Trump called Willard Hotel 'war room' as allies plotted coup on 'eerie' night before Capitol riot: author
Donald Trump (AFP)

Donald Trump called into the "war room" set up at the Willard Hotel as some of his chief allies coordinated efforts to block the certification of Joe Biden's election win, according to a reporter who was present.

Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, co-author of the book "Peril" with his colleague Bob Woodward, was outside the hotel on Jan. 5 as Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and others gathered inside ahead of the "Save America" rally, and only now does he recognize the significance of what happened at that time.

"To this day I wish I had banged a little harder on that door, because it was a freezing cold night," Costa told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I was roaming around, and it was -- I still remember we talked about it as we were writing it because we didn't know. When you write a book, it takes months to understand the context of what's happening, what actually happened. But that night was eerie."

"We didn't know at the time that Trump's over at the White House, pounding into [vice president Mike] Pence in the one-on-one Oval Office meeting, and then after it doesn't go well for Trump, he calls into the Willard War room, and this is the key thing we found for 'Peril,'" Costa added. "It's not just a Willard war room happening in an isolated way across the street. The president is calling in, Trump's calling in. He's coordinating this effort to speak for Pence. Remember, late at night as you detailed earlier, Trump's issuing a statement saying Pence agrees with me. He's effectively taking over the vice presidency, at least in terms of the public message. This is all just hours before the insurrection."

Woodward said, based on the evidence they've already gathered, that Trump and his allies appear to have committed at least one crime.

"We talked recently with a Republican, former Republican head of the criminal division in the Justice Department, who said there is a lay-down case just in what we know," Woodward said. "It's 18 U.S. Code, section 371. I'm sorry this sounds technical, but it is. It's a law that says it's a crime to defraud the government in any deceptive way, and that's exactly what they did here."