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CNN Live Event/Special
January 6 Committee Focuses on Summoning Mob to Capitol. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 12, 2022 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): In that clip, you heard one of Trump's supporters predict a Red Wedding, which is a pop culture reference to mass slaughter.
But the point is that Trump's call to Washington reverberated powerfully and pervasively online. The committee has interviewed a former Twitter employee who explained to the effect that Trump had on the Twitter platform.
This employee was on the team responsible for platform and content moderation policies on Twitter throughout 2020 and 2021. The employee testified that Twitter considered adopting a stricter content moderation policy after President Trump told the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by from the lectern at the September 29 presidential debate. But Twitter chose not to act.
Here's the former employee, whose voice has been obscured to protect their identity, discussing Trump's stand back and stand by comment and the effect it had.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED TWITTER EMPLOYEE: My concern was that the former president, for seemingly the first time, was speaking directly to extremist organizations and giving them directives.
We had not seen that sort of direct communication before. And that concerned me.
QUESTION: So, just to clarify further, you were worried and others at Twitter were worried that the president might use your platform to speak directly to folks who might be incited to violence?
UNIDENTIFIED TWITTER EMPLOYEE: Yes.
I believe that Twitter relished in the knowledge that they were also the favorite and most used service of the former president and enjoyed having that sort of power within the social media ecosystem.
QUESTION: If President Trump were anyone else, would it have taken until January 2021 for him to be suspended?
UNIDENTIFIED TWITTER EMPLOYEE: Absolutely not. If Donald -- if former President Donald Trump were any other user on
Twitter, he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
RASKIN: Despite these grave concerns, Trump remained on the platform completely unchecked. Then came the December 19 tweet, and everything it inspired.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED TWITTER EMPLOYEE: It felt as if a mob was being organized, and they were gathering together their weaponry and their logic and their reasoning behind why they were prepared to fight.
Prior to December 19, again, it was vague, it was nonspecific, but very clear that individuals were ready, willing and able to take up arms. After this tweet on December 19, again, it became clear, not only were these individuals ready and willing, but the leader of their cause was asking them to join him in this cause and in fighting for this cause in D.C. on January 6 as well.
I will also say what shocked me was the responses to these tweets, right? So, these were -- a lot of the "locked and loaded," "stand back, stand by," those tweets were in response to Donald Trump saying things like this, right?
So there would be a response that said: "Big protest in D.C. on January 6. Be there, be wild," and someone would respond and say: "I'm locked and loaded and ready for Civil War part two," right?
I very much believe that Donald Trump posting this tweet on December 19 was essentially sticking a flag in D.C. on January 6 for his supporters to come and rally.
QUESTION: And you were concerned about the potential for this gathering becoming violent?
UNIDENTIFIED TWITTER EMPLOYEE: Absolutely.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
RASKIN: Indeed, many of Trump's followers took to social media to declare that they were ready to answer Trump's call.
One user asked: "Is the 6th D-Day? Is that why Trump wants everyone there?"
Another asserted: "Trump just told us all to come armed. Fucking A, this is happening."
A third took it even further: "It 'will be wild' means we need volunteers for the firing squad."
Jim Watkins, the owner of 8kun, the fringe online forum that was birthplace of the QAnon extremist movement, confirmed the importance of Trump's tweet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Why did you first decide to go to D.C. for January 6?
JIM WATKINS, FOUNDER AND OWNER, 8KUN: When the president of the United States announced that he was going to have a rally, then I bought a ticket and went.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: Watkins was at the Capitol on January 6.
Some who have since been indicted for their involvement in the attack on the Capitol also responded. One of them posted on the 19th -- quote -- "Calling all patriots. Be in Washington, D.C., January the 6th. This wasn't organized by any group. DJT has invited us, and it's going to be wild.
Some of the online rhetoric turned openly homicidal and white nationalist, such as: "Why don't we just kill them, every last Democrat, down to the last man, woman and child?"
And: "It's time for the day of the rope. White revolution is the only solution."
Others realized that police would be standing in the way of their effort to overturn the election. So, one wrote: "I'm ready to die for my beliefs. Are you ready to die, police?"
Another wrote on the Donald.win: "Cops don't have standing if they're laying on the ground in a pool of their own blood."
The Donald.win was an openly racist and antisemitic forum.
