“December 14 was the day that the states certified their votes and sent them to Congress. And in my opinion that was the end of the matter. I thought this would lead inexorably to a new administration,” Barr said in video showed by the panel.
Instead, Trump pursued a set of startling and draconian plans to remain in power — from using the military to seize voting machines to appointing fringe attorney Sidney Powell to pursue baseless claims of fraud.
“I didn’t think she should be appointed to anything,” said Cipollone in his first publicly aired remarks after interviewing with the select committee for eight hours last week. The plan to seize voting machines was a “a terrible idea for the country. That’s not how we do things in the United States,” he said.
Powell, in a clip of her own testimony to the panel, recalled that Cipollone “set a land-speed record” to intervene in a crucial Dec. 18 meeting between Trump, Powell and former national security adviser Mike Flynn, where they pressed Trump to sign an executive order seizing voting machines and appointing Powell to an investigative role.
“I was not happy to see the people who were in the Oval Office,” Cipollone recalled.
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters after the hearing that investigators expected to hear from one of the other Dec. 18 meeting attendees, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, on Friday.
The select committee spent its seventh hearing underscoring the increasingly extreme ideas Trump embraced as his even semi-legitimate options for challenging the 2020 election results evaporated. Trump’s staunchest defenders were telling him it was over, but Trump refused to hear them, according to witness testimony aired Tuesday.
As Trump embraced those desperate strategies, his efforts increasingly began to connect with extremist groups who shared his goal to remain in power — and they began to mobilize.
Investigators made their most complex case yet at their seventh public hearing: that Donald Trump’s intensifying effort to seize a second term resonated with extremist groups and brought them to the steps of the Capitol. He then egged them on, the committee argued, as they began to breach the building.
“Be there. Will be wild,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19, 2020, barely two weeks before a mob seeded with members of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers besieged the Capitol and threatened the transfer of power to Biden. Committee members focused on that tweet in the hearing, as they aimed to show that the former president’s most extreme supporters were intently listening — and quickly began preparing for potential violence in support of Trump’s goal to stay in power.
The tweet was a “clarion call” to the groups, said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) in an interview before the hearing. She led Tuesday’s proceedings along with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
The committee also disclosed new evidence that raised concerns about potential witness tampering by Trump himself. Trump, according to panel vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), called an unnamed witness for the panel, who did not respond to Trump’s call. The witness, according to Cheney, informed their lawyer, who then told the committee. The committee then passed the matter on to the Department of Justice, she said.
A Trump spokesperson denied her account.
“Liz Cheney continues to traffic in innuendos and lies that go unchallenged, unconfirmed, but repeated as fact because the narrative is more important than the truth,” Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich wrote on Twitter.
Former Oath Keepers spokesperson Jason Van Tatenhove and Jan. 6 defendant Stephen Ayres also testified in person to the panel about the extremist groups who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 and the actions of rioters during the attack, respectively.
The panel highlighted how adherents to the antisemitic, fringe conspiracy theories of QAnon latched onto Trump’s stolen-election claims, as well as how the extremist Proud Boys and Oath Keepers used Trump’s crusade to fundraise for a violent effort to keep Biden from office. The extremists used social media platforms to mobilize and prepare as Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet reverberated online, the panel said.
Committee members also showed how the White House pushed forward with plans for a march on the Capitol — one witnesses say Trump desperately tried to join — even as warnings about the likelihood of brutality grew.
A series of witnesses testified about last-minute changes to the script of Trump’s Jan. 6 speech, which evolved to include references to fighting to overturn the election results and harsh language about Pence. The select panel also showed an unsent and undated draft tweet from Trump that would have promoted his Jan. 6 Ellipse rally and added: “March to the Capitol after.”
Several other message exchanges featured by the committee — including one from Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexander and one from Women for America First’s Kylie Kremer, both of whom organized Jan. 6 events — suggested that Trump’s plan for a march was known among activists but had been intentionally kept secret until Jan. 6.
Investigators also showed messages from the chaotic aftermath of the attack that showed intense emotional anguish among some of the most senior figures in the former president’s orbit.
On the evening of Jan. 6, former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale texted former Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson: “This week I feel guilty for helping him win.” He also voiced concerns that Trump’s rhetoric was ultimately responsible for the death of a woman, Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a Capitol Police officer outside the House chamber.
A source familiar with the situation said the texts displayed by the committee omitted some interceding messages about Parscale’s personal struggles at the time. Parscale did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Pierson declined to comment.