Jan. 6 Evidence

Point #6: Evidence That Trump Assembled a Destructive Group of Rioters in Washington and Sent Them to the Capitol

By Matt Gluck, Tia Sewell, Benjamin Wittes
Sunday, August 21, 2022, 9:00 AM
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This is a key point for the Jan. 6 select committee, as it was for the impeachment managers last year in President Trump’s second impeachment trial. The committee presented evidence on this point in the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth hearings—during which the committee set out to argue that Jan. 6 was the result of a months-long chain of actions perpetrated by Trump and supported by his allies. This story predates the election, as the committee claims that in the run-up to November, Trump intended to contest the results in the event of his own electoral defeat. This plan, the committee argues, was the basis of the so-called Big Lie, which incensed Trump’s supporters and brought them to the Capitol on Jan. 6. The committee sought to prove that at each turn, the events that preceded the storming of the Capitol were either Trump’s own doing, or the direct result of his actions.

In the first hearing, the committee laid out a narrative beginning during the presidential debate in September 2020, in which Trump addressed the Proud Boys directly, telling the far-right extremist group to “stand back and stand by.” The committee presented Proud Boys member Jeremy Bertino saying that recruitment skyrocketed after this comment. It further presented several tweets by Trump in December 2020, encouraging his supporters to come and “stop the steal”—or, in the committee’s telling, block the peaceful transfer of power—on Jan. 6. One of Trump’s tweets reads, for example: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C., will take place at 11:00A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”

The committee showed the infamous clip of Trump’s speech on the day of the Capitol breach itself, in which he stated: “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.” It also previewed the argument that Trump’s rhetoric against Vice President Pence on Jan. 6 incensed the rioters, including video of the president stating at 12:05 p.m.:

I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. … All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people. … And if he doesn’t, that will be a, a sad day for our country, because you’ll never, ever take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.

The committee argued that Trump’s supporters were moved by his words, displaying footage of one Jan. 6 attendee reading aloud a tweet by Trump alleging that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

The committee also played a montage of Proud Boy interviews in which rioters declared that they had come to Washington because Trump had called them. 

The committee presented video footage during the June 23 hearing of President Trump speaking at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, reiterating his allegations:

In the state of Arizona, over 36,000 ballots were illegally cast by non-citizens. 11,600 more ballots than votes were counted, more than there were actual voters. You see that? In Wisconsin, corrupt Democrat-run cities deployed more than 500 illegal, unmanned, unsecured drop boxes, which collected a minimum of 91,000 unlawful votes.

In these hearings, at least, it was unclear whether the committee is in a position to move the evidentiary ball on whether Trump intended to provoke a riot or merely behaved recklessly.

In the June 28 hearing, by contrast, the committee began in earnest to provide the details specifically about the days surrounding Jan. 6 that really do establish a degree of intentionality and planning on Trump’s part.

This hearing featured Cassidy Hutchinson, a special assistant to the president in the White House chief of staff’s office, who began her testimony by recounting a conversation she had with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on the night of Jan. 2. Hutchinson, paraphrasing Giuliani, said he asked her if she was excited for Jan. 6, saying it would “be a great day.” Giuliani then said, “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president’s going to be there. He’s going to look powerful. He’s gonna be with the members. He’s going to be with the senators. Talk to [Meadows] about it …. He knows about it.”

Hutchinson testified that when she discussed with Meadows the conversation she had with Giuliani about Trump going to the Capitol on Jan. 6, the chief of staff said “something to the effect of there’s a lot going on … I don’t know. Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.” Hutchinson stated that in the days leading up to Jan. 2, she “had heard general plans for a rally.” She also said that before Jan. 2, she had “heard tentative movements to potentially go to the Capitol.”

Hutchinson said in an interview with the committee that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe “didn’t want much to do with the post-election period.” Hutchinson stated that Ratcliffe opposed the White House’s various efforts to challenge the results of the election. And he believed these efforts were “dangerous for the president’s legacy” and that they “could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous either for our democracy or the way that things were going for” Jan. 6.” According to Hutchinson, Ratcliffe also expressed concerns about the precedential effects of the White House’s postelection conduct. 

The committee showed video footage of former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying that Trump “wanted to be a part of the march [to the Capitol] in some fashion.” Hutchinson stated that the president was “unhappy” because Mark Meadows did not work hard enough to get his motorcade to the Capitol. 

