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January 6 Committee Details Ties Between Trump World, Extremists; Former Far-Right Militia Member, Capitol Rioter Testify; Trump Tweet Ignited Far-Right Calls to Flood Capitol on January 6. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired July 12, 2022 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JASON VAN TATENHOVE, FORMER OATH KEEPERS SPOKESMAN: He was always looking for ways to legitimize what he was doing. Whether by wrapping it in the trappings of it's not a militia, it's a community preparedness team. We're not a militia, we're an educational outreach group. It's a veterans support group.
But again, we've got to stop with this dishonesty and the mincing of words and just call things for what they are, you know, he's a militia leader. He had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader. And the insurrection act would have given him a path forward with that. You know, the fact that the president was communicating whether directly or indirectly messaging, you know, kind of that gave him the nod, and all I can do is thank the gods that things did not go any worse that day.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): What did the Oath Keepers see in President Trump?
VAN TATENHOVE: They saw a path forward that would have legitimacy. They saw opportunity, I think, in my opinion, to become a paramilitary force, you know.
RASKIN: Last week the Department of Justice indicated that it has evidence of the Oath Keepers bringing not just firearms but explosives to Washington ahead of January 6th. And the committee's also learned that Stewart Rhodes stopped to buy weapons on his way to Washington and shipped roughly $7,000 worth of tactical gear to a January 6th rally planner in Virginia before the attack. Did you ever hear Rhodes discuss committing violence against elected political leaders?
VAN TATENHOVE: Yes, I mean, that went back from the very beginning of my tenure. One of the first assignments that he brought to me wanting me to do is more of a graphic artist function was to create a deck of cards.
You may remember back to the conflict in the Middle East where our own military created a deck of cards, which was a who's who of kind of the key players on the other side that they wanted to take out. And Stewart was very intrigued by that notion, and influenced by it, I think, and he wanted me to create a deck of cards that would include different politicians, judges, including up to Hillary Clinton as the queen of hearts. This is a project that I refused to do, but from the very start, we saw that.
There was always the push for military training, including there were courses in that community that went over explosives training, so yes, this all falls in line.
RASKIN: Mr. Van Tatenhove, you say in your very thoughtful written testimony that we received today that you fear what the next election cycle will bring. And you also say that we have been exceedingly lucky in that we have not seen more bloodshed so far. I wonder if you would elaborate on those two statements.
VAN TATENHOVE: I think as far as the luck goes, we've had the potential from Bundy Ranch on, I mean, being boots on the ground at these standoffs and they were standoffs where there were firearms pointed across lines at federal law enforcement agencies, you know, whatever it may be with that particular standoff.
But I do -- I think we've gotten exceedingly lucky that more bloodshed did not happen because the potential has been there from the start. And we got very lucky that the loss of life was -- and as tragic as it is, that we saw on January 6th, the potential was so much more.
Again, all we have to look at is the iconic images of that day with the gallows set up for Mike Pence, for the Vice President of the United States. You know, and I do fear for this next election cycle because who knows what that might bring if a president that's willing to try to instill and encourage to whip up a Civil War amongst his followers using lies and deceit and snake oil, regardless of the human impact, what else is he going to do if he gets elected again. All bets are off at that point. And that's a scary notion.
I have three daughters. I have a granddaughter, and I feel for the world that they will inherit if we do not start holding these people to account.
RASKIN: Thank you for your testimony, Mr. Van Tatenhove.
Mr. Ayers, I first want to ask you about what finally caused you to leave on January the 6th. We know that the medieval style combat with our police, the occupation of the building, this was going on for several hours until the president issued at 4:17 a tweet, I believe, that included a video telling people to go home. Did you see that and did that have any effect on what you were doing?
STEPHEN AYRES, CAPITOL RIOTER: Well, when we were there, as soon as that come out, everybody started talking about it and it seemed like it started to disburse, you know, some of the crowd. Obviously, you know, once we got back to the hotel room, we seen that it was still going on, but it definitely disbursed a lot of the crowd.
