During the seventh congressional hearing into the 2021 Capitol riots, the panel on Tuesday presented additional evidence that Trump was repeatedly told that his claims of fraud were false, but continued to insist on them anyway.
At the same time, the committee accused him of urging his supporters to go to Washington on January 6, 2021, not only to protest, but also to “be wild” as Congress confirmed President Joe Biden’s election victory.
“A call to action… a call to arms”
The focus of Tuesday’s hearing was a tweet Trump sent on Dec. 19, 2020, that spoke of a “big protest” at the upcoming joint session of Congress. “Be there, it will be wild!” He wrote.
Stephanie Murphy, a member of the Democratic caucus, said the tweet “served as a call to action and, in some cases, a call to arms.”
She said the president “called for reinforcements” as he argued that Vice President Mike Pence and other Republicans did not have the courage to try to block Biden’s certification.
The tweet “electrified and energized” Trump supporters, said Jamie Raskin, another member of the Democratic committee, especially “dangerous extremists from the Oathkeepers, the Pride Boys and other far-right racist and white nationalist groups rushing to fight.”
The committee also showed a montage of videos and social media posts after the tweet was sent, as supporters reacted and planned trips to Washington, some of them using violent rhetoric and talking about killing cops.
The committee put together video clips from the interview to describe the allegedly chaotic meeting on December 18, hours before Trump’s tweet.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who testified live before the commission two weeks ago, called the meeting between White House aides and informal advisers “unbalanced” in a message that evening to another Trump aide.
Other aides described “shouting” and profanity at the meeting as advisers put forward wild theories of election fraud without any evidence to back them up, and how White House lawyers aggressively fought back.
The video clips included testimony from lawyer Sydney Powell, who came up with some of the wildest theories, including hacked voting machines and hacked thermostats, which she tried to tie to false allegations of fraud.
White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, one of the aides who spoke out, said the theories were “crazy” and “it got to the point where screaming was completely, completely out.”
Aides recounted six hours of erratic back and forth chatter, starting with Trump talking to a group of informal advisers without the presence of White House aides.
– Where is the evidence?
Both Pat Cipollone, a White House adviser, and Powell said in interviews that Cipollone broke in to disrupt the meeting.
Cipollone, who spoke privately with the committee last week following the subpoena, said he didn’t think the group was giving Trump good advice and said he and other White House lawyers just kept asking them, “Where’s the evidence? “. But they didn’t get good answers, he said.
A few hours later, at 1:42 a.m., Trump posted his “be wild” tweet.
Two witnesses were present in the hearing room to testify – a rioter who pleaded guilty to infiltrating the Capitol, and a former Oathkeeper who described his experiences with the group.
Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last month to charges of petty disorderly conduct and is due in September, said he was in Washington on January 6 at Trump’s direction and that he left the Capitol when Trump was hours later. – told them in a tweet to leave.
“Basically, we just followed what the president said,” Ayres said.
He said his arrest less than a month later “changed my life, but not for the better,” and he is angry that he was hanging on Trump’s every word, and that some people still do it.
When asked if he still believes the election was stolen, Ayres replied, “It’s not like that anymore.”
Jason Van Tatenhove, a former ally of Oathkeeper leader Stuart Rhodes, who left the group years before the uprising, called the group a “violent militia”.
“I think we need to stop being stingy with words and just talk about the truth – and this was supposed to be an armed revolution,” he said. “I mean, people died that day. This could be the spark that started a new civil war.”
Rhodes and other members of the Keepers of the Oath, as well as another far-right group, the Proud Boys, were charged with sedition in the most serious cases filed by the Justice Department in connection with the January 6 attack.
The investigation is ongoing.