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney presented photos showing Trump confidant Roger Stone surrounded by a “security detail” of members from the Oath Keepers far-right anti-government group on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, noting that multiple members of the extremist organization have been charged with or pleaded guilty to crimes associated with the Capitol riot over the past year. According to Hutchinson’s testimony, Trump had instructed Meadows to contact both Stone and former Trump adviser Michael Flynn on the eve of Jan. 6 regarding the next day’s events, which Meadows did. Further, Hutchinson stated with respect to the so-called war room that Giuliani, attorney John Eastman, and others had set up at the Willard Hotel on the same evening, that Meadows had made transportation plans to attend a meeting there. Hutchinson stated that she “had made it clear” to Meadows that she “didn’t believe it was a smart idea for him to go to the Willard Hotel” because she “knew enough about what Mr. Giuliani and his associates were pushing during this period.” Meadows ultimately “dropped the subject … and said that he would dial in instead.”

Cheney then presented footage from an interview with Flynn, during which she asked him whether he believed that the violence on Jan. 6 was justified, both in a moral and in a legal sense. Flynn pleaded the Fifth. She also asked Flynn whether he believed in the peaceful transition of power in the U.S., to which Flynn responded, again, “the Fifth.”

Hutchinson testified that both Giuliani and Meadows suggested that they were interested in receiving a presidential pardon related to Jan. 6. 

This point follows evidence presented in the June 23 hearing, when the committee also presented evidence detailing requests made by Republican congressmen for presidential pardons related to their roles in the insurrection. The committee displayed an email sent by Rep. Mo Brooks to the White House on Jan. 11, which requested “all purpose” pardons for all members of Congress who objected to the certification of the electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona. 

Further, Rep. Adam Kinzinger asserted that witnesses informed the committee that Trump “considered offering pardons to a wide range of individuals connected to the president.” Former White House lawyer Herschmann testified during a video deposition that Rep. Matt Gaetz requested a pardon from the president that covered all actions “from the beginning of time up until today.” Herschmann said the “general tone was we may get prosecuted because we were defensive of … the president’s positions on these things.” 

Hutchinson testified that Gaetz and Brooks pushed for blanket pardons for all members who participated in a Dec. 21 meeting with the president related to overturning the election, in addition to for other members who were not at that meeting. Hutchinson said Gaetz had been advocating for a pardon since early December 2020, and that he reached out to Hutchinson to inquire about setting up a meeting with Meadows to discuss a pardon. 

Hutchinson stated that several other members of Congress contacted her about pardons too. In addition to Gaetz and Brooks, Hutchinson said that Reps. Louie Gohmert, Scott Perry, and Andy Biggs asked about receiving presidential pardons, and Rep. Jim Jordan spoke about pardons for members of Congress generally but did not request one for himself specifically. Hutchinson also noted that although Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene did not contact her, Hutchinson heard that she had asked the White House counsel’s office about receiving a pardon. 

John McEntee, the former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, testified that Gaetz told him that he asked Meadows for a presidential pardon. McEntee also said that he had heard references to a blanket pardon for all people involved in the activities on Jan. 6, and he also said that Trump floated the idea of pardoning all members of his staff before leaving office. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin said that on Dec. 18, Trump’s outside advisers met with him to discuss extraordinary steps Trump could take toward his objective of overturning the election results—a meeting that has since “been called unhinged, not normal, and the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency.” In it, Trump’s advisers brought a draft executive order that “proposed the immediate mass seizure of state election machines by the U.S. military”—an idea that was apparently rejected by the end of the meeting. Trump was dissatisfied with his options, Raskin stated, and decided shortly thereafter that he would “call for a large and wild crowd” to come to Washington on Jan. 6. The result was a 1:42 a.m. tweet

Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK. A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

The committee presented extensive evidence about this meeting and how it led to the tweet calling for the Jan. 6 rally. The bottom line is that, at the meeting, Trump was presented with a set of wildly unlawful options for overturning the election by his outside advisers, each of which was derailed by the White House counsel’s office. After the meeting broke up, his conventional options cut off, Trump sent the tweet summoning the crowd. 

Rep. Stephanie Murphy stated that after Dec. 14, it was clear to members of Trump’s Cabinet and his White House staff that Joe Biden was the rightful president-elect. For example, then-Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia described calling Trump in mid-December and “convey[ing] to [the president] that [he] thought that it was time for him to acknowledge that President Biden had prevailed in the election” and explicitly communicating that the legal process had been exhausted. Murphy additionally played video from the committee’s interviews with former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and former Attorney General William Barr to show that both men had testified that Trump should have conceded after the Electoral College vote certification on Dec. 14. Cipollone also testified that Meadows had repeatedly assured him and Barr, beginning in late November and continuing into December, that Trump would eventually agree to a graceful exit. The committee showed footage of Kayleigh McEnany and Ivanka Trump confirming that they understood by Dec. 14 that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election should have stopped. Judd Deere, former White House deputy press secretary, additionally described telling the president that at that point, “the means for him to pursue litigation was probably closed.”