RASKIN: And did you leave at that point?
AYRES: Yeah, we did. Yeah, we left.
R. So, in other words, that was the key moment when you decided to leave when President Trump told people to go home?
AYRES: Yeah, yup. We left right when that come out.
RASKIN: You were not a member of an organized group like the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys as most of the crowd wasn't. I wonder on January 6th, was it your view that these far right groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys and Three Percenters and others were on your side? Did you have any reservations about marching with them and rallying with them?
AYRES: Well, I definitely didn't have a problem, you know, I was probably following them in line myself, you know. I thought, you know, hey, they're on our team, good, that's how I kind of looked at it at the time, you know, like, I didn't have a problem with it. I thought it was a good thing.
RASKIN: I'm interested in hearing about what's happened to you since the events of January 6th. You told the vice chair that you no longer believe Trump's big lie about the election, but that's what brought you originally to Washington. Looking back on it now, how do you reflect on the role that you played in the crowd that day, and what is going on in your life?
AYRES: Basically, you know, I lost my job. Since this all happened, you know, pretty much sold my house. So, everything that happened with the charges, you know, thank God a lot of them did get dismissed because I was just holding my phone, but at the same time, I was there. So, I mean, it definitely changed my life, you know, and not for the good. Definitely not for the, you know, for the better. Yeah, I mean, that's all I can say.
RASKIN: Well, President Trump is still promoting the big lie about the election. How does that make you feel?
AYRES: It makes me mad because I was hanging on every word he was saying, everything he was putting out, I was following it. I mean, if I was doing it, hundreds of thousands or millions of other people are doing it. Or maybe even still doing it. It's like he just said about that, you know, you got people still following and doing that, who knows what the next election could come out, you know, they could end up down the same path we are right now. I mean, you just don't know.
RASKIN: Mr. Ayres, I see that your wife has joined you today and welcome to Washington, we know that this has been very difficult on you both, and your family. What lessons, finally, do you want the American people to learn from the way you and your family have suffered as a result of these events?
AYRES: Biggest thing is I consider myself a family man, and I love my country. I don't think any one man is bigger than either one of those. I think that's what needs to be taken, you know. People dive into the politics, and for me, I felt like I had, you know, like horse blinders on. I was locked in the whole time. The biggest thing for me is take the blinders off, make sure you step back and see what's going on before it's too late.
RASKIN: Well, I want to thank you for your testimony and for appearing, both of you, today, and Mr. Chairman, I yield back to you.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): The gentleman yields back. I want to thank our witnesses for joining us today. The members of the Select Committee may have additional questions for today's witnesses.
And we ask that you respond expeditiously in writing to those questions. Without objections, members will be permitted ten business days to submit statements for the record including opening remarks and additional questions for the witnesses.
Without objection the chair recognizes the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Raskin, for a closing statement.
RASKIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When Donald Trump sent out his tweet, he became the first president ever to call for a crowd to descend on the capital city to block the constitutional transfer of power. He set off an explosive chain reaction among his followers, but no one mobilized more quickly than the dangerous extremists that we've looked at today.
Seizing upon his invitation to fight, they assembled their followers for an insurrectionary show down against Congress and the Vice President. On January 6th, Trump knew the crowd was angry, he knew the crowd was armed, he sent them to the Capitol anyway.
You might imagine that our founders would have been shocked to learn that an American president would one day come to embrace and excuse political violence against our own institutions, or knowingly send an armed mob to attack the Capitol to usurp the will of the people.
But you know, Mr. Chairman, the founders were pretty wise about certain things and at the start of the Republic, they actually warned everyone about Donald Trump, not by name of course, but in the course of advising about the certain prospect that ambitious politicians would try to mobilize violent mobs to tear down our own institutions in service of their insatiable ambitions. In the very first federalist paper, Alexander Hamilton observed that history teaches that opportunistic politicians who desire to rule at all costs will begin first as demagogues, pandering to the angry and malignant passions of the crowd but then end up as tyrants, trampling the freedoms and the rights of the people.
