July 14, 2022
As the January 6 committee’s explosive string of televised hearings resumed on Tuesday, July 12, the panel focused on “three rings” of the insurrection: Former President Donald Trump’s inside pressure campaign to persuade his vice president to overturn the electoral votes; the coordination between right-wing extremist groups to violently sack the Capitol; and the force of a MAGA crowd willing to march alongside them, reports The Daily Beast.
“All of these efforts would converge and explode on January 6th,” Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), a member of the congressional panel, said Tuesday.
Raskin added that “the problem of politicians whipping up crowds” was “the oldest domestic enemy of constitutional democracy in America.”
But Trump’s decision to order his angry followers to march on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 wasn’t spontaneous. The committee on Tuesday afternoon revealed a draft tweet that Trump wrote, but never sent, telling people, “Please arrive early, massive crowds expected, March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!”
The committee also disclosed White House call logs that showed Trump twice spoke to right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon on the morning of January 5 shortly before Bannon took to his podcast to announce, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s all converging, and we’re on the point of attack.”
But the biggest bombshell of the hearing came in its final seconds, when Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), the committee’s co-chair, revealed that Trump recently tried to reach an undisclosed witness who has yet to testify. The matter, Cheney said, was referred by the committee to the Department of Justice, after the witness—who did not pick up the phone and has not been identified—reported it to his or her attorney.
The revelation is an obvious warning to stop Trump and his associates from further intimidating insiders who are willing to speak to investigators—and is a shot across the bow with the threat of criminal charges for witness tampering. A Trump spokesperson and his attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
So far, the Republican Party has lambasted these congressional hearings as a proxy attack on the former president. But the committee’s seventh hearing is already showing something that goes well beyond politics: the direct connection between a president who refused to leave office and armed insurrectionists who played a pivotal role in his attempt to interrupt the transfer of power.
At least three groups with ties to fascists and white supremacists—the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys—served as bodyguards to Trump associates in the run-up to the insurrection. They also played pivotal roles in pushing past police lines on January 6, 2021.
The chairman of the congressional panel, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), started the hearing by criticizing Trump’s refusal to concede in the weeks after the 2020 election and his role in the nation’s capital that day. “He seized on the anger he had already stoked among his … supporters. He didn’t wave them off. He urged them on.”
“Donald Trump summoned a mob to Washington, D.C., and ultimately spurred that mob to wage a violent attack on our democracy.”
On Tuesday, the committee also revealed that Trump went out of his way to insert menacing references to Mike Pence, the vice president whom he felt betrayed him.
An initial draft of his speech at the Ellipse park south of the White House on January 6 made no reference to Pence. White House records show that an angry reference to Pence was added after a chat that morning between Trump and his hardline rightwing political adviser, Stephen Miller.
That reference was quickly cut by speechwriters who knew better. But then Pence told Trump one final time that he was not willing to break with tradition—and violate the law—by abusing his role as president of the Senate and refusing to officially count electoral ballots. Shortly thereafter, special assistant to the president Robert Gabriel Jr. wrote an email to staff: “REINSERT THE MIKE PENCE LINES.”
By sorting through White House records, the committee also spotted how Trump ad-libbed and turned that single Pence reference into a total of eight. He took one reference to marching on the Capitol and repeated it three more times. His additions included, “Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” and, “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not gonna have a country anymore.”
Cheney, the top Republican on the committee, noted that Trump should have known better than to continue to espouse conspiracy theories about the election results: “Donald Trump is a 76-year-old man,” she said. “He is not an impressionable child.”
Providing further proof that the ex-commander in chief should have called it quits before the day of the insurrection, the panel played clips of interviews with Trump’s labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, and his former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, in which they both stated that Trump should have conceded when presented with the overwhelming evidence that he lost to Joe Biden in 2020.
Even Trump’s own digital guru, Brad Parscale, laid the blame for the violence at his boss’s feet. He and spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, who both worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign together, texted each other while the pepper spray was still being aired out of the Capitol building the evening of the assault.
“This is about Trump pushing for uncertainty in our country. A sitting president asking for civil war. This week I feel guilty for helping him win,” Parscale wrote to Pierson, according to texts acquired by the committee.
“You did what you felt right at the time and therefore it was right,” Pierson responded.
“Yeah. But a woman is dead,” Parscale said, referring to Ashli Babbitt, who was shot to death by a police officer as she and other protestors tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby on their way to the House of Representatives Chamber.
Parscale further clarified that he thought that the rioters entered the Capitol building—and that Babbit was dead—because of the former president’s “rhetoric.”
Research contact: @thedailybeast