UPDATE: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said that former President Donald Trump tried to reach out to a January 6th Committee witness, who has not yet been heard from at the hearings, and that the incident has been reported to the Justice Department.
“We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously,” Cheney said toward the end of Tuesday’s hearing.
Cheney said that the witness “declined to answer” Trump’s call, but instead referred the matter to their attorney, who then contacted the committee.
“This committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice,” Cheney said.
She said that Trump made the call after the last committee hearing, in which Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified.
At the committee’s last hearing, Cheney also warned of efforts to intimidate or influence committee witnesses.
BREAKING: Former Pres. Trump tried to call a witness in Jan. 6 committee investigation, Liz Cheney says.
"That person declined to answer or respond to Pres. Trump's call, and instead alerted their lawyer…This committee has supplied that information to the Dept. of Justice." pic.twitter.com/UjRIy4Gm3o
— ABC News (@ABC) July 12, 2022
PREVIOUSLY: The January 6th Committee once again delivered a riveting and disturbing narrative of the lead up to January 6th and the aftermath, in a nearly three-hour hearing that included vivid testimony about Donald Trump’s culpability for instigating the siege on the Capitol.
The hearing’s two witnesses, Jason Van Tatenhove, former spokesman for OathKeepers, and Stephen Ayres, who plead guilty to entering the Capitol on January 6th, bolstered the argument that Trump’s rhetoric mobilized extremist groups and faithful supporters to come to Washington on that date.
“We basically we just following what he said,” Ayres told the committee.
That included following Trump’s every tweet. Ayers told the committee that, had Trump called off his supporters from the Capitol earlier in the afternoon, “we wouldn’t be in as bad of a situation.” Instead, Trump waited until 4 PM, after the Capitol had been sacked, to call the crowd to disperse.
Ayres also said that he had not planned to go to the Capitol that day and instead just attend Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. But Ayres said that he went when Trump, in his Ellipse speech, called on his supporters to march there. Trump said that he would be there with them, but he did not go.
“The president got everybody riled up,” Ayres said.
Ayres said that he believed Trump’s election claims, but doesn’t “so much anymore.” Ayres plead guilty to a disorderly conduct charge and is due to be sentenced this fall. He described himself as captivated by social media, with pro-Donald Trump posts ultimately luring him to travel to Washington. He told the committee had he known that Trump had no evidence to back up his election claims, he may not have come to D.C.
“I consider myself a family man. I love my country,” Ayres said. “I don’t think any one man is bigger than any one of those.”
Van Tatenhove testified that the Oath Keepers was mainly a way for its founder, Stewart Rhodes, to create a paramilitary organization, warning that the attack on the Capitol “could have been spark that started a civil war.”
He warned that the threat isn’t over, either, telling the committee that if Trump is elected in 2024, “all bets are off at that point.”
The committee presented evidence that Oath Keepers and Proud Boys members were in contact with Roger Stone, who has been an informal adviser to Trump, and Michael Flynn, who served briefly as national security adviser. They each spoke at a rally near the White House on the evening of January 5. According to testimony from the committee, Trump was in the Oval Office at the time and had one of the doors opened so he could hear the noise from it.
The hearing also had a number of other revelations.
On the night of January 6th, Brad Parscale, who was Trump’s campaign manager in 2020 and adviser in 2016, sent texts to Katrina Pierson, who was involved in planning the rally at the Ellipse.
“This is about Trump pushing uncertainty in our country. A sitting president asking for civil war,” Parscale wrote. “This week I feel guilty for helping him win.”
Pierson responded, “You did what you felt right at the time and therefore it was right.”
“Yeah, but a woman is dead,” Parscale wrote back.
“You do realize this was going to happen,” Pierson wrote.
“Yeah if I was Trump and knew my rhetoric killed someone.”
“It wasn’t the rhetoric,” Pierson wrote.
“Katrina,” Parscale responded, “Yes it was.”
Pence pressure: Trump’s speech on January 6th originally did not include references to Vice President Mike Pence, whom he was pressuring to reject the electoral vote count. When Pence told Trump that he would not try to block the count because he did not have the authority to do so. Trump called him a “wimp” and other insults, and then his speechwriters were ordered to put references to Pence back in the speech. The speech was to include just one reference to Pence; Trump ended up calling out his vice president six times at the rally. At the Capitol, supporters were heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
Planned march: Despite claims that Trump’s call for his supporters to march to the Capitol was spontaneous, the committee presented more evidence that it was, in fact, planned in advance. The committee showed a draft tweet in which Trump called for supporters to show up at the Ellipse for his speech and then there would be “march to the Capitol after. Stop the steal!!” The draft tweet, obtained from the National Archives, was marked with the words, “President has seen.” The committee is trying to establish that the attack on the Capitol was not some kind of spontaneous event, but pre-planned and fueled by Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him.
PREVIOUSLY: Steve Bannon spoke to Donald Trump twice by phone on January 5, the day before the attack on the Capitol, according to the January 6th Committee.