The Select Committee deposed that site's founder, Jody Williams. He confirmed how the president's tweet created a laser-like focus on the date of January the 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JODY WILLIAMS, FORMER OWNER, THEDONALD.WIN: And people had been talking about going to D.C. as soon as the election was over.
QUESTION: And do you recall whether or not the conversation around those dates centered on the 6th after the president's tweet?
WILLIAMS: Oh, sure, yes. I mean, after it was announced that he was going to be there on the 6th to talk, yes, then -- then everything else was kind of shut out. And it was just going to be on the 6th.
QUESTION: OK. And that was pretty clearly reflected in the content on the site?
WILLIAMS: Yes, yes, sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: On that site, many shared plans and violent threats.
"Bring handcuffs and wait near the tunnels," wrote one user.
A commenter replied, suggesting zip ties instead. One post encouraged others to come with "body armor, knuckles, shields, bats, pepper spray, whatever it takes." All of those were used on the 6th. The post concluded: "Join your local Proud Boys chapter as well."
TheDonald.win featured discussions of the tunnels beneath the Capitol Complex, suggestions for targeting members of Congress, and encouragement to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event.
While Trump's supporters grew more aggressive online, he continued to rile up his base on Twitter. He said there was overwhelming evidence that the election was the biggest scam in our nation's history. As you can see, the president continued to boost the event, tweeting about it more than a dozen times in the lead-up to January the 6th.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): The chair requests those in the hearing room to remain seated until the Capitol Police have escorted members from the room.
Pursuant to the order of the committee of today, the chair declares the Committee in recess for a period of approximately 10 minutes.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Shocking and even terrifying testimony today from the January 6 hearing.
It included taped excerpts of former White House counsel Pat Cipollone making it very clear there was not evidence that the election was stolen or even that there was sufficient fraud to change the results in any state. Cipollone went on to describe an epithet-filled confrontation between White House officials such as himself with others pushing deranged conspiracy theories and unhinged courses of action, schemes, such as Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn.
That confrontation followed by Donald Trump's tweet calling for his supporters to come to Washington, D.C., on January 6, it "will be wild."
And the committee made it very clear the response to that tweet from not only Trump supporters, but violent groups, unhinged conspiracy theorists, and others, thinking that this was indeed a call to arms, a call to come to Washington, D.C., and commit acts of violence.
And, Jamie Gangel, Pat Cipollone was quite a witness, not only for the idea that -- or the facts, I should say, that there was not sufficient fraud in the election to change the result, but also the idea that Donald Trump had appointed this unhinged attorney, Sidney Powell, at least in her mind, to become an independent counsel investigating this election fraud.
And who knows, if it had not been for Cipollone, Eric Herschmann, who was also in the White House Counsel's Office, and the staff secretary, Derek Lyons, if it had not been for them, who knows what would have happened?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: What we have heard from firsthand witnesses is an extraordinary screaming match that people could hear outside the door, where the White House counsel, Derek Lyons, were pushing back on team crazy.
But there's something that the committee has laid out here that I think is key. In Liz Cheney's opening statement, she said President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child.
And so I think what the committee is building here is the case that, yes, there was the White House counsel on one side, there was team crazy on the other, but this was up to Donald Trump. And he went with team crazy.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And you saw the way that they built this really unbelievable meeting in the White House and the climax of that, where the then-president didn't get what he wanted again from the people he appointed to work for him in the White House to give him the important advice.
And he kept going back to, as you say, as they say, team crazy to feed what he wanted to hear, which is that there was evidence, even though Pat Cipollone said: "At some point, you have to put up or shut up. That was my view."
I think that really encapsulates it. But what really is remarkable is that, at 1:40 in the morning, after he was so frustrated by that meeting, he said -- did what he did so many times, but this was the most fatal, which is, he took it in his own hands. And he did, as Liz Cheney said, summon the mob. And everybody he was trying to reach got it.
He didn't have to say it. They understood what he meant.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought Liz Cheney's opening statement was so pivotal for this, because, covering this White House, a lot of Trump aides would often say, Trump was a convener. He liked to hear from all kinds of different people.
And the message she was trying to convey today is that he is responsible for bringing the crazies into the White House and even entertaining these crazy conspiracies and these undemocratic conspiracies.
