“It felt as if a mob was being organized”


The House Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday laid out evidence that former President Donald Trump egged on extremists who supported him ahead of Jan. 6 – with one of his former supporters who has pleaded guilty to being at the Capitol that day testifying “the president got everybody riled up, told everyone to head on down, so we basically were just following what he said.”

Tuesday’s hearing, the seventh and penultimate hearing this summer, began with a tweet Trump sent at 1:42 a.m. on Dec. 19, 2020, which said, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin said that post “electrified” Trump’s extremist supporters to come to the Capitol on Jan. 6. “Many members of this crowd could be led to storm the Capitol, confront the vice president and Congress and overturn the election results,” Raskin said. 

A Twitter employee who testified anonymously in a previous interview, said that after that tweet, “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.” 

Two sources familiar with the Jan. 6 committee’s plans confirmed to CBS News that the panel will hold its next hearing Thursday, July 21, in prime time. That hearing is expected to focus on what Trump was doing during the Capitol attack. At the close of the hearing, committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney said Trump had tried to contact a witness who has not yet publicly testified. 

Capitol Riot Investigation
Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last in June 2022 to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, left, and Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, right, arrive to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Jason Van Tatenhove, the former media director for the Oath Keepers, and Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man who pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct related to the Capitol riot, testified Tuesday. Tatenhove described the Oath Keepers as a “militia,” and said “I think we saw a glimpse of what the vision of what the Oath Keepers is on Jan. 6.”

Ayres, who described himself as “hard core” into social media, said “I felt like I needed to be down here” after Trump’s comments to come to the rally.  Ayres told the committee that when he entered the Capitol, he believed at that time the election was stolen, and if Trump himself hadn’t pushed those claims, “I may not have come down here.” 

In the hours that led up to the Dec. 19 tweet, Trump met with a group of outside allies and advisers at the White House on Dec. 18, 2020, including Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. White House aides and advisers arrived later and were alarmed by the allies Trump had invited to the White House. Sidney Powell testified, “I bet Pat Cipollone set a new land speed record” to get to the Oval Office, referring to the White House counsel.

“I was not happy to see the people in the Oval,” Cipollone, the former White House counsel, testified. “The Overstock person — I didn’t know who this guy was.” 

Raskin said the meeting was described as “heated” and “profane” by some of the participants and even devolved into “challenges to physically fight.”

In his testimony, Giuliani recalled his own comments to the White House aides, saying that he had said, “‘You guys are not tough enough.’ Or maybe, I’d put it another way: ‘you’re a bunch of p****ies.’ Excuse the expression. But I’m also sure those words were used.”

The committee showed a text from Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, that read, “the west wing is UNHINGED.”

The committee also showed testimony from a Twitter employee, whose voice was disguised to protect their identity. The Twitter employee said references to “stand back and stand by,” the comments that Trump told the Proud Boys at a Sept. 2020 debate, spiked after Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet. 

“After this tweet on Dec. 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 his cause and in fighting for his cause in D.C. on Jan. 6 as well,” the employee said.

Further, the Twitter staffer said that Trump “was speaking directly to extremist organizations and giving them directives. We had not seen that sort of direct communication before and that concerned me.”

“I believe that Twitter relished 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,” the ex-Twitter employee said, adding that if Trump were “any other user on Twitter, he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago.”

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