A violent insurrection to overturn an election is not an abstract thing as we've heard. Hundreds of people were bloodied, injured and wounded in the process, including more than 150 police officers. Some of them sitting in this room today. I want to give you an update on one officer who was badly wounded in the attack and is well known to the members of this committee because he testified before us last year.
Sergeant Aquilino Gonell is an army veteran who spent an a year on active combat duty in the Iraq war and then 16 years on the Capitol force. Nothing he ever saw in combat in Iraq he has said prepared him for the insurrection where he was savagely beaten, punched, pushed, kicked, shoved, stomped and sprayed with chemical irritants along with other officers. By members of a mob carrying hammers, knives, batons, and police shields taken by force, and wielding the American flag against police officers as a dangerous weapon.
Last month, on June 28th, Sergeant Gonell's team of doctors told him that permanent injuries he has suffered to his left shoulder and right foot now make it impossible for him to continue as a police officer. He must leave policing for good and figure out the rest of his life. Sergeant Gonell, we wish you and your family all the best, we are here for you and we salute you for your valor, your eloquence and your beautiful commitment to America.
I wonder what former President Trump would say to someone like Sergeant Gonell who must go about remaking his life. I wonder if he could even understand what motivates a patriot like Sergeant Gonell.
In his inaugural address, Trump introduced one commanding image, American carnage. Although that turn of phrase explained little about our country before he took office, it turned out to be an excellent prophesy of what his rage would come to visit on our people.
Mr. Ayres just described how the trust he placed in President Trump as a camp follower derailed his life and nearly wrecked his reputation and his family. A few weeks ago, we heard Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, Speaker Rusty Bowers from Arizona and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger described how hate filled intimidation campaigns by Trump and his followers made them prison in their homes and drove their stress and anxiety to soaring heights when they refused to do Trump's bidding.
American carnage, that's Donald Trump's true legacy.
His desire to overthrow the people's election and seize the presidency interrupted the counting of the Electoral College votes for the first time in American history, nearly toppled the constitutional order and brutalized hundreds and hundreds of people.
The Watergate break-in was like a Cub Scout meeting compared to this assault on our people and our institutions.
Mr. Chairman, these hearings have been significant for us and for millions of Americans, and our hearing next week will be a profound moment of reckoning for America. But the crucial thing is the next step. What this committee, what all of us will do to fortify our democracy against coups, political violence, and campaigns to steal elections away from the people.
Unlike Mr. Ayres and Mr. Van Tatenhove, people who have recovered and evolved from their dissent into the hell of fanaticism, Donald Trump has only expanded his big lie to cover January 6th itself, he asserts the insurrection was the real election and the election was the real insurrection. He says his mob greeted our police officers on January 6th with hugs and kisses. He threatens to take one of America's two major political parties with him down the road to authoritarianism and it is Abraham Lincoln's party no less.
The political scientists tell us that authoritarian parties have two essential features in common in history and around the world. They do not accept the results of democratic elections when they lose, and they embrace political violence as legitimate. And the problem of incitement to political violence has only grown more serious in the Internet age as we have just heard.
But this is not the problem of one party. It is the problem of the whole country now. American democracy, Mr. Chairman, is a precious inheritance, something rare in the history of the world and even on earth today. Constitutional democracy is the silver frame, as Lincoln put it, upon which the golden apple of freedom rests.
We need to defend both our democracy and our freedom with everything we have and declare that this American carnage ends here and now. In a world of resurgent authoritarianism and racism and antisemitism, let's all hang tough for American democracy. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THOMPSON: Gentleman yields back. Without objection, the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Murphy, for a closing statement.
REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. At one of our first hearings, Chairman Thompson explained that the members of this committee would not spend much time talking about ourselves. Rather we would let the evidence play the leading role. And the chairman was right because this isn't about promoting ourselves as individuals, it's about protecting the country we love, and it's about preserving what actually makes America great, the rule of law, free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to the next.
