An Oath Keeper from Idaho in Bozeman, Montana.
William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images
- Tuesday’s hearing will dissect ‘that mob on the Mall,’ Adam Schiff has promised — including its leadership and funding.
- The role of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and other extremist groups will be front and center.
- Committee members have promised details on interactions between extremist groups and Trumpworld.
Tuesday’s January 6 hearing will focus on “that mob on the mall,” California Democrat Adam Schiff said last Sunday, promising that right-wing extremist groups — including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters — will be front and center.
It’s a tantalizing prospect, given what we’ve seen already.
Will there be more from ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who had a chatty cameo during the first hearing, and that other Proud Boy who testified membership “tripled” when Donald Trump told them to “stand back and stand by?”
Will there be more on how the words “Proud Boys” and “Oath Keepers” kept cropping up “when Mr. Giuliani would be around,” as we heard from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson during the sixth hearing?
We’ll have to tune in to hearing 7, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, to find out.
Meanwhile, here are five potential bombshells, based on what committee members like Schiff have teased is coming — and also based on the worried-but-wishful thinking of extremism watchdogs.
1. ‘How a group of Proud Boys led a mob’
“In our hearings to come,” Republican vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney told viewers on June 9, kicking off the first hearing, “we will show specifically how a group of Proud Boys led a mob into the Capitol building on January 6.”
Tuesday could be that hearing to come. And given that the general outlines of the Proud Boys’ role on January 6 are already out there, the word “specifically” is key.
Federal indictments have long called the Proud Boys the spear-tip of the mob. The feds have alleged that members of the violent, pro-Trump group were first at the Capitol barricades, and first to bust a window into the building itself, allowing rioters inside.
But bombshell-dropping has become routine for the committee, especially given the sixth hearing on June 28, when Hutchinson lobbed a virtual evidence fusillade, including that Trump knew some in the mob were armed when he urged them to “fight like hell” and then tried to lead them to the Capitol.
So explosive new revelations about the Proud Boys may well come Tuesday, maybe through additional testimony by Tarrio and alleged North Carolina Proud Boys leader Jeremy Bertino, the “membership tripled” fellow.
We know from the first hearing that both men were pretty talkative during their taped committee questioning.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes, leader and founder of the network of anti-government militias comprising the Oath Keepers, has also appeared before the committee, though he mostly invoked the Fifth Amendment; on Friday he offered to testify again, but only if it was broadcast live.
Jonathan Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said it’s a good bet that at least Tarrio and Bertino — an unindicted co-conspirator in the government’s Proud Boys seditious conspiracy case — will have more to tell us on Tuesday, as will any surprise garrulous extremists the committee may have in the wings.
2. That extremist-Trumpworld backchannel
Minutes after the first public hearing, Rep. Bennie Thompson had a decisive answer for CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked, “are there going to be witnesses that describe actual conversations between these extremist groups and anyone in Trump’s orbit?”
The committee chair’s answer was “Yes.”
There will be “a number of witnesses,” Thompson promised, “that people have not talked to before, that will document a lot of what was going on in the Trump orbit while all of this was going on.”
Here again, Tuesday may be the day for these promised new witnesses and new specifics.
Before the public hearings began, we already knew a little about extremist-Trumpworld coordination — including that the Oath Keepers were invited to provide security for January 6 rally organizers, among them longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.
Then Hutchinson revealed that this coordination extended to the White House itself.
“I recall hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boy closer to the planning of the January 6 rally, when Mr. Giuliani would be around,” the top aide to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said in her pre-taped testimony.
“I’d really like to hear the story behind that,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“How many people in the White House were talking about the Proud Boys or were talking about the Oath Keepers,” Miller wondered in a recent interview. “And in what capacity were they talking about them?”
As a bonus backchannel bombshell, Tuesday’s hearing may reveal more on how the Oath Keepers’ Rhodes tried — and failed — to get Trump on the phone on the evening of January 6.
And speaking of backchannels, we’d sure like to learn more about any Congress-insurrectionist action — especially that riot-eve tour of congressional office hallways that GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia gave to a group of MAGA-hatted visitors.
One of Loudermilk’s tour-goers was filmed at the riot the next day, shouting threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “We’re coming to take you out and pull you out by your hairs.”
3. Cooperation among extremist groups
A meeting between Rhodes and Tarrio in a parking garage on January 5, 2021, is another insurrection plot point where new information would be welcome.