Hutchinson testified about conversations she had with John Ratcliffe, Trump’s director of national intelligence, during which Ratcliffe expressed concern that Trump’s denial “could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous, either for our democracy or the way that things were going for the sixth.”

Cipollone testified that he “agreed with Attorney General Barr’s conclusion on December 1st,” in reference to Barr’s public statement that there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.

Raskin presented footage of Barr testifying that Trump suggested that he have the Department of Justice seize voting machines, which Barr informed Trump he would not do given the lack of probable cause. However, Raskin stated, Barr’s rejection was not the end of the matter. Displaying a draft executive order dated Dec. 16, 2020, Raskin explained that on the evening of Dec. 18, a group including attorney Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn arrived at the White House for an unplanned meeting with Trump. The document in question read, “Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines,” and was drafted, Raskin claimed, by the president’s outside advisers. Raskin stated that the order detailed a specific plan, in which Trump would name Powell as special counsel, affording her the power to seize voting machines and institute criminal and civil proceedings in line with the operation. Raskin then played footage of Cipollone stating that he was “vehemently opposed” to appointing Powell “to anything.” Cipollone said that the federal government’s seizure of voting machines was “a terrible idea for the country.”

“For all of its absurdity,” Raskin asserted, “the December 18th meeting was critically important because President Trump got to watch up close for several hours as his White House counsel and other White House lawyers destroyed the baseless factual claims and ridiculous legal arguments” that Powell and Flynn presented. 

According to Raskin, the “heated and profane” Dec. 18 meeting went on for more than six hours, beginning in the Oval Office, moving around in the West Wing, and eventually ending up in the president’s private residence. He stated that the select committee spoke with “six of the participants, as well as staffers who could hear the screaming from outside the Oval Office.” 

Raskin played a montage of interview clips from participants who described the meeting. Powell told the committee that her group had “probably no more than 10 or 15 minutes” alone with the president before White House advisers arrived that evening, stating, “I bet Pat Cipollone set a new land speed record” in getting there. Cipollone testified that when he opened the door to the Oval Office, he “was not happy” to see Flynn and Powell inside because he thought they were providing the president with bad advice. Cipollone didn’t understand how they had gained entry into the White House. 

Powell said that the president had been “very interested” in the group’s presentation in the time they had alone. Herschmann stated that he prodded the outside advisers on their conspiracies, and Flynn “took out a diagram that supposedly showed IP addresses all over the world” to make a point about voting machines. Derek Lyons, former White House staff secretary, testified that “at times, there were people shouting at each other” and “hurling insults at each other.” Cipollone said that he, Herschmann, and Lyons were asking “one simple question, as a general matter: Where is the evidence?” 

The group responded with, in Cipollone’s words, “a general disregard for the importance of actually backing up what you say with facts.” 

Lyons stated the outside advisers had also said that they didn’t have the evidence at that moment but would have it later. For her part, Powell asserted, “If it had been me sitting in his chair, I would have fired all of them [Trump’s advisers who rejected the claims of election fraud] that night.” 

Herschmann testified that when Powell said that the judges who had ruled against them were corrupt, he responded to the effect of, “Every one? Every single case that you’ve done in the country you guys lost, every one of them is corrupt? Even the ones we appointed?” 

Giuliani said he called the lawyers “a bunch of pussies.” Herschmann stated that Flynn was screaming at him, calling him a “quitter.” 

Lyons confirmed that Trump told the White House lawyers that they weren’t offering him any solutions, while Powell and the others were, and therefore it was worth considering what the outside advisers were proposing. Powell stated that Trump had named her special counsel and had given her security clearance that evening, but the White House lawyers had responded, “[Y]ou can name her whatever you want to name her, and no one’s going to pay any attention to it.”

Trump replied something along the lines of, “You see what I deal with? I deal with this all the time.” In Cipollone’s view, Powell “hadn’t been appointed to anything, because there had to be other steps taken.” However, Cipollone conceded, it did seem that Powell may have believed in the days that followed that she had been appointed special counsel in that meeting. Raskin reminded viewers that Powell “was ultimately sanctioned by a federal court and sued by Dominion Voting Systems for defamation.” He presented excerpts from Dominion Voting Systems v. Powell, stating that Powell had defended herself by arguing that “no reasonable person would concede that the statements were truly statements of fact.”

