Miller did not respond to a message seeking comment. But the two people familiar with her appearance, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the confidential interview, described the session as heated at times. Miller invoked executive privilege when asked about his conversations with Trump, including a phone call White House records show she had with the former president on the morning of Jan. 6, one of the people said.
Among the most contentious exchanges was the draft of the speech Trump delivered that morning at a rally called Stop the Steal near the White House. Thousands of rallygoers marched from that event to the Capitol, where they stormed the building just as Congress convened to formalize the Electoral College victory of Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Trump repeatedly used the word “we” in his remarks that day. “We won’t take it anymore, and that’s what this is all about,” Trump said. “And to use a favorite term that all of you really came up with: we will stop theft.”
Miller refuted the suggestion that the word “we” indicated Trump was trying to goad the crowd into action, one of the people said, arguing that it has been used in political speech for decades, including by President John F. Kennedy in reference to the moon landing.
Another point of contention with Miller was Trump’s false claims about widespread voter fraud. Miller, people familiar with his appearance said, argued that the election had been stolen, claiming there were several examples of fraud.
Investigators also pressed Miller about his involvement in plans to field pro-Trump voters in states won by Biden as part of an attempt to keep Trump in office.
When the Electoral College met to vote in December 2020, Mr. Miller announced on Fox News that state lawmakers in several “battleground states” were submitting “an alternative list of electors” to Congress.
“This will ensure that all of our legal remedies remain open,” Miller said.
Despite his appearance on Thursday, Mr. Miller has taken an adversarial stance toward the committee. Last month, he filed a lawsuit to block investigators from getting access to his phone records, arguing in part that the panel was invading his parents’ privacy since he was on his family plan.
Aftermath of Capitol Riot: Key Developments
Discuss a criminal referral. The House committee on Jan. 6 has been divided on whether to make a criminal referral of former President Donald J. Trump to the Justice Department, even though it concluded it has enough evidence to do so. The debate centers on whether a reference would backfire by politically tainting the sprawling federal investigation.
The committee has in its possession a draft of Trump’s speech, which investigators have been particularly interested in as they explore inflammatory language and whether he encouraged rally attendees to march on Capitol Hill.
Miller helped write the speech, although other members of his team are said to have played a larger role. Two other team speechwriters, Vince Haley and Ross Worthington, have already testified before the committee.
Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, claimed that Trump improvised the part of his remarks in which he told the crowd to march on Capitol Hill. But the committee obtained contemporaneous testimony and notes from a former senior White House official that directly contradict Meadows’s statements, the panel said.
“That former top official explained that the president really wanted to walk or drive with protesters to Capitol Hill at the end of his speech on Jan. 6,” wrote Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is the committee’s chairman. in a letter to Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, asking her to testify.
Trump also recently acknowledged to The Washington Post that he wanted to join the march on Capitol Hill, but was prevented from doing so by the Secret Service. The Times and other outlets reported shortly after the riots that Trump wanted to march but was told he couldn’t.