A handshake and brief greeting were exchanged by the leaders of the country’s two largest far-right extremist groups on the eve of what both had openly hoped would be an insurrection. Was anything more exchanged at this seemingly chance encounter?
“It’s still kind of an open question of what was discussed there, whether that was any planning and organization or if that was just a kind of happenstance,” said George Washington’s Lewis, noting that it would be great to hear more about this on Tuesday.
Other signs of possible coordination among extremist groups have cropped up in court filings, Lewis said. Maybe these, too, will be fleshed out.
He pointed to a March court filing in which accused Oath Keepers conspirator Connie Meggs asked for bail. The filing included a December 19, 2020, Facebook post from her husband, accused Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs.
“This week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys,” his post said. “We have decided to work together and shut this shit down.”
Something was certainly up in Florida. Key Proud Boys sedition co-defendants Tarrio and Joe Biggs, who is a former InfoWars staffer, live in the state, as do Stone and several of the Oath Keepers who were his bodyguards at the Capitol on January 5.
Lewis isn’t expecting clear-cut diagrams of relationships, though, among extremists, Trumpworld, and Trump himself, who’s a master at keeping his hands clean.
“It’s all part of a small complex ecosystem, full of grifters, hangers-on, conspiracy-minded individuals,” Lewis said.
“I mean, there’s never more than one or two degrees of separation between a Mark Meadows, a Roger Stone, a Mike Flynn, Ali Alexander, Giuliani, Alex Jones, and then domestic violent extremists like Enrique Tarrio and Stewart Rhodes.
“So, you know, when you have talk about these relationships, it’s less of a direct organizational chart or straight lines between persons A, B and C, than it is this kind of interconnected web of very strong personalities, each of whom are more power-hungry and conspiracy-minded than the last.”
4. Did money cross hands?
Schiff said last Sunday that Tuesday’s hearing will include new details on “who was financing” that mob on the Mall.
The possibility for funding-related bombshells is particularly intriguing.
Were Oath Keepers paid to provide security to rally organizers or participants? If so, where did the money come from?
And what about any Trumpy funding for Oath Keepers’ and Proud Boys’ legal bills?
On January 5, 2021, the day before the Capitol riot, Steve Bannon suggested on his podcast that he and others in Trump’s orbit had tried to wrangle bail for Tarrio earlier that week. The Proud Boy leader was arrested after the December burning of a Black Lives Matter banner belonging to a historic Black church in DC.
And in March, it was revealed that Trump attorney Sidney Powell used some of the $15 million she raised from election conspiracy theories for the legal defense of January 6 defendants including some of the 9 sedition-charged Oath Keepers.
The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were otherwise generally self-sufficient, though, using membership dues or crowd-sourced funding to pay for travel and supplies, said George Washington’s Lewis and the SPLC’s Miller.
“It actually does not take a lot of money,” Lewis said, “to get in a van with a couple of guys and some body armor and buy some bear spray and go to DC. That’s just the reality.”
5. How at risk was Mike Pence? Nancy Pelosi?
Previous hearings revealed that Vice President Mike Pence was at one point just 40 feet away from rioters.
We know from the committee’s June 16 hearing and from court filings that a Proud Boys confidential informant told the FBI that the group “would have killed Mike Pence if given the chance” — and Pelosi, too.
Will there be more details on this?
“As we saw time and time again, as the Proud Boys were part of this mob, they played that role in egging on, inciting, encouraging other rioters at very specific, important flash-points throughout the day,” said Lewis.
As for the Oath Keepers, the DOJ said in its January 12, 2022 seditious conspiracy indictment that a subset of the extremist group at one point peeled off from the Rotunda “toward the House of Representatives in search of Speaker Pelosi. They did not find Speaker Pelosi.”
“Based on everything we know,” said Lewis, “I don’t think they were going to try to lobby her.”
We shouldn’t lose sight, extremism watchdogs warned, of how well-armed some rally-goers were, and how violent their rhetoric was.
“They’ve engaged in violence for many years, and their words do have meaning,” Miller said of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.
In focusing on “that mob on the Mall,” and the revolution-bent extremists who allegedly were its vanguard, Tuesday’s hearing may shed new light on how close to real harm key lawmakers came.
“There is this version of events where one or two small things break differently,” said Lewis, “and the story we’re telling a year and a half later is much different.
“Because the mob wanted to use violence and did use violence against more than 140 law enforcement offers. And had they found Mike Pence, had they found Nancy Pelosi, I am fairly confident they would have used violence against them as well.”