The committee displayed a Dec. 28 email from Trump adviser Bernard Kerik to Meadows, which stated: “We can do all the investigations we want later. But if the president plans on winning, it’s the legislators that have to be moved, and this will do just that.” Later, Kerik’s lawyer told the select committee that “it was impossible for Mr. Kerik and his team to determine conclusively whether there was widespread fraud or whether that widespread fraud would have altered the outcome of the election.”

When asked about the evidence that Giuliani’s team provided, former Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller stated, “[T]o say that it was thin is probably an understatement.”

Hutchinson told the committee that after Meadows began to acknowledge that there wasn’t enough voter fraud to overturn the election result, she witnessed him “start to explore potential constitutional loopholes more extensively.”

The meeting with Trump’s outside advisers ended after midnight, Raskin stated, displaying text messages sent by Hutchinson calling it “unhinged” and showing a photo of Meadows “escorting Rudy off-campus to make sure he didn’t wander back to the mansion.” 

It was shortly after the meeting ended, apparently in response to his failure to get from the legal team what he wanted, that Trump tweeted to call for a “big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” repeating the Big Lie, and urging his followers to “be there” and “be wild.”

The committee’s presentation did not present overwhelming evidence that the Jan. 6 protests were planned by the White House, the Trump campaign, or by Trump himself. It did, however, present overwhelming evidence that the protests were planned specifically in response to the president’s tweet and with ongoing engagement with senior White House aides, some of them discomfited, and Trump allies.

Raskin showed evidence supporting the point that Trump’s followers began mobilizing immediately in response to the tweet. For example, just hours after Trump sent this tweet, a pro-Trump organizing group requested to change their rally permit for Jan. 22-Jan. 23 to Jan. 6 instead. On Dec. 19, Ali Alexander, the leader of the “Stop the Steal” organization, registered Wildprotest.com, a site providing information for times, speakers, and transportation details for the protest on Jan. 6. 

Immediately after Trump sent his tweet, moreover, numerous other far-right figures, including Alex Jones, called upon people to come to D.C. on Jan. 6 to show up for the president and take action to protest the election results. “We’re going to only be saved by millions of Americans moving to Washington, occupying the entire area if — if necessary storming right into the Capitol …. If you have enough people, you can push down any kind of a fence or a wall,” said right-wing commentator Matt Bracken.

Raskin then introduced testimony from a Twitter employee on the team managing the platform’s content moderation policies throughout 2020 and 2021. The anonymous former employee stated that after Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” on Sept. 29, the platform considered taking stricter measures but ultimately chose not to act. “If former President Donald Trump were any other user on Twitter, he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago,” the former employee stated

Raskin presented more of the online responses to the president’s invitation, including one post that read, “It ‘will be wild’ means we need volunteers for the firing squad.” Another stated, “I’m ready to die for my beliefs. are you ready to die police?” Jim Watkins, the founder and owner of the anonymous message board 8kun, testified that he decided to go to D.C. on Jan. 6 directly because of Trump’s tweet. Jody Williams, founder of the openly racist and anti-Semitic forum thedonald.win, stated that the content on the site shifted to focus on Jan. 6 after the president’s Dec. 19 tweet. Raskin asserted that “thedonald.win featured discussions of the tunnels beneath the Capitol complex, suggestions for targeting members of Congress, and encouragement to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event.”

The committee presented a statement from Donell Harvin, the former chief of homeland security and intelligence for the District of Columbia, in which he said that the Department of Homeland Security had received open source intelligence information suggesting that violent individuals were making arrangements to come to Washington, and that nonaligned groups were forming together. He described this coordination as “armed militia … collaborating with white supremacy groups, collaborating with conspiracy theory groups online, all toward a common goal.” Harvin said these groups were “coordinating” across multiple platforms and asking one another questions related to Jan. 6 such as, “What are you bringing?” “What are you wearing?” “Where do we meet up?” and “Do you have plans for the Capitol?”

The committee presented evidence from a chat that included former Trump adviser Roger Stone, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and Ali Alexander. The chat included discussion of pro-Trump events that took place in November and December 2020, in addition to the activities of Jan. 6. For example, Rhodes urged members of the chat to try to push people to go to their state capitols if they were unable to attend the first Million MAGA March, which was to take place on Nov. 14. According to Raskin, members of this chat “had a significant presence at multiple pro-Trump events after the election, including in Washington on December the 12th.” 

The committee presented video footage of Rhodes giving a speech to a pro-Trump crowd in Washington on Dec. 12, in which he said, “We need to know from you that you are with [Trump], that he does not do it now while he is commander in chief, we're going to have to do it ourselves later in a much more desperate, much more bloody war.” Raskin notes that on the evening of Dec. 12, after Rhodes had given this speech, members of the Proud Boys conducted violent activities in Washington and “hurled aggressive insults at the police.” The committee displayed video footage illustrating this violent rhetoric. 

