Jan. 6 hearing focuses on how extremists answered Trump's 'call to arms'

The Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday focused on ways violent far-right extremists answered Donald Trump's tweet for a big Washington rally as a "call to arms," as the panel probed whether they co-ordinated with White House allies in the deadly U.S. Capitol attack and effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Members of Proud Boys, Oath Keepers have been charged separately by Justice Department

Day 7 of U.S. Capitol attack hearings focuses on extremist groups, Trump’s connection

1 year ago
Duration 2:46
During Day 7 of the committee hearings investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the committee introduced witnesses that connect former president Donald Trump to the organizers of the attack.

The Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday focused on ways violent far-right extremists answered Donald Trump's tweet for a big Washington rally as a "call to arms," as the panel probed whether they co-ordinated with White House allies in the deadly U.S. Capitol attack and effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is delving into what it calls the final phase of Trump's multi-pronged effort to halt Joe Biden's victory. As dozens of lawsuits and false claims of voter fraud fizzled, Trump met late into the night of Dec. 18 with attorneys at the White House before tweeting the rally invitation — "Be there, will be wild!"

Members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups who are now facing rare sedition charges readily answered the invitation.

"This tweet served as a call to action — and in some cases a call to arms," said one panel member, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.

Tuesday's hearing was the seventh for the Jan. 6 committee. Over the past month, the panel has created a narrative of a defeated Trump "detached from reality," clinging to false claims of voter fraud and working feverishly to reverse his election defeat. It all culminated with the attack on the Capitol, the committee says.

WATCH | Trump must be held responsible for role in Capitol attack, Cheney says: 

'Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being wilfully blind,' says Cheney

1 year ago
Duration 2:25
In her opening remarks during Tuesday's hearings on the Jan. 6 attack, Rep. Liz Cheney called for the former president to be held responsible for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

'What they were proposing … was nuts'

The panel featured new video testimony from Pat Cipollone, Trump's former White House counsel, recalling the explosive late-night meeting at the White House when Trump's outside legal team brought a draft executive order to seize states' voting machines — a "terrible idea," he said.

"That's not how we do things in the United States," Cipollone testified.

He and other White House officials scrambled to intervene in the late-night meeting Trump was having with attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, retired national security aide Michael Flynn and the head of the online retail company Overstock. It erupted in shouting and screaming, another aide testified.

"Where is the evidence?" Cipollone demanded about the false claims of voter fraud.

WATCH l 'You have to put up or shut up,' former White House counsel said: 

'You have to put up or shut up': former White House senior staffer

1 year ago
Duration 1:17
In his deposition on the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone said he was concerned people were still claiming election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, and thought Sidney Powell's proposal for the federal government to seize voting machines was a 'terrible idea.'

"What they were proposing, I thought, was nuts," testified another White House official, Eric Herschmann.

But Trump was intrigued and essentially told his White House lawyers that at least Powell and outside allies were trying to do something.

"You guys are not tough enough," Giuliani in video testimony recalled the president telling the White House attorneys. "You guys are p-----s," he said, using crass language.

Graphic, violent text messages

As night turned to morning, Trump tweeted the call for supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6, when Congress would be tallying the Electoral College results. He wrote, "Be there, will be wild!"

Immediately, the extremists reacted.

The panel showed graphic and violent text messages and played videos of right-wing figures, including Alex Jones and others, laying out that Jan. 6 would be the day they would fight for the president.

In vulgar and often racist language the messages beaming across the far-right forums planned for the big day that they said Trump was asking for in Washington. It would be a "red wedding," said one, a reference to an episode of the television show Game of Thrones that featured mass killing. "Bring handcuffs."

Several members of the U.S. Capitol Police who fought the mob that day sat stone-faced in the front row of the committee room.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., talks with Vice-Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., left, as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing in Washington on Tuesday. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

"The problem of politicians whipping up mob violence to destroy fair elections is the oldest domestic enemy of constitutional democracy," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., in opening remarks.

At the witness table to testify in person was Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. Another witness was Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last month to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. He has said that on Jan. 2, 2021, he posted an image stating that Trump was "calling on us to come back to Washington on January 6th for a big protest."

