4 Takeaways as Jan. 6 Panel Argues That Trump Sparked Capitol Riot

The House panel investigating last year’s Capitol riot argued during a hearing Tuesday that a tweet from then-President Donald Trump was largely responsible for rioters’ violent breach of the building. 

The seven Democrats and two Republicans on the panel have said that Trump’s use of the phrase “Will be wild” in that tweet encouraged violence. 

The House committee made extensive use of video clips taken from depositions of former Trump administration officials.

Two witnesses gave evidence live before the panel. One of them entered the Capitol that morning, the other was a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers militia group. 

Here are four major takeaways of the seventh hearing this summer, held by the House Select Committee. 

1. ‘Makes Me Mad’

Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct for illegally entering Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, was the witness, as well as Jason Van Tatenhove (an Oath Keepers spokesman), who had previously worked as a reporter covering the militia. 

Ayres was not part of the Oath Keepers, or the Proud Boys. These are the two groups the select committee is focusing on. Van Tatenhove is a Colorado resident who did not attend the Trump rally and did not participate in the riot.

Ayres, a Ohio resident, claimed that he only left the Capitol after Trump in a tweet video told the rioters to return home. On that day, Ayres testified, he believed the outcome of the 2020 election–Trump’s loss to Joe Biden– could be reversed. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R.Wyo., asked Ayres what he would have done if there was good reason to believe Trump had already lost.

“Who knows? Maybe I wouldn’t haven’t gone that day,” Ayres said. 

Later, he suggested that he believed Trump had lied to his supporters about the election being stolen. 

“It makes me mad. I was hanging on every word he said,” Ayres said. 

Van Tatenhove stated that there have been several instances in the past where Americans have pointed guns at federal agents. 

“Jan. 6, as bad as it was, was not as bad as it could have been,” Van Tatenhove testified.

He stated that more people could have been killed that day if things had gotten worse and pointed out that someone built a gallows outside the Capitol with a noose. 

Cries of “Hang Mike Pence” were heard that day because the then-vice president had not consented to Trump’s urging to challenge some states’ Electoral College votes that went to Biden. 

“What else is he going to do if he got elected again?” Van Tatenhove said of Trump.

2. ‘Not an Impressionable Child’

Cheney, the committee’s vice chairwoman, insisted that Trump must have known that he lost the election to Biden, since Attorney General William Barr and other administration officials had concluded there was no evidence of enough fraud having occurred to affect the outcome. 

“No rational or sane man in his position could disregard that information and reach the opposite conclusion,” Cheney said. 

She said Trump shouldn’t blame the lawyers around his neck. 

“President Trump is a 76-year-old man,” Cheney said. “He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices.”

She said the evidence shows that Trump’s closest advisers were telling him that he was out of options to challenge results in some states. 

“Dec. 14 was the day that the states certified their votes and sent them to Congress, and in my view that was the end of the matter,” Barr said regarding the Electoral College vote. “I thought this would lead inexorably to a new administration.”

The 45th president’s elder daughter, Ivanka Trump; former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; and former deputy press secretary Judd Deere also were shown in video clips of depositions, saying they accepted the Electoral College vote as the end of Trump’s legal avenues. 

Deere stated that Trump disagreed. 

 3.  Republicans Slam ‘Sham’ Hearing

Two House Republicans blocked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from serving on the committee were among those who criticized the panel’s conduct. 

Rep. Jim Banks, R.I., referred to an opinion piece by Newt Gaingrich, R.Ga.

“The sham J6 Committee, Biden and the media ‘are colluding to keep more than 1,000 videotaped interviews and 25,000 documents secret from the public,’” Banks tweeted Tuesday afternoon. 

Gingrich’s op-ed was published in The Epoch Times with a headline reading “Trust the American People, Not the Jan. 6 Committee.” 

In it, Gingrich criticized the committee for showing cherry-picked aspects of video-recorded depositions that fit the panel’s narrative. Gingrich also demanded that all depositions be made public by the committee. 

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said he wondered why congressional Democrats aren’t focused on ongoing acts of violence across the United States. 

“Why won’t every Democrat condemn attacks on churches and pregnancy centers?” Jordan tweeted, referring to vandalism and violence since the Supreme Court overruled its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and sent the issue of regulating abortion back to Americans and their state legislatures. 

4. ‘Not Tough Enough’

Barr stated that Trump had suggested in December 2020, that the Justice Department seize voting devices. 

“The president said something like, ‘Some people say we could get to the bottom of this if the department seized the machines,” Barr said in the clip. “It was a typical way of raising a point. I said no. There is no probable cause. We’re not going to seize any machines. And that was that.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., displayed a draft executive order written by Trump advisers outside the White House two days after the Electoral College had voted in Biden’s favor. 

The draft order called for the secretary of defense to seize voting machines “effective immediately.” Under the order, Trump also would appoint a special counsel with the authority to seize voting machines.

“The specific plan was to name Sidney Powell as special counsel, the Trump lawyer who had spent the post-election period making outlandish claims about Venezuela and Chinese interference in the election,” Raskin said. 

The committee showed a video of several people being deposed about a heated meeting Dec. 18, 2020 in various White House locations. This included Rudy Giuliani and Powell, former Trump lawyers, as well as Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, and others who clashed against Pat Cipollone and other members of the White House legal team. 

In one clip, Cipollone said he believed that once the Electoral College voted on Dec. 14, 2020, all of Trump’s legal options were closed.

Giuliani stated that Trump was dissatisfied with White House lawyers. 

“You guys are not tough enough,” Giuliani recalled Trump saying.  “You’re a bunch of p—–s. Excuse me for the expression. But I’m almost certain that was the word that was used.”

Cipollone also said during the deposition that he told Trump that seizing voting machines “is a terrible idea.”

“I don’t even know why I need to tell you why that’s a bad idea,” Cipollone recalled saying. 

Ken McIntyre was a contributor to this report.

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