Raskin asserted that Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet motivated the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, which Raskin says have historically not collaborated, “to coordinate their activities.” The committee presented a tweet sent by Kelly Meggs, the indicted leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, hours after Trump sent his Dec. 19 tweet, in which Meggs wrote, “[W]e are ready for the rioters, this week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys. We have decided to work together and shut this shit down.” Raskin said that phone records reveal that later that day, Meggs called and spoke with Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader.

The committee showed a video taken on Dec. 11, in which Owen Shroyer, the co-host of the alt-right news show InfoWars, said that Trump supporters would “be back in January”—as he stood alongside Roger Stone and Tarrio. 

Raskin said that high-level figures in the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers collaborated with Trump allies, such as Michael Flynn. The committee presented a photograph from Dec. 12 of Flynn and Patrick Byrne, the Trump ally and former CEO of Overstock.com, walking with Roberto Minuta, an indicted member of the Oath Keepers. Another photo from that same day shows Flynn walking with Stewart Rhodes. 

Raskin stated that between the time of the election and Jan. 6, Roger Stone communicated with members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on a regular basis. Kellye SoRelle, a lawyer who represents the Oath Keepers and who worked on a voluntary basis for the Trump administration, said that Stone, Alexander, and Alex Jones, the creator of InfoWars, “became the center point for everything” having to do with the “Stop the Steal” rallies.

Raskin stated that the Proud Boys created an encrypted chat, called the Ministry of Self Defense, in which participants discussed “strategic and tactical planning about January the sixth—including maps of Washington, D.C., that pinpoint the location of police.” Raskin also detailed Stone’s connections to the Proud Boys, showing that Stone has taken the group’s “fraternity creed required for the first level of initiation to the group.”

The committee displayed encrypted chat messages between Meggs and Stone regarding security on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. The committee also presented a photograph of Stone on Jan. 6 being guarded by two members of the Oath Keepers who have since been indicted for seditious conspiracy. Raskin said that one of Stone’s guards on Jan. 6, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges, stated that the Oath Keepers were prepared to use “lethal force, if necessary, against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard.”

Rep. Murphy said that Katrina Pierson, an organizer of the Jan. 6 rally and former campaign spokeswoman for Trump, became apprehensive about the planned lineup of speakers at the Jan. 6 rally. This lineup included Stone, Jones, and Alexander. According to Murphy, Pierson communicated with another rally organizer on Dec. 30 about why these people were speaking at the rally. Pierson wrote in this text exchange that the president was driving this selection of speakers, stating, “[Trump] likes the crazies.” When speaking with the committee during a deposition about Trump’s desire for these “crazies” to speak, Pierson said, “He loved people who viciously defended him in public.” 

Murphy stated that on Jan. 2, Pierson contacted Meadows, writing about Jan. 6, “Things have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction, please.” Meadows then called Pierson eight minutes later. Pierson said she told Meadows on that call that “[s]ome [of the speakers] were very suspect, but they’re going to be on other … stages, some on other days.” Pierson said she gave Meadows “[a] very, very brief overview of what was actually happening and why I raised the red flags.” Pierson said she described the nature of some of her concerns to Meadows: 

I think I even texted him some of my concerns, but I did briefly go over some of the concerns that I had raised to everybody with Alex Jones or Ali Alexander and some of the rhetoric that they were doing. I probably mentioned to him that they had already caused trouble at other capitols—or at the previous event, the previous march that they did for protesting. And I just had a concern about it.

Murphy noted that Pierson was particularly concerned about Jones and Alexander because in November 2020, the two men had entered the Georgia capitol building along with their supporters to protest the outcome of the 2020 election. According to Murphy, Pierson believed she referenced this specific concern in her conversation with Meadows during this call. Murphy said that after Pierson’s call with Meadows, Pierson sent an email to other organizers of the rally, in which she wrote that the president was expecting to have a small gathering at the Ellipse and that he would urge the crowd to march to the Capitol. 

The committee presented an undated draft tweet, which was never sent, which would have presumably come from the president’s account. The draft tweet read, “I will be making a Big Speech at 10AM on January 6th at the Ellipse (South of the White House). Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!” The document depicting the tweet contains a stamp noting that the president had seen the tweet. 