He's responsible for that. And that's really evidenced by the fact that this meeting went from the West Wing all the way into the residence of the White House and continued well into the night. And that's only because Donald Trump allowed it.
BASH: And they had to follow Rudy Giuliani out of the building to make sure...
BASH: ... he didn't go back in to feed more.
TAPPER: And, Carrie Cordero, I can't help but think that Liz Cheney, Congresswoman Cheney's statement about Donald Trump is a grown man, a 76-year-old man, he's not an impressionable child, was aimed at the Justice Department, in case they were thinking, oh, well, this is just a bunch of crazies. We can't hold Trump accountable for what he was being told by a bunch of crazies.
I can't help but think that Liz Cheney was saying, Attorney General Garland, this is a grown man who did this.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the committee certainly is trying to lay out the case and trying to communicate information to the Justice Department.
Whether the Justice Department goes in that direction, we still will need to see. But one of the things that I come away from this part of the hearing is, again, with more questions. And, in particular, what happened between the time that the meeting, this wild meeting that took place in the White House on December 18, once that meeting broke, and then the president issued his tweet, which then spoke to all of his supporters who saw that tweet?
And so it's that -- it's these connections between, OK, he keeps going back at it. And so then what happened that caused him to say, OK, if these individuals in the White House, my White House counsel, the lawyers won't let me appoint Sidney Powell, now I have to go public and speak directly to the supporters.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And that's the next part. That's what's supposed to come next. What did Donald Trump do in that time? And, to Dana's point, he signaled the mob.
But just think about, this would be a farce otherwise, if the circumstances and the consequences here weren't so high, control of the United States government. A junior staffer, sneaks them into the White House. They're in the Oval Office with the president of the United States, and nobody on the White House staff, senior White House staff, knows anything about it.
They rush in, and, to Jamie's point, the president is told by his lawyers, this is a cockamamie scheme. There's no legal basis for this. You cannot do it. The president doesn't say, oh, thank you, never mind, guys, get out of here. He says, you're nuts. They're tough. They're trying to stand up and fight for me. You're not.
And then he goes off unrelenting. That plan didn't work. Go find another one.
TAPPER: And let's just remind people Pat Cipollone, Eric Herschmann, Derek Lyons, loyal Trump supporters. These are not progressives snuck into the White House. These were stalwarts for Donald Trump.
Our conversation continues in one minute.
TAPPER: The January 6 Select House committee hearing is about to resume after that explosive and occasionally scary first round of evidence.
We still expect to hear about the ties of far right extremist groups, militia groups to Trump's allies, along with live testimony from someone who describes himself as a former propagandist for the far right militia group the Oath Keepers, and from a rioter who heeded Donald Trump's call to come to Washington January 6, "It will be wild," a rioter who wound up pleading guilty to illegally entering the Capitol.
And, Abby Phillip, let me start with you.
One of the things that's interesting is the idea -- and, obviously, people who commit crimes are people who commit crimes. But there is an element throughout all of these hearings of a lot of Trump supporters were misled, they were lied to, not trying to engender sympathy to people who committed crimes on the Capitol unnecessarily, but also not trying to demonize Trump supporters.
That has clearly been part of this.
PHILLIP: To take the scales off of people's eyes, scales that were placed there, by the way, by Trump.
You heard Cheney say in her opening statement, Trump had more information about the fact that the election was not stolen than pretty much anyone else in the entire country. And yet he misled his own supporters.
And another connection that the committee made in some of the earlier hearings is about the money. Not only did he mislead them about what happened, but then he took money from them and used it for his own ends.
BASH: And there's one thing that somebody who worked for Donald Trump just texted me, which I think really helps to crystallize this.
They were talking about team normal and team crazy. This person said to me, from this person's experience, it's not normal and crazy. It's team me, meaning Donald Trump, right...
BASH: .. and placate me and do what I say, vs. team reality, and stick with the facts and stick with what is real. And that's what clashed here in a very deadly way.
TAPPER: Let's talk for a second, if we can, Jamie, about the witnesses that have sat down at the table, Stephen Ayres and Jason Van Tatenhove. I believe that is Mr. Ayers on the left, and it is Jason Van Tatenhove on the right. Now they're -- it's opposite angle now from the back.