After the first, 11-minute conversation, Bannon said on his podcast, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” They later spoke in the evening, according to the committee, for six minutes.
Bannon, former chief strategist to Trump, is facing contempt charges for rejecting the committee’s subpoena, but has recently agreed to appear before the committee.
PREVIOUSLY: A Twitter employee, whose face and voice was obscured, said that Donald Trump’s early morning Dec. 19 tweet, calling for a rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, produced threatening responses that “felt as if a mob was being organized.”
“They were gathering together their weaponry and their logic and their reasoning,” the anonymous employee said, who was “shocked” over the responses to the then-president’s tweet. Trump tweeted for supporters to show up. “Be there, will be wild!” he wrote.
After the tweet was sent, Alex Jones, the far right conspiracy theorist, called for Trump supporters to show up on January 6th. Other supporters posted messages on far-right and racist message boards, advocating violence against police guarding the Capitol. Jody Williams, operator of the far right site Thedonald.win, said in his video testimony that other plans fell by the wayside and “anything else was going to be shut out and it was just on the 6th.”
The Twitter employee said that after Trump said, at his Sept. 29 debate with Joe Biden, that the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by,” there was concern at the company because it was the first time Trump was “speaking directly to extremist organizations.” But no action was taken to change policy, as Twitter “relished in the knowledge that they were also the favorite and most used service” by Trump.
Trump wrote the tweet after a stormy, six-hour meeting in which Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn and Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock, clashed with members of the White House staff, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. It was unclear how the group, which some White House staffers referred to as “the crazies,” gained access to the White House and, for a period, met with Trump in private.
Cipollone got wind of the meeting and, when he entered the Oval Office, was “not happy” to see Powell and Flynn there. He said that he didn’t even know who Byrne was. “I told him, who are you?” Cipollone said.
In the meeting, they pressed their false election fraud claims, even as Cipollone and other White House officials challenged them to come up with evidence. They could not, and Eric Hershmann, a White House lawyer, said that they never could produce it. “It got to the point where the screaming was completely, completely out there,” Hershmann said in his video testimony. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a member of the committee, said that the confrontations got so heated that there were challenges to come to physical blows.
Giuliani said that he told the White House advisers that they were “not tough” and “pussies,” while Trump complained that his White House staff was bereft of ideas to challenge the results. On Dec. 14, states certified their results, affirming that Joe Biden had won the election, while Trump’s legal team and other allies had lost dozens of legal challenges.
Powell had advanced the idea of Trump issuing an executive order, drawn up at the Trump International Hotel, to seize voting machines and appoint her a special counsel, one with a security clearance, but that was rejected by Cipollone and other White House officials.
“I was vehemently opposed,” Cipollone said in his testimony from last week. “I don’t think she should have been appointed to anything.”
He said the proposal for the federal government to seize voting machines was a “terrible idea for the country.” But Trump berated them
At the time, Cassidy Hutchinson, the aide to then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, called the meeting “unhinged.”
PREVIOUSLY: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the vice chair of the January 6th Committee, said that the hearing has had an impact in that, among Donald Trump’s defenders, “there appears to be a recognition that the committee has established key facts.”
The argument from team Trump, she said, has shifted to claims that Trump was ill served by advisers in the lead up to January 6th, including figures like attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and that the then-president “couldn’t tell right from wrong.”
But given that he was told repeatedly that his claims of election fraud were bogus, Cheney said, Trump cannot escape responsibility.
PREVIOUSLY: Two weeks after a surprise witness delivered devastating testimony about then-President Donald Trump’s conduct during the Capitol attack, the January 6th Committee returned with a hearing focused on the role of extremist groups in planning the siege.
But Tuesday’s hearing, once again carried across broadcast and cable networks, also is expected to shed some light on the closed-door testimony last week of Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, with reports that he did not dispute what has been heard in past hearings. In an interview with NBC News, committee member Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said that he did not hear Cipollone contradict what Cassidy Hutchinson testified to earlier this month.
Hutchinson, former aide to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified that Trump and Meadows had been warned about the possibility of violence on that day. She also testified that Trump was more concerned with his crowd size at the Ellipse rally on January 6, rather than concerns over his own security given that some of the demonstrators had weapons. “They’re not hear to hurt me,” Trump said, according to her account. She also said that Cipollone warned that they would be charged with “every crime imaginable” if Trump was allowed to travel to the Capitol after his rally.
The hearing on Tuesday is expected to include clips of Cipollone’s testimony from Tuesday.
A focus of the committee also was expected to be on ties that far right groups like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys had to Trump allies.
The hearings themselves have had a noticeable uptick in the number of reporters in the room as well as visitors watching in person. A couple dozen stood off to the side of the Canon Caucus Room. The interest is a contrast to the hearings that preceded Trump’s first impeachment, with gallery seats unfilled as the sessions went on.
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