But if I may say a word about myself and why I'm proud to serve on this committee, I'm the only member of this committee who was not blessed to be born an American. I was born in Vietnam after the Vietnam War and my family and I fled a communist government and rescued by the U.S. Navy and were given sanctuary in America. My patriotism is rooted in my gratitude for America's grace and generosity. I love this country.
On January 6th, four decades after my family fled a place where political power was seized through violence, I was in the United States Capitol fleeing my fellow Americans. Members of the angry mob had been lied to by a president and the other powerful people who tried to convince them without evidence that the election had been stolen from them. Some of them then tried to use physical violence to overturn the outcome of a free and fair election.
Our committee's overriding objective is to fight fiction with facts, to create a full account for the American people and for the historical record. To tell the truth of what happened and why it happened. To make recommendations so it never happens again. To defend our democracy. To me, there's nothing more patriotic than that. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back. THOMPSON: Gentle lady yields back. Without objection, the chair
recognizes the gentlewoman from Wyoming, Ms. Cheney, for a closing statement.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, let me put what you have seen today in a broader context. At the very outset of our hearings, we described several elements of President Trump's multipart plan to overturn the 2020 election. Our hearings have now covered all but one of those elements. An organized campaign to persuade millions of Americans of a falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen by widespread fraud.
A corrupt effort to pressure Vice President Pence to refuse to count electoral votes. An effort to corrupt the U.S. Department of Justice. Efforts to pressure state election officials and legislatures to change state election results. A scheme to create and submit fake electoral slates from multiple states.
And today, you saw how President Trump summoned a mob to Washington for January 6th and then knowing that that mob was armed, directed that mob to the United States Capitol. Every one of these elements of the planning for January 6th is an independently serious matter. They were all ultimately focused on overturning the election. And they all have one other thing in common. Donald Trump participated in each substantially and personally. He oversaw or directed the activity of those involved.
Next week, we will return to January 6th itself. As we have shown in prior hearings, Donald Trump and his legal team led by Rudy Giuliani were working on January 6th to delay or halt Congress' counting of electoral votes. The mob attacking and invading the Capitol on that afternoon of January 6th was achieving that result. And for multiple hours, Donald Trump refused to intervene to stop it. He would not instruct the mob to leave or condemn the violence. He would not order them to evacuate the Capitol and disperse. The many pleas for help from Congress did no good. His staff insisted that President Trump call off the attack. He would not. Here are a few of the many things you will hear next week from Mr. Cipollone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds like you, from the very onset of violence at the Capitol right around 2:00, were pushing for a strong statement that people should leave the Capitol. Is that right? Was it necessary for you to continue to push for a statement directing people to leave all the way through that period of time until it was ultimately issued?
PAT CIPOLLONE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I was in others were as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it necessary for you to continue to push for statement directing people to leave all the way through that period of time until it was ultimately issued after 4 --? CIPOLLONE: I felt it was my obligation to continue to push for that. And others felt it was their obligation as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would it have been possible at any moment for the president to walk down to the podium in the briefing room and talk to the nation at any time between when you first gave him that advice at 2:00 and 4:17 when the video statement went out? Would that have been possible?
CIPOLLONE: Would it have been possible?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CIPOLLONE: Yes, it would have been possible.
CHENEY: And you will hear that Donald Trump never picked up the phone that day to order his administration to help. This is not ambiguous. He did not call the military. His secretary of defense received no order. He did not call his Attorney General. He did not talk to the Department Of Homeland Security. Mike Pence did all of those things. Donald Trump did not.
We will walk through the events of January 6th next week minute by minute. And one more item. After our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in our investigation. A witness you have not yet seen in these hearings. That person declined to answer or respond to President Trump's call. And instead alerted their lawyer to the call. Their lawyer alerted us. And this committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice. Let me say one more time, we will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
THOMPSON: Thank you. The gentlelady yields back.