WATCH | Former Trump supporter Stephen Ayres speaks to Jan. 6 committee: 

Former Trump supporter speaks to congressional committee

1 year ago
Duration 1:11
Stephen Ayres, a former Trump supporter who was a part of the riot that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, said he might not have even come to join the mob if he had known advisers told President Trump there was no election fraud.

The committee is probing whether the extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon adherents who had rallied for Trump before, co-ordinated with White House allies for Jan. 6. The Oath Keepers have denied there was any plan to storm the Capitol.

The committee began the second half of the hearing making connections between Trump allies Flynn and Roger Stone and the extremist groups that were preparing to come to Washington.

It showed a picture of Rhodes, the Oath Keeper leader, walking with Flynn, former national security aide to Trump, outside the Capitol at some point.

The committee also heard from Trump's former campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson, who testified about her concerns around those planning for Jan. 6.

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the militia group known as the Oath Keepers, centre, speaks during a rally outside the White House in 2017. The activities of extremist groups, including the Oath Keepers, are under scrutiny by the Jan. 6 committee. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

This was the only hearing this week, as new details emerge. An expected prime-time hearing Thursday has been shelved for now.

Stunning testimony by former aide

This week's session came after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided stunning accounts under oath of an angry Trump who knowingly sent armed supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then refused to quickly call them off as violence erupted, siding with the rioters as they searched menacingly for Vice-President Mike Pence.

Trump has said Cassidy's account is not true. But at Friday's private session, Cipollone did not contradict earlier testimony. Raskin said the panel planned to use "a lot" of Cipollone's testimony.

From left, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., staff counsel Dan George, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., staff counsel Candyce Phoenix, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., sit on the dais as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

On Dec. 29, the Proud Boys chairman posted a message on social media that said members planned to "turn out in record numbers on Jan. 6th," according to a federal indictment.

The group planned to meet at the Washington Monument, its members instructed not to wear its traditional black and yellow colours, but be "incognito."

The Proud Boys have said their membership grew after Trump, during his first debate with Biden, refused to outright condemn the group and instead told them to "stand back and stand by."

Committee member Jamie Raskin's tweet on Monday: 

Oath Keepers had 'quick response force': court filings

The night before Jan. 6, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio met with Oath Keepers leader Rhodes at an underground parking garage, according to court filings along with images a documentary filmmaker trailing the group provided to the panel.

The Oath Keepers had also been organizing for Jan. 6 and established a "quick response force" at a nearby hotel in Virginia, according to court filings.

A man in a baseball cap, glasses and COVID mask gestures as he speaks in front of microphones.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio speaks to the media in Washington on Jan. 14 after being released from custody from the D.C. Central Detention Facility where he had been held since September 2021. Tarrio and other Proud Boys face federal charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

After the Capitol siege, Rhodes called someone with an urgent message for Trump, another group member has said. Rhodes was denied a chance to speak to Trump, but urged the person on the phone to tell the Republican president to call upon militia groups to fight to keep the president in power.

An attorney for Rhodes recently told the committee that he wants to testify publicly. Rhodes was already interviewed by the committee privately, and it's unlikely the panel will agree.

The panel also intends to note that many of the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol appeared to be QAnon believers. Federal authorities have explicitly linked at least 38 rioters to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory, according to an Associated Press review of court records.

One of the most recognizable figures from the attack was a shirtless Arizona man who called himself the "QAnon Shaman." He carried a spear and wore face paint and a Viking hat with fur and horns.

WATCH l Catch up on highlights from previous televised committee hearing:

Trump knew Jan. 6 rallygoers had weapons, key aide testifies

1 year ago
Duration 5:39
Donald Trump dismissed the danger of armed protesters headed to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a key former White House aide told investigators Tuesday.

A core belief among QAnon followers is that Trump was secretly fighting a cabal of "deep state" operatives, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites, some of whom worship Satan and engage in sex trafficking of children.

The panel has shown, over the course of fast-paced hearings and with eyewitness accounts from the former president's inner circle, that Trump was told "over and over," as Vice-Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said, that he had lost the election and his claims of voter fraud were just not true.

As the three-hour hearing ended, Cheney said that Trump had tried to call a witness who had yet to appear, suggesting a possible instance of witness tampering that she said had been referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously," Cheney said.

With files from Reuters