And Ayres is somebody who came on January 6 and listened to Donald Trump and believed Donald Trump. And we ran earlier video of him spewing a bunch of conspiracy theories.
GANGEL: So I think he's fascinating, because he's -- appears to be unaffiliated. In other words, he wasn't part of the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers.
He came, he says, because Donald Trump invited him and told him to come. And my understanding is, his testimony will include that it has ruined his life and that he was fooled and duped, but not by anyone else, by Donald Trump. He lays it at Donald Trump's feet.
The other witness was, I believe, a spokesman.
TAPPER: Self-described propagandist for the Oath Keepers.
GANGEL: For the Oath Keepers.
TAPPER: Jason Van Tatenhove, who split with the group about five years ago.
And my understanding is, in his testimony -- so he hasn't been with them five years. He wasn't at January 6. But he will give an inside account of how they work, what they think, and that they're violent.
TAPPER: And, Carrie, Jason Van Tatenhove's testimony, I suspect, will be about the degree to which the Oath Keepers and groups like it pose a threat to the United States.
CORDERO: Well, we will see if he gets in -- I think he will provide sort of that broader context. He hasn't been affiliated with a group for a number of years now.
And so the piece that I'm wondering is, if the committee is really trying to connect the mobilization of these violent groups, which recruit from law enforcement, recruit from military, have continued to grow throughout the former administration, if the committee is trying to prove that those groups were mobilized by the White House efforts, then these individuals who -- one who is not affiliated and one who is several years affiliated, I don't know that they are going to be the individuals who are going to have that type of inside information.
I think, based on the earlier part of the hearing, the individuals who really were at that crux, may be Flynn and Stone, and they have taken the Fifth. And, as the committee has shown, Michael Flynn has repeatedly taken the Fifth in his interviews with the committee.
KING: And Michael Flynn is known to have ties and communication with some of these groups.
The question is, does the committee have -- we have been told the committee has some of these encrypted Signal messaging and the like. Do we get that? These witnesses, to Carrie's point, they can't say, I was there, I saw that communication.
If they can fill in the color and the details about that day and about this group, and the committee then has the other evidence, that's the challenge and the backup here, the specificity of the communications.
There's no question Trump knew who these people were .There's no question Trump knew they were prone to violence. He was not inviting -- when you know the Proud Boys are coming and the Oath Keepers are coming, you know violence is coming your way. The question is, do they have specific communications in that key time period that make that clear that everybody knew, knew with clarity?
PHILLIP: It does seem, though, that one of the goals today has to be just to introduce these groups and this kind of mind-set to the American public.
I mean, we're sitting here talking about it now because they have just become part of the dialogue around this former president, but they are a relatively recent phenomenon, really coming into existence in the sort of post-Obama years -- in the Obama years and the years that followed.
And so I think a lot of Americans really don't know what these guys stand for and what they're about and what motivates them, and why there would be a group of people who'd be willing to use violence for their political means.
BASH: And the answer is Donald Trump.
And what was so powerful in what we saw before, which I'm sure we will see amplified right now, is that they used Donald Trump's own language. Did he say, go to the National Mall, go to 13th and Constitution and march this way and do this and break this window? No.
But he was specific enough that they understood the message, to the point that they parroted him and acted based on those not-so-subtle messages.
One question I have, and we will see if they get to this, is, given all of this, where was the National Guard? Where was security? Did the president, knowing this was a potential, stop it, or did somebody else? What happened there?
PHILLIP: Yes, why didn't they take it seriously?
CORDERO: Well, and I think that's such an important point, Dana, because the committee really, in my view, having been on the national security side of things, has let the federal government national security apparatus off the hook in these hearings.
It has chosen to focus its efforts on the White House. It's chosen to focus its efforts on the former president, and it has really -- we will see if they change -- have more explanation in the report that comes from the committee's work. But in the hearings themselves, they have given a pass to all of the federal government national security institutions that should have been on better warning, that should have had better backup for the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department.
And these clips that the committee just played earlier that shows all of the far right-wing media that was previewing the violence that was going to occur should have put everybody, including all the national security institutions, on notice to have been better prepared to protect the Capitol.
TAPPER: And let's remember also, because, occasionally, we will see in the audience, we will see the four police officers. At least three of the four I have been able to see who testified in the very first hearing months and months ago, Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone and Sergeant Aquilino and others, individuals who were traumatized, physically abused, and worse, in the cases of other police officers with the Metropolitan Police Department and also the Capitol Hill Police.
