January 6 committee says extremists knew Trump would tell them to march to Capitol

Former president refused to accept 2020 election results and misled supporters, panel says

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Former president Donald Trump encouraged far-right extremist groups to come to Washington and then incited them to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, the US House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly insurrection said on Tuesday.

In its seventh public hearing presenting evidence from a year-long probe, the panel heard from the former spokesman of the Oath Keepers, who said the anti-government militia was well prepared for violence.

“We need to quit mincing words … It was going to be an armed revolution. I mean, people died that day,” Jason Van Tatenhove testified.

“There was a gallows set up … This could've been the spark that started a new civil war.”

He later said: “What else is he going to do if he gets elected again? All bets are off.”

The nine-member committee described how organisers behind various January 6 rallies had planned ahead of time to march on the Capitol, but co-ordinated to keep plans secret.

The panel presented evidence of an unpublished tweet Mr Trump drafted for the rally outside the White House — which included "March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!" wording — and how members of the Trump team had told rally organisers that he would “unexpectedly” order protesters to the Capitol at the end of his speech.

Stephen Ayres, who took part in the Capitol riot, told the panel that he followed Mr Trump's orders on January 6 to march on the seat of American democracy.

“The president got everybody riled up, told everybody head on down. So we, basically, we're just following what he said,” Mr Ayres said and added that he had believed Mr Trump's false claims the 2020 election was stolen.

Representative Stephanie Murphy said Mr Trump's “goal was to stay in power for a second term despite losing the election. The assembled crowd was one of the tools to achieve that goal”.

The panel focused on Mr Trump's tweet on December 19, which read: “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

The tweet had a large effect on extremists and far-right militia groups, spurring online discussions on plans for the rally.

The panel shared forum posts in response: “Is the 6th D-Day? Is that why Trump wants everyone there?” and “Trump just told us all to come armed. This is happening,” and “It 'will be wild' means we need volunteers for the firing squad.”

Other posts shown included plans for violence: “Bring handcuffs and wait near the tunnels” and “Body armour, knuckles, shields, bats, pepper spray, whatever it takes.”

An anonymous former Twitter staffer told the committee about that tweet, saying: “My concern with the former president, for seemingly the first time, was speaking directly to extremist organisations giving directives.”

The panel also presented information about how Mr Trump's circle knew the 2020 election was not stolen, as he has continued to claim, and could find no evidence of electoral fraud following the November 3 vote.

Committee member Jamie Raskin presented evidence of Mr Trump's refusal to accept electoral results by showing video clips of several Trump officials suggesting he should concede.

They reached this conclusion after dozens of litigation efforts in US states failed and after the Electoral College meeting in mid-December, when states certified their results to confirm Joe Biden's victory.

But Mr Trump continued to meet conspiracy theorists such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who supported his attempts to cling to power.

The divide between those who knew the election was not stolen and conspiracy theorists spilt over in an “unhinged” White House meeting on December 18, when Mr Trump’s outside lawyers suggested that the military should seize state voting machines in a last-ditch push to prop up his claims of electoral fraud.

“These Americans did not have access to the truth like Donald Trump did,” said committee vice chairwoman Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the panel.

“They put their faith and their trust in Donald Trump. They wanted to believe in him. They wanted to fight for their country and he deceived them. For millions of Americans, that may be painful to accept, but it is true.”

Ms Cheney also said Mr Trump had tried to contact a witness the panel has not yet spoken with and they have passed on the information of potential witness tampering to the US Justice Department.

Pat Cipollone, former White House counsel for Mr Trump, testified last Friday and addressed questions about what happened in the White House in the weeks leading up to January 6.

“His testimony met our expectations,” Ms Cheney said.

His revelations came after last month's shocking public evidence by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mr Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows.

She told the committee that Mr Trump's behaviour was erratic in the days before the insurrection and that the former president knew of the dangerous threats that day. She also outlined his attempts to join the violent crowd of his supporters.

Updated: July 12, 2022, 11:10 PM
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