The committee also presented a text message sent by a rally organizer to Mike Lindell, the outspoken Trump supporter and CEO of MyPillow, which noted:

This stays only between us, we are having a second stage at the Supreme Court again after the ellipse. POTUS is going to have us march there/the Capitol. It cannot get out about the second stage because people will try and set up another and Sabotage it. It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it “unexpectedly.”

The committee showed that Alexander texted a conservative journalist on the morning of Jan. 5, writing that the plan was: “Ellipse then US capitol. Trump is supposed to order us to capitol at the end of his speech but we will see.” 

Murphy said that in the weeks after the election, the White House worked closely with Trump’s supporters in Congress to spread false claims of election fraud and to galvanize the public to “fight the outcome on January 6.” Specifically, Murphy stated that “the president met with various members to discuss January 6 well before the joint session.” The committee showed an image of the president’s private schedule for Dec. 21, 2020, which included a meeting with Republican members of Congress. Murphy said that Pence, Meadows, and Giuliani also attended that meeting. 

The committee also presented an email sent by Rep. Brooks to Meadows, setting up that Dec. 21 meeting. In the email, Brooks noted that he had not requested that anyone assist him in the “January 6 effort,” because he believed “only citizens can exert the necessary influence on Senators and Congressmen to join this fight against massive voter fraud and election theft.” Murphy noted that White House visitor logs show that the following Republican members of Congress visited the White House on Dec. 21: Reps. Brian Babin, Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Andy Harris, Jody Hice, Jim Jordan, and Scott Perry, and Representative-Elect Marjorie Taylor Greene. Murphy said that part of this meeting covered Pence’s role in counting the electoral votes on Jan. 6—including discussion of Trump lawyer John Eastman’s theory that Pence had the unilateral authority to overturn the results of the election. 

Murphy stated that Rep. Cheney, the then-chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, sent a memorandum to House Republicans in the days preceding Jan. 6 explaining some of the legal rulings that had rejected the claims of election fraud and the baseless nature of the objections to the electoral count. 

The committee displayed White House phone logs that show the president spoke with his former adviser Steve Bannon at least two times on Jan. 5—first at 8:57 a.m. and again at 9:46 p.m. The committee also played video footage of Bannon speaking on Jan. 5 after his first call with Trump. Bannon said during this clip, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s all converging and now we’re on, as they say, the point of attack, right, the point of attack tomorrow. I’ll tell you this, it’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen, Okay? It’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in.” 

Murphy said that Trump asked White House staff to come to the Oval Office on the evening of Jan. 5—while Trump supporters held a rally at Freedom Plaza. Trump aide Nicholas Luna testified during a committee deposition that Trump asked him to open the door of the Oval Office so that he could hear, apparently referring to the noise coming from his supporters’ rally. Luna also said that there was “a lot of energy” in the Oval Office at that time. Sarah Matthews, another aide present in the Oval Office during that time, said that “the president was dictating a tweet that he wanted [Deputy Chief of Staff Dan] Scavino to send out. Then the president started talking about the rally the next day. He had the door of the Oval open to the Rose Garden because you could hear the crowd already assembled outside on the Ellipse.” Matthews said that it seemed Trump “was in a fantastic mood that evening.” 

Judd Deere, the former deputy press secretary, said that Trump asked whether members of Congress would vote not to certify the results of the election. Deere said he told the president that he believed the president’s speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 “should focus on policy accomplishments,” to which Trump responded by acknowledging that the administration had a significant number of accomplishments before moving quickly “to how fired up the crowd … was going to be.” 

Deere noted that Trump also said the crowd would be angry and that “[t]hey feel like the election’s been stolen, the election was rigged.” According to Deere, Trump repeatedly referenced the loudness of the crowd on the evening of Jan. 5. Matthews stated that during that evening in the Oval Office, Trump asked the staff how he could convince the Republican members of Congress who were likely to certify the electoral votes to change their minds. According to Matthews, “[N]o one spoke up initially, because I think everyone was trying to process what … he meant by that.” Shealah Craighead, a former White House photographer, testified that during this time in the Oval Office, Trump was discussing when and how to go to the Capitol, apparently on Jan. 6. 

The committee presented video footage of Trump supporters at the Freedom Plaza rally on Jan. 5, including statements from Stone, Flynn, Alexander, and Jones. Stone called the fight to overturn the election “nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of this country, between dark and light, between the godly and the godless, between good and evil. And we will win this fight or America would step off into a thousand years of darkness.” Flynn said that “tomorrow we the people are going to be here. And we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.” Alexander said, “I want them to know that 1776 is always an option. These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want or we are going to shut this country down.” 