Police officers that were the ones who bore the brunt of the attack. These are the ones who were injured, who lost parts of their body, in some cases had traumatic brain injuries, in some cases have post- traumatic stress in the wake of this horrific assault on the Capitol.
Several of them died by suicide, whether that was because of the trauma or because of traumatic brain injury. Those are the ones that Donald Trump -- when he sent this mob to the Capitol, those were the ones trying to protect the lives of individuals in that Congress building, whether members of the House or the Senate or their staffs or journalists, individuals who in some cases, when it comes to House Republicans, don't stand up for those police officers.
Some House Republicans voted against giving them any sort of commendation for protecting the Capitol on that day. And I just find it remarkable, not only that there are sides to this horrific event in American history -- it should just be everyone condemns what happened, period, although that's not what we -- happen -- but also sides to police vs. an inflamed mob that have far right extremist militias who are armed amongst them.
There are people who actually side not with the police officers who are mainstream politicians.
And, by the way, the people who you're describing claim to back the blue all the time.
BASH: Except for when the blue are the ones trying to protect them inside the United States Capitol when a mob was coming towards them.
And on a related note, part of what we saw in the posts and the videos leading up to the second part of today's hearing was an eerie recognition that they could overwhelm the Capitol Police, that, if there were enough of them, and they were aggressive enough and relentless enough, they could overwhelm the police.
BASH: And that's exactly what happened.
TAPPER: Well, they almost did. They almost succeeded.
PHILLIP: Yes. And they were explicit that the police were the targets in some of these messages that were going around on the message boards.
So that was the objective, was to push back on police guarding the Capitol. And I -- and we should note, to your point, Jake, some of the people turning the Trump supporter who was shot trying to break into the Capitol Rotunda....
TAPPER: Ashli Babbitt.
PHILLIP: Ashli Babbitt, into a folk hero, one of the people doing that is the former President Trump, as recently as a few weeks ago in his rallies bringing her up as an argument that the police were the ones who acted improperly in defending the Capitol.
KING: But, to your point, the fact that 90 percent -- I don't know the right number.
The overwhelming majority of the Washington Republican Party has decided to ignore what has been heard in these committee hearings, including the threat against the police officers, and not recognize and police officers, but all we just heard just today, and think about the previous hearings about the conduct, the state of mind, how he conducted the United States government, Donald J. Trump's behavior, and say nothing about it, because they say, sham committee.
They won't listen to anything said in this room because they questioned the makeup of the committee, even though that itself is a farce. They had the right. They had the votes to have an independent...
TAPPER: They don't actually question the committee.
KING: Right. It is their rationalization to not listen to a process, to what has
been incredibly damning information, number one, about the man who is still the most dominant force in their party, and, number two, about -- set Donald Trump aside -- these violent groups still exist. This political climate, mood still exists in our country.
The people in power need to be thinking of ways to prevent it and to lower the temperature and let the air out of the balloon. And yet they just want to deny it because it's uncomfortable to them.
CORDERO: Well, and it does -- that does raise the point, though, of, what is the endgame for the committee in these hearings overall?
If what they're -- one of the goals of them is to try to pass legislation, make recommendations about the security of the Capitol, the security of members, potentially changing the political environment, which is certainly in the power of members of Congress, who are leaders of their party, all of that is very different than this sort of quasi-criminal culpability that they continue to try to explore towards the former president.
And those are very different objectives. And I continue to wonder what the endgame is for the committee and these hearings.
KING: Right. Well, step one -- forgive me.
Step one is to respect your institution, your very own institution. You serve in the United States Congress. Respect it. It came under attack that day. And the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and Donald J. Trump -- they found a hero in Donald J. Trump, who wanted to attack American institutions. That's what they're about, taking down the United States government, attacking American institutions.
They found a hero in Donald J. Trump. The rest of the Republicans should repudiate that at every opportunity.
TAPPER: Yes. The members of the sedition caucus on Capitol Hill are not going to repudiate it. They're part of it.
I mean, two-thirds of House Republicans voted to not count the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, based on lies, period.
GANGEL: And how many of them are running in primaries as election deniers?
GANGEL: This is a key part of winning in politics today.