Trump’s inner circle met with extremist groups before Capitol assault

Washington, Jul 12 (EFE).- The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol on Tuesday publicly presented evidence that then-President Donald Trump planned for days in advance of that attack to incite his followers to march to the seat of Congress and that his close informal advisers met with far-right groups that participated in the insurrection.

Trump drafted a tweet that he never sent, but that message, which is preserved in the National Archives, is sufficient – according to the committee – to prove that both Trump and his informal advisers were interested in inciting the rightist Republican base to try and overturn the results of the November 2020 presidential election, which Joe Biden won.

The GOP leader said in the tweet that he was going to give a speech on the morning of Jan. 6, asking his supporters to arrive early to hear it and then he urged the crowd to march on the Capitol, where lawmakers were meeting to certify the Electoral College results of the presidential vote the previous November to confirm the election of Biden, a Democrat.

The committee session, which was public and broadcast nationwide on multiple networks, showed how ultra-rightist groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, who were in the vanguard of the protest, had coordinated among themselves and how Trump’s inner circle was in contact with them prior to Jan. 6.

A few days before, former National Security adviser Michael Flynn participated in an Oval Office meeting to analyze how to reverse the result of the election, and he was photographed outside the Capitol with key members of the Oath Keepers.

In addition, Trump’s former collaborator Roger Stone used an encrypted chat forum – known as “Friends of Stone” – to coordinate the efforts to disrupt the certification of the election just two days after the election, and members of both extremist organizations participated in that forum.

The hearing on Tuesday, the seventh that the committee has held, focused both on those links as well as on the crazy late-night Oval Office meeting of Dec. 18, 2020, after which Trump posted the tweet saying that there was going to be a demonstration on Jan. 6 in Washington and encouraged his supporters to take part because it was going to be “wild.”

At that meeting, insults were hurled at one another by the participants, who accused one another of disloyalty to Trump, and there was an attempt by the then-president to issue a decree providing attorney Sidney Powell with the authority to seize voting machines in states where Trump was contesting the election results and launch a recount of the ballots, as Democratic lawmaker and committee member Jamie Raskin of Maryland, said.

Ultimately, some measure of common sense prevailed and White House attorney Pat Cipollone testified via video that he told Powell that “I don’t understand why we even have to tell you that’s a bad idea for the country. It’s a terrible idea.”

Previous testimony has revealed that Cipollone fought against the efforts by Trump to reverse the result of the election.

The committee, however, on Tuesday ruled out that Trump was manipulated by a small group of people – such as Powell, Flynn and attorney Rudy Giuliani – to ignore the factual assertions of his governmental advisers that he had lost the election and believe that the election had been “stolen” via election fraud.

“The strategy is to blame people his (governmental) advisers called ‘the crazies’ for what Donald Trump did. This of course is nonsense,” Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming – a Republican and the co-chair of the Jan. 6 Committee – stated before the committee and the American people.

“President Trump is a 76-year-old man,” Cheney said. “He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices.”

She said that Trump continued with his false claims that the election was stolen and she made clear that his assorted messages to the contrary were interpreted as a call to protest, even using weapons, which his extremist supporters spoke about openly on the social networks, encouraging people to bring arms to the Capitol.

One of those former extremist group members, Stephen Ayres, who illegally entered the Capitol with hundreds of other protesters on Jan. 6, said that “I was pretty hardcore into the social media. I followed President Trump on all of the websites. He basically put out, ‘Come to the (Jan. 6) Stop the Steal rally’ and I felt like I needed to be down here.”

Ayres later faced federal charges for his role in the insurrection, and he told the committee that he also lost his job and had to sell his home.

The messages circulating on the social networks, the majority of them of a violent nature, spoke about celebrating a “red wedding,” something that – Raskin said at the Tuesday hearing – was a code phrase meaning staging a massacre.

There were several White House meetings to try and keep Trump in power, including one on Dec. 21 at which the committee revealed via testimony that 11 Republican lawmakers pressured Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, to help overturn the results of the election, something that Pence had checked into with his attorney and others and ultimately refused to do.

The committee promised to provide new revelations in future hearings, Cheney said, including that Trump tried to telephone a witness who still had not testified before the committee, although the witness refused to engage with the president and, instead, informed their attorney about this apparent attempt to influence their testimony.


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