Donald Trump hosted a chaotic six-hour meeting in the White House during which he discussed ordering the military to confiscate voting machines in an attempt to reverse his reelection loss, before broadcasting his infamous tweet calling on supporters who would eventually enter the United States Congress. storm.
The meeting, described Tuesday by the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, took place on December 18, 2020, four days after the Electoral College confirmed Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden, when Mr. Trump’s legal objections to the result failed.
At the seventh public hearing, the commission showed that, despite being repeatedly told by his closest advisers that there was no evidence of electoral fraud, Mr. Trump continued to make false claims that the vote had been rigged.
Those efforts culminated, the committee said, when Mr. Trump gathered tens of thousands of protesters in Washington — including far-right militias associated with Mr. Trump’s circle — and sent them to the Capitol.
“President Trump called a crowd to Washington,” said Liz Cheney, the committee’s Republican vice chair. “The president’s stolen election lies provoked that mob to attack the Capitol.”
Jan 6 hearings on Trump’s bid to topple the 2020 election mirror a Shakespearean story
In videotaped statements played during the hearing, several of Trump’s advisers said they had urged him to give in after the Dec. 14 electoral college vote. In one of the statements, his daughter, Ivanka Trump, even admitted that she thought the battle was over.
But a group of conspiracy theorists — including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, attorney Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, the then chief executive of Overstock — drafted an executive order for Mr. Trump to confiscate voting machines. take to push the false claims about voter fraud.
When the conspiracy theorists arrived at the Oval Office on December 18, then-White House adviser Pat Cipollone and other staffers rushed to intercept them. The meeting culminated in a shouting match that lasted late into the evening as the two sides exchanged insults.
“The screaming was completely out there,” Eric Herschmann, a former White House attorney, told the videotape. “What they suggested, I thought, was crazy.” Giuliani said he mocked Trump’s staff with a sexually explicit term for not supporting his plan. “The meeting was AWESOME,” another assistant, Cassidy Hutchinson, texted afterwards.
After the meeting ended, Mr. Trump urged his supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6, when Congress would formally approve the results of the electoral college. “Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.
The call sparked a flurry of activity, with groups jumping to mobilize people to come to Washington that day.
Enrique Tarrio and Stewart Rhodes, leaders of far-right groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, started a group chat with Ali Alexander, organizer of the Stop the Steal rally, to coordinate efforts. These groups were in contact with Mr. Flynn and Roger Stone, another outside adviser to Mr. Trump, the committee said.
The commission showed videos and texts in which Mr Trump’s supporters openly called for violence on January 6. One promised a “firing squad”; another to see police officers “lying on the ground in a pool of their own blood”; a third said to “bring handcuffs” and figured out how to enter the Capitol through the underground tunnel system.
In text messages revealed by the committee, both White House staffers and protest leaders said in the days before the riots that Mr. Trump planned to march his supporters to the Capitol, suggesting that this was an organized plan. .
Katrina Pierson, an organizer for Trump’s January 6 rally, texting in the lead up that Mr. Trump would “call on everyone to march to the Capitol.” Mr Trump spoke to Steve Bannon on Jan. 5, shortly before the latter told his podcast that “all hell will break loose tomorrow,” according to phone records released by the committee.
At a rally near the White House on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump finally urged his supporters to go to Congress and “fight like hell.”
Stephen Ayres, an Ohio furniture maker who pleaded guilty to violating the Capitol, said in a live testimony Tuesday that he joined the riot because he believed Trump’s allegations of voter fraud. He said he now knows these claims were false. After his arrest, Mr Ayres lost his job and had to sell his house.
“The president confused everyone, told everyone to go down, so we basically just followed what he said,” Mr Ayres told the committee. “It’s driving me crazy because I hung on every word he said.”
Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for Oath Keepers, testified that the “racist” group intended to foment an uprising.
“What it would become was an armed revolution,” he said. “People died that day. Law enforcement officers died that day. A gallows had been set up in front of the Capitol. This could have been the spark that started another civil war.”
Even some of those in Mr. Trump saw it the same way. On the evening of January 6, Brad texted Parscale, his former campaign manager, Mrs. Pierson. “This is about Trump pushing for insecurity in our country. A sitting president asking for civil war,” he wrote during the commission’s hearing on Tuesday.
The commission has built a case in which Mr. Trump tried to thwart the will of voters, first by putting pressure on state-level officials and his own vice president, Mike Pence, to undo the election result, and then through the Capitol Rebellion, in which his supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the electoral college vote.
Ms. Cheney said future hearings, expected next week, will take a closer look at the riots themselves.
She also said Mr Trump had attempted to speak with an unnamed committee witness prior to their testimony. The witness did not speak to Mr Trump, but instead reported the contact to the commission, which forwarded it to the Justice Department.
“We will take any attempt to influence witness statements very seriously,” she said.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors and give you a succinct summary of the day’s main headlines. Sign up today†