Jan. 6 panel to examine Trump’s role in galvanizing extremists

Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet was viewed by the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys as a ‘call to arms,’ committee says

Rep. Stephanie Murphy greets Cassidy Hutchinson, a onetime aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, after she testified during the Jan. 6 committee hearing on  June 28. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Stephanie Murphy greets Cassidy Hutchinson, a onetime aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, after she testified during the Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 28. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted July 11, 2022 at 6:02pm

The Jan. 6 committee plans to use a public hearing Tuesday to show how former President Donald Trump galvanized violent domestic extremist groups to converge on the Capitol in an attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss.

After the Electoral College met on Dec. 14, 2020, and confirmed Joe Biden won the presidential election, Trump, on Dec. 18, met in the White House with outside lawyers. That group included Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, along with former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, and they discussed seizing voting machines and appointing a special counsel to investigate false election fraud claims. On Dec. 19, Trump sent out a tweet calling for protesters to come to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, urging them: “Be there, will be wild!”

Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., will split time leading the hearing. 

They will highlight the “explosive effect” the Dec. 19 tweet had among domestic violent extremist groups, Raskin told CBS.

“The first time in American history when a president of the United States called a protest against his own government, in fact, to try to stop the counting of Electoral College votes in a presidential election he had lost. Absolutely unprecedented,” Raskin told CBS, referring to the tweet.

The tweet was a “siren call” for domestic extremists to organize, Murphy told NBC.

The committee will focus on how that tweet was a “pivotal moment that spurred a chain of events” that included pre-planning by the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group that led the Capitol invasion, aides said. The Oath Keepers, who are violent militia extremists, and QAnon followers, who believe conspiracy theories that Trump is their savior fighting against the “deep state,” will have their roles in the insurrection examined. 

The panel anticipates showing these groups had ties to Trump associates, including Roger Stone and Flynn, a retired Army general who also served as one of Trump’s national security aides during the 2016 campaign, according to committee aides.

During a hearing on June 10, Marcus Childress, an investigative counsel for the panel, outlined how Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet was viewed by the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys as a “call to arms.” Childress said many of the witnesses interviewed by the committee were “inspired” by that call from Trump. The panel showed a social media post by Kelly Meggs, president of the Oath Keepers chapter in Florida, who in response to Trump’s tweet said on Dec. 22 that Trump “called us all to Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!”

The evening before Jan. 6, Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, and Enrique Tarrio, who at the time led the Proud Boys, met in a Washington parking garage. Those associated with the Proud Boys led the initial breach of the Capitol near Peace Circle on Jan. 6, according to the panel.

Members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys have been criminally charged for their roles in the attack, some on counts of seditious conspiracy.

The committee will also show the involvement of members of Congress in the pressure campaign against former Vice President Mike Pence to interfere with lawmakers’ counting of electoral votes in the days leading up to the Capitol attack, aides said.

No witnesses have been announced yet by the committee. NBC reported that Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, will testify before the committee.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone is a crucial witness to the investigation and met with the committee for a deposition Friday; it lasted around eight hours. It is unclear how much of Cipollone’s deposition will be shown at Tuesday's hearing. Raskin told CBS the committee plans to use some testimony from Cipollone’s deposition to “corroborate” aspects of what the panel has learned through its investigation.

He noted that Cipollone was aware of “every major move” Trump was making to attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and “essentially seize the presidency.”

Steve Bannon, another Trump associate the committee wants to hear from, has offered to testify to the panel amid his impending July 18 trial on contempt of Congress charges. Bannon said on the Jan. 5, 2021, edition of his podcast: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”