The committee displayed a tweet sent by Trump at 5:05 p.m. on Jan. 5, as the Freedom Plaza rally was underway. The tweet read, “Washington is being inundated with people who don’t want to see an election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats. Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore! We hear you (and love you) from the Oval Office. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” 

Murphy stated that on the evening of Jan. 5 and into the morning of Jan. 6 (when the president spoke with his chief speechwriter Stephen Miller for more than 25 minutes), Trump edited his Ellipse speech to incorporate the sentiment of his 5:05 p.m. tweet. Trump added to the speech, “all of us are here today, do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.” Trump also added, “together we will stop the steal.” The president also revised his speech to include reference to Pence, adding, “we will see whether Mike Pence enters history as a truly great and courageous leader. All he has to do is refer the illegally submitted electoral votes back to the states that were given false and fraudulent information where they want to recertify.”

Miller testified in a committee deposition that Trump lawyer Herschmann objected to including this language regarding the vice president in the Ellipse speech, and Murphy said the speechwriters initially heeded this advice and removed the discussion of Pence from the speech. But Murphy stated that after a phone call on the morning of Jan. 6 between Trump and Pence in which Pence said that he would not unilaterally refuse to count the electoral votes, one of the president’s staffers, Robert Gabriel, instructed the speechwriters in an email to “REINSERT THE MIKE PENCE LINES. Confirm receipt.” Trump speechwriter Vincent Haley described this change to the speech in a deposition: “[A]s I recall, there was a very tough, a tough sentence about the vice president that was … added.” 

Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford, testified that it appeared that Ivanka recognized that the president was angry following his call with Pence and that Ivanka “felt like she might be able to help calm the situation down at least before [the president] went on to stage.” Ivanka disputed this characterization.

Murphy noted that Trump’s Ellipse speech included the Pence-related revisions he had requested, in addition to other significant ad-libbed additions. The written speech, for example, made only one reference to Pence. But Trump mentioned the vice president eight times. Trump also made the ad-libbed addition that he would be joining his supporters at the Capitol. The committee presented video clips of ad-libbed sections of Trump’s Ellipse speech. Included was this statement: “[Y]ou’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.” Trump said, “I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do.” Trump also added this incendiary language: “We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.” Finally, Trump said to his supporters, “So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Murphy stated that there were significant concerns at Twitter on Jan. 5 about the potential for violence on Jan. 6. An unidentified witness from Twitter testified during a deposition with the committee that he had been trying for months to convince Twitter to act to stem violence related to claims made by Trump supporters and violent extremist groups. The individual stated that he believed violence related to these claims would result in people dying. The witness said that “on January 5th, [he] realized no intervention was coming” and that Twitter was “at the whims and the mercy of a violent crowd that was locked and loaded.”

The committee presented a Jan. 5 statement from Rep. Debbie Lasko—who propagated baseless claims of election fraud. Lasko said she “asked leadership to come up with a safety plan for members” and that she was very concerned about the potential for violence because of the “hundreds of thousands of people coming [to the Capitol].” Lasko clarified that in addition to being concerned about Antifa, she was also fearful of what Trump supporters would do: “We also have, quite honestly, Trump supporters who actually believe that we are going to overturn the election. And when that doesn’t happen, most likely will not happen, they are going to go nuts.”

The committee presented a text exchange between Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson that took place during the evening of Jan. 6. Parscale wrote, “This is about trump pushing for uncertainty in our country.” He continued, “A sitting president asking for civil war.” 

Parscale then wrote, “This week I feel guilty for helping him win,” to which Pierson responded, “You did what you felt right at the time and therefore it was right.” Parscale wrote, “Yeah. But a woman is dead.” 

Pierson replied, “You do realize this was going to happen.” Parscale then wrote, “Yeah. If I was trump and knew my rhetoric killed someone.” 

When Pierson responded, “It wasn’t the rhetoric,” Parscale said, “Katrina.” “Yes it was.”

Former Trump supporter and participant in the Jan. 6 riot Stephen Ayres testified that he was deeply engaged with social media in the period preceding Jan. 6, and that he followed Trump on these platforms. Ayres said that when Trump wrote that his supporters should come to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, he felt he needed to come support Trump and protest the results of the election—which Ayres viewed as fraudulent at the time. Ayres also noted that he had friends who he knew were going to the rally, and he decided that he would come with them. 

When asked whether he still believes the election was stolen, Ayres said, “Not so much now,” and noted that the failure of Trump’s lawsuits are what eventually convinced him that the claims of election fraud were baseless. Ayres testified that knowing the president had no evidence for his allegations of election fraud would have had a significant impact on his views regarding overturning the election, and Ayres said he “may not have come” to Washington on Jan. 6 if he had known at the time that Trump’s claims lacked merit.