In my opening, I mentioned how we look to our leaders to serve as a fail-safe if people in this country refuse to accept the results of an election. That's part of the way those in positions of public trust uphold their oath. How they show fidelity to the Constitution. In the run-up to January 6th, Donald Trump had an obligation to tell his supporters to accept the results of the election. Instead, he urged them to further along the path toward mob violence.
The idea of mob violence made me think of another sort of fail-safe. All across this country, there are different ideas about what role the federal government should play in our lives. In fact, up here on this dais, there are plenty of different ideas.
But there are moments when the institutions of our federal government are the fail-safe.
I am from a part of the country where had it not been for the federal government and the Constitution my parents and many more Americans like them would have continued to be treated as second-class citizens. The freedom to be able to vote without harassment, travel in relative safety, and dine and sleep where you choose is because we have a government that looks over the wellbeing of its citizens.
This is especially important in moments of crisis. When we have a natural disaster, that state governments can't handle on their own, when there's an emergency that cries action by public health services or our military, we have a federal government. What happened on January 6th, 2020, was another one of those moments in history that tests the strength of our federal government.
January 6th was an attack on our country. It was an attack on our democracy. On our Constitution. A sitting president with a violent mob trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power from one president to another. It still makes my blood boil to think of it.
In a moment like that, what would you expect to see? You expect to see the president of the United States sitting behind the resolute desk in the Oval Office, assuring the American people that the attack would be repelled and the threat would be dealt with. You would expect to be reassured that there was a fail-safe.
Instead, the president of the United States sent the mob. He disregarded the advice of the people who had taken an oath to the Constitution. He oversaw a scheme aided by people whose loyalty was only to Donald Trump.
There's nothing we can compare that to. There's nothing in our great nation's history that has ever come close to that sort of betrayal and dereliction. Thank goodness our system of government held in spite of a commander in chief who worked in opposition to what the Constitution designed.
When this committee reconvenes, we'll tell the story of that supreme dereliction by the commander in chief, how close we came to a catastrophe for our democracy, and how we remain in serious danger.
The chair requests those in the hearing room remain seated until the Capitol Police have escorted witnesses and members from the room. Without objection, the committee stands adjourned.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And you're watching "THE LEAD" as we continue our special coverage of the January 6th hearings. More shocking testimony and evidence in this latest installment of today's hearing, including texts, text messages we saw between senior Trump campaign aides in which one, Brad Parscale, described Trump on January 6th as, quote, calling for civil war. This week, I feel guilty for helping him win, Parscale wrote. Asserting that Trump's rhetoric, quote, killed someone. That's after we knew of at least one death that day.
We saw evidence just now suggesting that despite claims by Trump and his supporters that so many of the events that happened that day were spontaneous, Trump actually planned previously to march on the Capitol. He planned on pushing Vice President Pence to overturn the election in his speech. A push he had emphasized even further after Pence told him he wasn't going to follow his orders to overturn the election or at least attempt to do so.
And we just heard live testimony about the truly violent intentions of the far right militia the Oath Keepers which had ties to Trump advisers Roger Stone and Mike Flynn. And about the degree to which Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol were following Trump's lead every step of the way.
But Jamie Gangel, let's talk about this because what we just heard from the vice chair of the committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, from Wyoming, at the end there. In addition to previewing some of Pat Cipollone's pending testimony that we're going to hear. Taped testimony about Donald Trump's alleged dereliction of duty by not calling off the mob. We heard an allegation that a witness, one that we have not seen yet, received a phone call from Donald Trump. One that the witness did not take and referred to his attorneys or her attorneys.
And a suggestion by the Vice Chair, Liz Cheney, that this is witness tampering or at least an attempt to witness tamper, and that the Justice Department might want to consider taking some action.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. She ended the hearing with a bang, and to your point, she has -- and the committee has been very clear about concerns about witness tampering.