House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack led by Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., swears in the witnesses during during the seventh public hearing by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack.
- Trump attempted to call a Jan. 6 committee witness, said Liz Cheney, revealing she has referred the matter to the DOJ.
- Cassidy Hutchinson described an ‘unhinged’ Oval Office meeting weeks before January 6 that almost became a brawl.
- New details emerged of ties between Trump advisors Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and extremist leaders.
Possible witness-tampering trouble for former President Donald Trump and new details of a drunken, near-violent Oval Office meeting — in which White House staff got into a screaming match with Trump advisors including Rudy Giuliani and Mike Flynn — are the top takeaways from Tuesday’s January 6 committee hearing.
But there was more. Committee members described in chilling detail the impact of Trump’s infamous “Will be wild” tweet. Sent December 19th, 2020, it was met with an immediate, sometimes rabid response from Trump supporters and set off a flurry of planning by leaders of two extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, witnesses said.
There was also a mea culpa, of sorts, from former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale. The committee shared a post-January 6 text in which Parscale wrote, “This week, I feel guilty for helping him win.”
The committee’s GOP chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, saved the biggest bombshell for last, revealing during her closing statement to the three-hour hearing that Trump “tried to call a witness to our investigation.”
Apparently, the call didn’t go through. The Wyoming Republican said that the witness, who has not yet testified and who she did not name, “instead alerted their lawyer, who alerted us.” And now the committee, Cheney said, has “alerted the DOJ.”
“Let me say one more time,” Cheney said, forcefully. “We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously.”
‘Unhinged’ in the Oval
Witnesses Tuesday described a raucous, nearly violent December 18, 2020, meeting in which Trump advisors Rudy Giuliani, Mike Flynn, and Sidney Powell barged in on the president in the Oval Office in hopes of persuading him to order the Department of Defense to seize voting machines.
The hours-long meeting left even the unflappable White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson apparently, well, flapped. She described the meeting as “UNHINGED” in a contemporaneous text shown during the hearing.
“Get this — the CEO of Overstock.com was also here!!!!!!” Hutchinson said of ex-CEO Patrick Byrne in the text, the recipient of which was not revealed. “Dream team!!!!!”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone “set a new land speed record” in rushing over to break up the unscheduled confab, Powell said in snarky, taped testimony played Tuesday.
Former President Donald Trump told supporters, “We fight like hell,” in a speech on January 6, 2021.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
How ‘will be wild’ sparked the rally
Rep. Jamie Raskin credited a single, predawn tweet— the infamous “Will be wild” missive, sent by Trump soon after the tumultuous, December 18, 2020, Oval Office meeting broke up — with setting in motion the January 6, 2021 rally and insurrection.
Trump “electrified and galvanized” his supporters with that one tweet, Raskin said. Women for America First, a pro-Trump organizing group, had a permit for a Washington, DC, rally on January 22 and 23. But within hours of “Will be wild,” the group changed the permit date to January 6.
“This rescheduling created the rally where Trump would eventually speak,” Raskin said. The day after the tweet, leaders of the Stop the Steal movement registered “WildProtest.com” in homage to Trump’s wording and began promoting the rally. Soon, violent, inciteful rhetoric about the rally spread like wildfire.
Trump “was speaking directly to extremist organizations and giving them directives,” said an unnamed former Twitter employee whose voice-altered recorded testimony was played Tuesday. “We had not seen that kind of direct communication before and it concerned me.”
Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, extremists
Trump’s “Will be wild” tweet also motivated the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to coordinate, at least in Florida, Raskin said.
The committee has phone records showing that the day after the tweet, the leader of the state’s Oath Keepers, Kelly Meggs, called Proud Boys national leader Enrique Tarrio, who was based in Miami. They spoke for “several minutes,” Raskin said.
Both extremist groups were in repeated contact with Flynn and Stone, Raskin also said. Oath Keepers members provided Stop the Steal rally security for both Trump advisors. At some point, Stone posed for a video that showed him reciting the Proud Boys’ “Fraternity Creed,” what Raskin called the first step to being initiated into the group.
Brad Parscale said Trump was “a sitting president asking for civil war.”
Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Trump’s ex-campaign manager felt ‘guilty’ helping him win
On January 6, 2021, former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale placed the blame for the death of a Capitol rioter on none other than the sitting president.
“This week, I feel guilty for helping him win,” Parscale wrote in a text message on the evening of January 6.
The House January 6 committee on Tuesday aired a series of texts that Parscale exchanged with former Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson on the day of the Capitol attack. In the messages, Parscale expressed not only remorse for his work with Trump but disgust with the former president for encouraging the violence of January 6.
“This is about Trump pushing for uncertainty in our country,” Parscale wrote.
“A sitting president asking for civil war,” he added.
Parscale’s text correspondence appeared to refer to the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a police officer while attempting to climb through the broken window of a barricaded door leading to the Speaker’s Lobby inside the Capitol. In one message, Pierson pushed back against the notion that Trump bore responsibility for her death.
“It wasn’t the rhetoric,” she wrote.
“Katrina,” Parscale replied. “Yes it was.”
Stephen Ayres (left) and former Oath Keepers spokesperson Jason Van Tatenhove testified Tuesday before the House January 6 committee.
Demetrius Freeman/AFP via Getty Images
A new kind of witness
For the first time since the House January 6 committee began holding hearings, a Capitol rioter delivered live testimony before the panel Tuesday, recounting how he answered Trump’s call to come to Washington and has faced the consequences ever since.
Stephen Ayres testified that he was not affiliated with any extremist group but rather an ordinary “family man and a working man” who was taken in by Trump and his baseless claims that the election had been stolen.
“I was pretty hardcore into the social media,” Ayres said, recalling the runup to January 6. “I followed President Trump on all of the websites. He basically put out, ‘Come to the Stop the Steal rally’ and I felt like I needed to be down here.”
Ayres pleaded guilty last month to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from his breach of the Capitol. In court papers, prosecutors said he remained in the Capitol for about 10 minutes.
In his testimony, Ayres said he attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 and did not plan to march to the Capitol. But, he said, “the president got everybody riled up and told everybody to head on down, so we basically were following what he said.”
Ayres would again follow the former president’s instructions later on January 6, hours after the Capitol breach, when Trump sent a tweet urging his supporters to leave.
“We literally left right after that came out,” Ayres said.
But the events of January 6 have followed him, Ayres said. In the aftermath of January 6, he lost his job, sold his house, and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with the Capitol breach.
“It changed my life, and not for the good,” he testified. “Definitely not for the better.”