Ayres testified that when he arrived at the Ellipse rally on the morning of Jan.6, he had not planned to go to the Capitol. When Murphy asked Ayres why he ended up going to the Capitol, Ayres said, “Well, basically, you know, the president got everybody riled up and told everybody to head on down. So we basically was [sic] just following what he said.” Ayres testified that on Jan. 6, he viewed the organized extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers favorably, and he thought their presence “was a good thing.” 

Ayres said that when he began marching from the Ellipse to the Capitol, he still believed the election might be overturned. Ayres noted that members of the marching crowd were hopeful that Pence would refuse to certify the electoral votes. And he said there was discussion among the crowd of a “big reveal”—which Ayres and others suspected might be the revelation that Pence had decided not to count the electoral votes. Ayres added that “everybody thought [the president] was going to be coming down [to the Capitol].” Ayres testified that he and others decided to leave the Capitol “[b]asically, when President Trump put his tweet out. We literally left right after that came out. You know, to me if he would have done that earlier in the day, 1:30, I—you know, we wouldn't be in this—maybe we wouldn't be in this bad of a situation or something.” Ayres said that as soon as Trump sent out this tweet, “everybody started talking about it and … it seemed like [the crowd] started to disperse …. [The president’s tweet] definitely dispersed a lot of the crowd.” 

Ayres testified that since he participated in the insurrection on Jan. 6, he lost his job and dealt with other challenges—including his prosecution. Ayres also said Trump’s continued peddling of the Big Lie makes him angry. 

The former Oath Keepers spokesman and committee witness Jason Van Tatenhove testified that an invocation of the Insurrection Act provided Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, with “a sense of legitimacy” and “a path forward to move forward with his goals and agendas.” Van Tatenhove said that Rhodes “was always looking for ways to legitimize what he was doing.” According to Van Tatenhove, Rhodes’s attempts at legitimacy included mischaracterizing and whitewashing his intentions and the activities of the Oath Keepers. 

He said that Rhodes “had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader, and the Insurrection Act would have given him a path forward with that.” Van Tatenhove added, “the fact that the President was communicating, whether directly or indirectly messaging, you know, kind of that gave him the nod. And all I can do is thank the gods that things did not go any worse that day.” Van Tatenhove said that in Trump, the Oath Keepers “saw a path forward that would have legitimacy. They saw opportunity, I think, in my opinion, to become a paramilitary force.”

Raskin stated that the Justice Department indicated the previous week that it has evidence that in addition to firearms, the Oath Keepers brought explosives to Washington before Jan. 6. Raskin also said the committee has discovered that Rhodes stopped to purchase weapons on his way to Washington and before Jan. 6 sent approximately $7,000 worth of tactical gear to an individual in Virginia helping to plan the Jan. 6 rally. 

Van Tatenhove testified that he had experienced Rhodes discussing executing violent acts against political leaders in the past. Specifically, Van Tatenhove stated that when he was still a member of the Oath Keepers, Rhodes asked Van Tatenhove to create “a deck of cards,” that represented different political leaders whom Rhodes, in theory, wanted to kill. Van Tatenhove noted that he refused this request. Van Tatenhove said, “There was always the … push for military training, including there were … courses in that community that went over explosives training.” The former Oath Keeper spokesman said that “as tragic as it is that we saw on January 6th, the potential was so much more. Again, all we have to look at is the iconic images of that day with the gallows set up for Mike Pence, for the Vice President of the United States.” 

In the eighth hearing, Cheney presented a Feb. 13, 2021, video that showed Sen. Mitch McConnell stating that “[a] mob was assaulting the Capitol in [Trump’s] name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. He was the only one.” Later in the hearing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger played additional footage from this statement, with McConnell asserting:

There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.

Rep. Elaine Luria presented footage from 1:10 p.m. on Jan. 6, the closing of Trump’s Ellipse speech, during which the president repeated, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.” In recorded testimony, an anonymous security official described being in “a state of shock” while working in the White House on Jan. 6 because it was clear that “the president wanted to lead tens of thousands of people to the Capitol” and they “all knew that this would move from a normal, democratic, you know, public event into something else.”

In short, while the committee did not present evidence that Trump or the White House organized the rally, it did present substantial evidence that the rally was organized in response to Trump’s call, that Trump intended from the beginning that the rally would result in a march to the Capitol, that he intended to participate in that rally, and that he called for the rally in response to the failure of his efforts to subvert the election results. It presented evidence that he was aware of, and content with, the possibility of violence and that there were at least contacts between his White House staff and extremist groups.

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